Given the recent debates that have surfaced in a few different threads re whether conditions such as autism and deafness truly pose enough of an obstacle to functionality and happiness to be considered disabilities, or whether they should be upheld as fundamental and unchangeable aspects of the person’s unique identiy, I feel a separate thread is warranted.
What is a disability anyway? I’m not going to go and post dictionary definitions, I think we are all familiar enough with the term where such a move would be pedantic. But in one of the threads, the argument was made that “disability” was not an objective reality or truth but rather a product of a societal failure to recognize and accomodate the needs of those of us whose needs are divergent from those of the mainstream.
I find this argument laughably, woefully incomplete and ignorant. Society has no culpability in the heartbreaking, impenetrable chasm felt by a parent trying to bond with their (very low-functioning) autistic toddler. Society also has no culpability in the inability of the paraplegic/quadriplegic to control their bowels and bladder. Just as society has no culpability in the inability of a blind man to drive on the interstate. I could go on but the point is to blame society for the objective truths of disabilities is wrong and an extreme overreach.
Society does have a role in mitigation of those objective truths however. To what extent a society does or doesn’t recognize the needs and autonomy of the disabled definitely exacerbates or mitigates those realities but it doesn’t create them. And in the broad scope, big picture, society is moving, and has been moving, further and further in the right direction re recognizing the needs and autonomy of all the various manifestations of disability.
But conditions that pose significant obstacles, both intrinsic and extrinsic in nature, to achieving life goals taken for granted by many who have no such obstacles in their lives, is what all disabilities share. Intrinsic obstacles are inherent limitations imposed by the disability itself, regardless of the nature of the society in which it exists. Extrinsic obstacles are those posed by integration of those intrinsic limitations with a society that is to a varied degree not eqipped for them.
How is lacking one of the basic senses, namely hearing, not considered a disability? I completely understand not considering the disability a “lessening” of the person with it but in addition to the functional impairment of such a condition, look at what an enormous element of human and cultural expression and experience is missed by the deaf by never experiencing music. Or the blind never experiencing visual arts.
I think the idea, often fiercely defended, that certain disabilities arent actually disabilities at all but rather innate aspects of a person’s being that should be celebrated (or at least not considered a liability) is understandable. Understandable but misguided, that is. Misguided because I think it is a response to social marginalization, or extrinsic obstacles, at the expense of addressing the intrinsic limitations that are the source of social response or lack thereof in the first place.
I apologize for the long-winded, rambling nature of this OP. I am stopping now even tho I feel like there is much more to say. I just feel like I am bordering on incoherence, being all over the place as I’ve been. Hopefully I make some semblance of sense, despite my lack of clarity.