Deleting the “Dis” in Disabled

I will be the first to admit, at the beginning of this class I was the first person to question why we had to talk about Aboriginal people. I always thought they were just choosing to be the way they are and if they only worked harder, they could get to wherever they want to be in life. Although my views of minorities have absolutely changed, exceptionalities (or disabilities) were always different for me. My grandma had struggled with dementia, my grandpa has no leg and no ability to move his arm, and my sister has a brain injury. I guess because disabilities were present in my family, I always advocated for them no matter what others thought.

I think troubling the norms of disability means giving people with disabilities a voice. People with disabilities don’t want to be treated as babies, they want to be treated as humans and given the ability to live as humans. Disabilities should not be a binary, a wheel chair or personal aid does not mean you are incapable. It simply means you need more help to live your life and you can be totally capable. However, as Eli Clare states in “Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness”, people with disabilities are automatically looked down upon and are often not given the chance to get a real career or a “normal” life. They often encounter “high unemployment rates, lack of access, gawking, substandard education, being forced to live in nursing homes and back rooms, being seen as childlike and asexual- that needs changing”.

I do not think the term “disability” properly suits these people with exceptionalities. I have thought about exceptionalities in this way for a while and I think the idea in “Becoming dishuman: thinking about the human through sis/ability”, emphasizes the fact that we need to think of disabilities differently. Like I said previously, it should not be a binary. They are totally capable just not in every aspect. I think Clare’s article emphasizes the importance that we need to embrace people with exceptionalities as “irrevocable different” instead of “wrong, broken, in need of repair, unacceptably queer”. My sister was constantly told to be like the other kids; hand things in on time, sit in class for an hour, be socially acceptable. This was never within arms reach for her as she had no ability to make it happen with her brain injury. I think what Clair is really saying is we need to embrace difference.

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One thought on “Deleting the “Dis” in Disabled

  1. Hi Bailie

    Your post is interesting. I would agree with you that the term “disabled” is a bit dated. Like you say, most of these people simply need more help to live their lives. Only in some extreme circumstances can people totally not live for themselves. I took a class on children with learning disabilities and it was very interesting. It was about both identifying and managing them and helping them succeed in the classroom. In my field experience I see this first hand. There is a little girl who cannot speak and needs a different schedule then the rest of the students. She has her own EA who guides her around the school and helps her in her day. Now she is not in the classroom for multiple reasons: she needs one on one teaching, her mental ability is far behind the other students, and she simply makes grunts and noises which can, at times, be very distracting for the other students. So while she still starts her day in the classroom with all the other students and ends the day in the classroom, for most of the day she is out of the classroom doing what she needs to learn. Now I know we talked about keeping these students in the classroom, but I think, in cases like this one, it is better for the student with the learning impairment, and the other students, that there is separation. I’d like to hear what you think on this?

    – Brandon

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