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handicap / handicapped



In recent years handicap has lost ground to disability in describing conditions that restrict or prevent certain physical or mental functions. Handicap is sometimes held to imply a helplessness that is not suggested by the more forthright disability. The stigma that has attached to handicap may have developed from a mistaken belief that the original phrase hand in cap referred to a beggar holding out a cap to collect coins (though that would more logically come from cap in hand). In fact, hand in cap (or hand i? cap) was a 17th-century game of chance in which participants drew items from a cap. A later sense, still in use today, refers to an advantage or compensation given to different contestants to equalize the chances of winning. By its nature, a sports handicap encourages competitiveness, not helplessness, and a contestant who loses with a handicap has the satisfaction of knowing that under other circumstances the outcome might well have been different. In contrast a disability, strictly speaking, is a condition that makes performance not just more difficult but impossible. But logic is one thing, and respect for a group?s preferences is another; the clear choices today are disability and disabled.    1
  While handicapped is probably best avoided as a noun, as in programs designed for the handicapped, it is more acceptable in phrases such as handicapped parking or handicapped accessible.    2
  More at disabled / disability.    3



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