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It was Martin Luther King who said that “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” I begin with this quote because The Purple Tree ( is partnered with Plantables ( to help manufacture the new Sprout Worthy ( window boxes. In our numerous discussions together as we seek to expand the market for our products, we experience two perspectives: (1) real delight that we are providing paid employment to “developmentally disabled” adults, and (2) the difficulty in finding a more positive term for the many and talented “adults of all abilities” who produce the products.

The term “disabled” is made up from a Latin prefix (dis) that has a reversing or negative force (not abled) and the Latin suffix (able) meaning “capable of” or “fit for.” So “disabled” means not capable of or fit for work. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth for the able workers at the Plantables. Of course, as the Plantables folks remind us, “The context of the language is so important. In some situations it may be useful for individuals to identify as disabled (to obtain benefits, other support), but that does not need to define them in all aspects of their lives – where they can highlight the abilities that they do have.”

So what can we do? How about using the same etymological pattern as above to develop a new word to symbolize the reality also noted above? I would suggest coining a new word by attaching a different prefix to the suffix “able.” The Latin word “multus” is the root for the English prefix “multi.” It means “much” or “many” and together (multiabled) they mean able to accomplish much and do many things. There are many words that begin with “multi,” such as multicolored, multipurpose, multitask, multigrain, etc. They are all positive terms and speak about good things. With regard to ability, however, there is no such word…until you and I begin using multiabled to refer to working adults across the entire spectrum of human ability. And so it is that the much accomplished and capable workforce at Plantables has inspired a new descriptor of their