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Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Disabilty is Devalued in Society

Hi again!

In my last post, Zi examined the dissonance or discrepancy between the ideals embodied in enabling legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and related legislation as opposed to the real world shortcomings an individual with a disability faces on a daily basis. The fact that such a disparity that promotes inequality between the larger able-bodied community and the smaller minority class of is citizens with disabilitie, as defined by discrete limitations, is a reflection of hoW that class of 43 million people nationally has consistently been devalued in fact even if it is not explicitly stated on a regular basis.

The origin of such practices, called ableist(defined as behaving in a manner or initiating policies that are not congruent with the specific needs of a person with a disability) even if unintentional, harks back to the 19th century and early 20th century during which the eugenics movement flourished as the pace of urban industrialization proceeded apiece. During that period embodied differences were stigmatized by society and plans were developed to create a distance between the functionally able who epitomized the ideal man and those with obvious limitations who fails to reach the arbitrarily set benchmark. Charitable organizations were established to take take care of those deemed to unable to fend for themselves in a society based on the survival of the fittest belief. These facilities attracted large donations from wealthy citizens largely as a means to salve the often guilty conscience of the donor and maintain the clients/patients in subservient docile positions, tugging at emotional heartstrings as much as telethons o today in this sophisticated age. The structure of special education of children with disabilities at it's root, is an example of eugenic thinking that persists in spite of the mainstreaming heroic espoused by its leaders. It is as if equality is enforced by fiat rather than through genuine camaraderie although friendships do emerge from such situations by happenstance and through mutual respect; but that is usually the exception which proves the rule. The name "special" in special education connotes a distancing orientation rather than an integrative one. It puts children with disabilities on a virtual pedestal by virtue of their embodies distinctiveness rather than seeing these same limitations as points along a continuum, a difference of degree. Rehabilitation of which special education is a part of, has traditionally subscribed to the medical model which tends to classify conditions and syndromes in terms of deficits, a negative "objective" connotation. It makes sense since the custodians and agents of the eugenics movement who ran institutions and facilities were largely members of the medical profession.

Have we as a nation made any progress towards equal access? Technologically, yes but when one considers prevailing belief, no. This is why people with dsabiliies as a class are often devalued. Take a tiny but telling example: I stayed overnight at a 4-star hotel that had a sole bedroom configured for total wheelchair access. However it happened to be the only venue in the entire building without Internet capability: devoid of wireless network access which are taken for granted by hotel guests. I left the next day with a promise from desk manager that the disparity would be rectified shortly. Go figure!


  1. I look forward to reading more blog entries. Thank you and good luck with your new blog. Frieda

  2. Great vocabulary, Dan....I had no idea. I thought US is the best country to live in for a person with disability. I was out with my momma at a restaurant in Russia and there were an older lady in a wheelchair (looked like post-stroke ) with a family. My momma said that those must be "foreigners".....She was right. I thought she was out of line with her comment but later I understood that that was the mentality. Maybe things changed now. But I am so grateful for being able to move and to live in this country on the top of that. Every day I say my thanks.