American Girl Wiki
American Girl Wiki

Joss is a disabled character. This is a proper term of use.

With the release of Joss Kendrick, American Girl's first character with a visible disability, it's now a good time to clarify terms of use for people with disabilities/disabled persons[1].

Here at the A*G Wiki, we will use the appropriate words for disabilities. Which is, in fact, disability or disabled. One of the admins has disabilities and is involved - albeit not as heavily as others - in the disability community in various ways, including family and friends.

Real people with disabilities like to be called the terms they choose, so it is best to ask. If Joss were a real person, we would ask her what she wants to be called. But since she--and Maryellen Larkin and several others--are characters, it is perfectly appropriate for us, as people, to call them disabled characters or characters with disabilities.

Specifically, Joss is hard of hearing or a person who is deaf. Maryellen, due to polio at a younger age, has lowered physical strength and pulmonary issues (and in the stories, but not visible on the doll, a slight difference in her legs). Gabriela has a stutter. Blaire has a food allergy. McKenna has a learning disability. Addy's brother Sam Walker has his left arm amputated.

Maryellen has a mostly invisible disability. Joss has a visible disability, since her hearing aid is often visible in her right ear; when it is out, it is invisible. Sam has a visible disability.

Disabilities are not ranked; people who are disabled are each uniquely disabled and equally in need of assistance. A physical or visible disability is not "more worthy" of spotlight or focus than a mental or invisible disability.

"Cutesy" terms, disparaging language, or covertly abelist language that places the social issues of disability on those who are--such as differently-abled, "special needs", "person of unique needs", "handi-capable," "inspiring and brave," "the biggest disability is negative thinking" and other such nonsense--hides the facts of disability and does not help people who are disabled or show or help the actuality of their needs. Do not use cutesy or fluffy language, nor condescending or rude language, about disability. Do not use ableist terms. This falls under our global rule of bigotry.

Attempts--especially repeated ones--to use inappropriate and condescending terms, "inspiration tokenism," and/or rude or offensive language for disabled peoples and their disabilities will be corrected and addressed and, if not course-corrected by the user, lead to blocks or bans as needed. Admin Neth doesn't have enough spoons to give a fork. She's not going to think her disabilities away with a better attitude.

--The Admins

Examples and sources:

"But as actually disabled people will tell you, their disabilities are a vital part of who they are. That's why many prefer "identity-first language," in which the disability is put front and center in the terms we use. Examples include terms like “disabled people” or “Deaf person” rather than “person with a disability. [...] "I can't hear properly, but no amount of condescending language is going to change that," said Meg Szydlik, a student [...] who is disabled. "I'm also not Daredevil, and I didn’t gain superpowers from my disability, which is always what 'handicapable' makes me think of." It’s Perfectly OK To Call A Disabled Person ‘Disabled,’ And Here's Why (accessed 1/2/2020)

"It is okay to use words or phrases such as "disabled," "disability," or "people with disabilities" when talking about disability issues." Respectful Disability Language

Less Appropriate: physically challenged, handi-capable, inconvenienced, differently-abled

Comment: To some people, these euphemisms avoid reality and rob people of dignity. Alternative words to the term “disability” are usually efforts to avoid the negative stigma ATTACHED to the word rather than seeing disability as neutral. (Cutesy-pie labels are uninformative and trivialize an important part of a person’s identity. They tend to describe everyone and therefore no one.) They are not necessarily more "politically correct."

More Appropriate: a person has a physical, sensory or mental disability

Unhandicap Your Language

And that quote,The only disability in life is a bad attitude, the reason that's bullshit is because it's just not true, because of the social model of disability. You know, no amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. Never. Smiling at a television screen isn't going to make closed captions appear for people who are deaf. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshop and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into Braille. It's just not going to happen. No, a Bad Attitude Is Not the 'Only' Disability

As an adult, it's easy to joke about it but as a kid, it's the kind of thing you internalize. Disabled kids should be taught to embrace their bodies and their abilities, whatever they may or may not be. Teaching them phrases like 'the only disability is a bad attitude' simultaneously strips them of part of their identity and instills a sense of shame when they're unable to do the same things their abled peers can.

There's this weird belief that if you can't do something you’re just not trying hard enough. You haven't found the right way yet, keep going, don’t give up. People will encourage you to damn near kill yourself trying before letting someone else do something for you. That's obviously a really toxic attitude to have. A lot of people try to catch us in a lie like we’re 'faking' our disabilities because of that attitude.

Don't tell me the only disability in life is a bad attitude


  1. Either term is acceptable. "Disabled persons" is identity-first language, while "people with disabilities" is person-first language. See more here: Disability Terminology: Choosing the Right Words When Talking About Disability