What's the meaning of the phrase 'Differently abled'?
To be 'differently abled' is to be physically or mentally handicapped or disabled but to show qualities that the able-bodied do not have. The expression is intended to avoid the perceived negative connotations of the prefix 'dis' in disabled.
What's the origin of the phrase 'Differently abled'?
This term was coined by the US Democratic National Committee in the early 1980s as a more acceptable term than handicapped (or, in the UK, disabled). The motivation seems to have been both a genuine attempt to view the people previously called handicapped in a more positive light and also as need to be seen as politically correct. The Los Angeles Times reported it this way in September 1980:
Festival workers constructed dozens of adjustable ramps to make Camp Mather accessible to the disabled - referred to at the festival as 'differently abled' or 'physically challenged'.
However, some have seen the label as a euphemistic attempt to disguise the difficulties experienced by people who have serious physical or mental handicaps.