Social model of disability, or What constitutes disability?

Page 1 of 1 [ 2 posts ] 


User avatar

Joined: 8 Jul 2007
Age: 35
Gender: Female
Posts: 1,099
Location: in the They

06 Aug 2007, 12:56 pm

What does everyone think of this?

Though there's obviously (to me) a huge social component to what abilities are considered essential or "normal," it seems to me that it would be hard for any culture to accommodate sufficiently to cover for, say, an inability to feel empathy for others, or an inability to see. People who lack those abilities, and a number of others, will probably be unable to obtain success in certain endevours no matter how they are accommodated.

So is the cornerstone of this theory the idea that, as a society, we can decide that anything someone is unable to do- even with accommodation- is non-essential?

I'm reminded of a definition I use when dealing with abused and neglected children; if their experiences leave them unable to become who they wish to become and do what they wish to do- and without those experiences they would be able to do and be those things- then harm has been done- then they have been truly failed by the adults who were charged with their protection.

It's not that shorter-term pain and developmental delay aren't harmful, but in a more universal sense, what they are able to make of their life after the fact is what really matters. This is determined by a lot of different factors, some of them social, and (obviously) some of them quite personal. Of course, there will also be interaction between social and personal motives, to whatever degree the individual in question cares about sociality.

I use this to explain my stance on the kids I work with to people who say, "Yes, but everyone is failed by the adults in their lives in one way or another. Everyone experiences some form of abuse." Not everyone wakes up screaming at night in their mid 20's. While most would concede that this latter example was a case of serious abuse, I find the rather amorphous definition I've stated above to be the clearest way I could find to draw a meaningful line through more ambiguous cases.

Would a similar definition be appropriately applied to the question of who is disabled and not? And, how best should society change to maximize the benefit of diversity, particularly neurodiversity?

Sorry too for the inarticulate, run- on thing I have going on here. . . I don't know much about this, and would really like to know what everyone thinks.


User avatar

Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Age: 47
Gender: Female
Posts: 318

06 Aug 2007, 2:24 pm

I can't say I have given it much thought but I would say a disability is anything that causes a person to be unable to do or experience essential things( within there normal society) that the majority of the population can do, using the same methods , energy and in the same time.
Its not perfect but I would think it would be quite inclusive of a wide range of disabilities.

I dont believe society can adequatly compensate for a persons disability , however the level of disability in a functonal sense depends on both societies accomadations and the mental state of the person.

In an attempt to explain better i'll give an example.
A person confined to a wheel chair will never be given the ability to walk by society , however society can make mobility easier by providing ramps , lifts ,wide doors ,electric doors ( obviously a thousand other things also but im just using this as a brief example) but then you consider the mental state of the person . If that person who is confined to a wheelchair is a confident and outgoing person , stubborn as an ox type it is likely that they will in a functional sense be less disabled than a person confined to a wheelchair who is insecure , nervous and depressed because even with the provision of ramps etc that person would likely still feel restricted by there chair and hence may never attain the level of freedom and contentment that the other wheel chair user had.

My second example is a person with a mental illness, many people with mental disability are severely and adversley affected in there day to day lives and yet they show no physical symptons . They can have huge problems with mobility, in the sense that they are unable to leave the house confidently , dont feel safe alone , panic in shops etc etc . But what can society do to accomadate those people to help them with mobility ?

i may have missed the point of your post , if so i apologize .