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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

IDENTITY AND DISABILITY


During the time I read for my course in Disability Studies, I often asked myself whether it mattered to me if I was disabled or not. At face value, the answer was simple. Yes, of course it mattered. But, on the other hand, if I had not been disabled, would it matter as much? This question, I think, is an important one the more I get to know different people in society - ranging from the van drivers to educators, from doctors to managers. After all, I have never lived a life without impairments and I can never position myself in a non-disabled set of mind... or can I?

But then again, I realise that nobody can be in my place. My individuality, my personal likes and dislikes, (etc etc) are not bound to my physicality. Before you snooze and press a wrong button, I'm only saying that my identity as a person should not be tied to who I am, so to speak, as a 'body'.

And then again, is that really true? Our bodies, whether we want it or not, are the means by which we present ourselves to the world. But our bodies are still not who we truly are. In the past, I have enjoyed going online and meeting people through the virtual world of the internet. Nobody would know who I was, or whether I had an impairment or not. But it still mattered to people if I got to tell them this fact. The usual replies ranged from pity to admiration.

At first it seemed fun to pretend to be someone else. But, in truth, the fact was that some people who I met through these virtual communities (I no longer frequent) would have probably treated me differently had we met personally. Even if my first realisation of my disabled status came earlier on, such online experiences made me understand deeper the cultural roots of disability.

2 comments:

desik said...

Enjoyed reading your latest post and questions you ask are timely for me as in case of MH disability , which I have, its not so 'visible' so line of questioning runs even deeper.

I say timely because I am currently struggling to get 3 healthcare organisations to acknowledge my disability as an issue in their dealings with me .

Unfortunately they have no formal mechanisms for acknowledging concerns about disability discrimination, they just assume everyone else does it but them, and my raising it as concern has been received with negative attitudes ranging from ignorant to hostile...including managers who have implied that acknowledging disability will undermine their operational independence.

Its very catch 22.

These organisations have policies for acknowledging disability as employers but not as service providers.

Difference is key here and sometimes treating people as if we are all the same is discriminatory because difference , visible or not, needs to be accomodated not simply brushed aside because it doesnt sit well with top down notions of 'equality'.

GordonGT said...

True, we cannot claim to have equality if every individual is treated the same. In this sense, the situation you illustrate here demonstrates the ambivalent approaches to impairment.

On one level, our right to work (here) is acknowledged and that for us to work, the work environment (or structure) must take our impairment into account.

However, on the other level, 'impairment' is seen as a problem and even as a burden on society. And, as you rightly point out, when the impairment and the related disability is hidden, it may be more difficult to prove that impairment exists. However, the problem remains our impairment in this approach.

These approaches might be seen as embodying two irreconcilable views of disability - one which acknowledges disability as socially created (ie., social model) and the other which expects the individual to make all the necessary adjustments or changes to 'fit in' (biomedical model).

Ultimately, as you rightly say, true equality cannot be achieved if society (or the work environment here) doesn't make the necessary changes and take us into account.