Thursday, June 6, 2013

Disability...a social problem...Other-Ability...reality

Two ways of looking at disability

What’s the difference between “having a disability” and “being disabled”? It all comes down to two sociological theories: the medical/individual model of disability and the social model of disability.

Their are (at least) two ways of considering the idea of "disability"...

The most obvious of these is the medical model; the concept that a person has a disability.  This is by far the most prevalent in our culture. This concept maintains that a person is prevented from functioning in our society by their body or brain and it’s just that person’s tough luck. If they can’t blend into this world, it’s not the world’s problem.

Then there is the model of the human family.  I have come to embrace this in my life, that a person with an impairment or illness is disabled by the society we participate in because of all the barriers that are put in our way.  I'm otherly abled, but society disables me.

Some of you reading this, may have even considered the above point and begun to understand and put it into practice in your own lives, usually with those of a "visible" difference to your body.   One of my long held contentions is the Victorian attitude towards developmental, mental, cognitive and otherwise "hidden"  disabilities, is the most pernicious in today's culture.

It is far too frightening for the average ego/person to admit such thinking into their lives.  Why is this, do you think?  I'll tell you in one word: FEAR!  It is too "close to home" for most to be comfortable with the notion.  There are no guarantees in life, you, or the next person, might be one car crash away from being paralyzed in a wheelchair.  You, or the next person, might fall into the depth of mental illness...and the average person cannot, will not tolerate even considering this, yet it is the truth.

Actually, the word "disabled" you probably think means "less able."  This is a mistake...the  word itself means "prevented from functioning though some external force or barrier."  In truth then, all human beings are in some way "disabled," some more obvious than others, admittedly.

The concept of independent living is a socio-political idea that asks for  a radical break with the idea that I am on object of charity, or a "patient."

More so societies willingness to advance ways to repair or improve an impaired function, and reject any evaluation of me based on production and self help abilities is what is called for.  This concept was first brought forward by the increasing awareness of people with disabilities, in regards to the roles we are allowed in society. Thus, the important contribution of the model of independent living is an emphasis on participation in society, strongly rooted in a belief in equality.

We are not "disabled" we are perfectly abled  or other-abled.  Things are better today, but go only to the late 1960s and even into the 1970s, and disabled peoples were not allowed to make there own medical choices, employment or housing choices, for the most part "pitied" and shunned, put in "homes" and institutions.  This is all because of fear.  

Of course, this is my own observation, and I freely admit that I am biased,  it seems to me that this predicament needs to be explored in the areas of developmental/mental/emotional illness/difference, more than all the other more "obvious" disabilities grouped together.

Our culture shares a deep unspoken taboo around anything to do with "mind and person" as if, somewhere down deep they still believe us "posses by demons" or "evil."  Hmmm, what is it that Jesus said?  When the man asked Joshua/Jesus "who sinned, this man or his mother that he was born blind?"  the Master answered "none of them, but so that God's Glory might be revealed."  We (the disabled) BELONG here, we are an integral and necessary part of God's creation, God's Glory, the Paradise that is all of creation...without which it is incomplete.

Sure, there are times being born without a corpus callosum and the resulting life situations are exausting, painful, confusing, etc....at the same time, I know in every cell of my being, that it is a gift given that I might shine in the way the Creator made me, a different and rare facet of light in a rainbow of colours.  

Slowly society has de-institutionalized  the disabled (but not completely), but resists full integration into society...but even this is now changing.  I have a right (as a human being & a citizen of my people) to live to the best that I can be, yet when society is designed to build barriers around and in front of the other abled because we are not "the norm", how can this be possible.

Those barriers are obvious ones for the "visibly disabled" population, not so much for the "invisibly disabled," it is at this point, that I shall leave you to ponder the many ways this is true...and come up with and practice the solution.


~joseph



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