MIKE GULLIVER

Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

‘Disabled’ or ‘with disabilities’

I recently overheard someone saying that it’s no longer ‘correct’ to talk about ‘Disabled people’. Apparently, the UN and other international organizations use “people with disabilities” instead.

It makes me think that we’ve slipped back to the 1960s again.

Doing the background for my PhD, I read about the 1970s shift from considering disabled people as ‘those with impairments’ to ‘those who are disabled. The shift was forced as those considered ‘disabled’ found a way into academia and started to represent themselves. It was a way of reminding policy makers and others acting to (supposedly) ‘help them’ that the location of the ‘problem’ was not their bodies, but the way that their bodies were dis-enabled by society – and as a way of forcing the ‘help’ to be delivered on that basis rather than as blame heaped on broken bodies (and the consequent requirement for the person in that body to somehow aim to ‘fix it’) .

The argument went that there’s no such thing as an ‘impairment’ – all there is is ‘dis-enabling’; society’s failure to validate the person inside a body’s use of that body in the way that they want to to achieve the things that they want to achieve.

So if what I was told is true – the UN’s wording is backwards looking.

What worries me more though is the power that the UN has to hold people to that model, even if it’s inaccurate.

With their hands firmly grasping the reigns of global ‘Human Rights’ – they are essentially in a position that allows them to torture any movement into a discursive straight jacket of their own making.

So not only does the Deaf community have to wrestle with suggesting that they are ‘disabled’ – they also have to fight the fact that those who define ‘disability’ do not consider them ‘dis-abled’ = verb, but as ‘having a disability’ i.e. inhabiting inherently broken bodies.

No wonder the CI industry is enjoying such rich pickings.

And people wonder why there are such strong separatist and utopian strands to DEAF space…

*sigh*

A similar post, with a more clearly spatial bent is available at http://deafspace.wordpress.com

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This entry was posted on September 26, 2011 by in Musings and tagged , , , , , .
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