Disability jargon is a mess. Labels are dangerous. We think we know something about a person because we know the diagnosis, when all we really know is the diagnosis that’s been assigned. The harm of using diagnoses inappropriately has been detailed in other articles, but the target of this article is the Consumer descriptor.
Consumer is, of course, a shortened version of the longer Consumer of Services, referring to people with disabilities who use the service system. In the vernacular, an adult with a disability who uses the service system is considered a Primary Consumer, while a parent is considered a Secondary Consumer, (the child with a disability is the Primary Consumer).
In the Real World, Consumer generally refers to anyone who buys things (and uses them up). This is a good thing: when we use things up, businesses make more, people have jobs, the economy is good, and so on.
The same doesn’t seem true, however, in Disability World, and I’m uncomfortable with the word being used about individuals with disabilities. Click here to continue.
Who is a "Consumer"?
Language is the
dress of thought.
From The Oxford Essential Dictionary-American Edition (1998):
consumer: a person who consumes, especially one who uses a product or service.
consume: 1. eat or drink; 2. destroy; 3. possess (consumed with rage); 4. use up.
New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense