Discussion #8: Disability Culture

This thought-provoking article (and associated links) shed light on a culture often invisible to those living around it…

http://www.independentliving.org/newsletter/12-01.html
Please read this article, and explore at least two of the links that follow. Then return here to contribute your thoughts. Do read and consider your classmates’ comments as well.

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As always, please post an original response to the post, as well as at least 3 replies to classmates’ posts.
——————–spend 1 page on my part and the rest to reply————————————-
Ali Ait Daoud
Steven E. Brown, PhD, suggests a definition for “disability culture,” first published in a 1996 issue of MAINSTREAM magazine as follows:

“We share a common history of oppression and a common bond of resilience. We generate art, music, literature, and other expressions of our lives and our culture, infused from our experience of disability. Most importantly, we are proud of ourselves as people with disabilities. We claim our disabilities with pride as part of our identity. We are who we are: we are people with disabilities.”

I am not sure that you can really define a “disability culture.” I also think that the concept of a “disabled” person has changed since 1996.

The medical community “defines “disability” as the presence of a physical or cognitive difference that deviates negatively from a mundane norm.”

However, I think more people today emphasize that people who have a physical or cognitive difference are not “disabled,” they just have a physical or cognitive difference. The word “disability” is disabling.

In Steven E. Brown’s 1997 article, Dis-ing Definitions, he also challenges definitions that attempt to define those with disabilities. He was dissatisfied with defining himself as an “individual with a disability.” He asks if ” we automatically imprison ourselves as soon as we turn to classifications?”

In Paul K. Longmores’ 1995 article, the Second Phase: From Disability Rights to Disability Culture, He says the first phase was “the quest for disability rights” and the second phase is a quest for “collective identity.” He seems to suggest that by defining a collective identity, it will advance disability rights.

I have a stepson who has intellectual and physical differences. He does not like to be called disabled. He feels it immediately puts him in an “other” box and suggests that he is limited and different in a negative way to other people. I am pretty sure he would not want to be defined as a member of a “disability culture.”

In the country where I grew up, people who have physical or intellectual differences, aren’t as stigmatized in a way as they are in the US. However, they also aren’t given as many opportunities as in the US. I have noticed that there are a lot of rights and accommodations for people with differences in the US. At Foothill College I see a lot of people who have differences in class, but I don’t see them as having a specific culture that connects them due to the difference. I can see where they might have similar challenges and difficulties, but I am not sure that this results in a culture.

In Morocco, people who have differences are accepted in the culture, but there aren’t specific resources or supports so they can live similarly to others. However, there aren’t many resource for anybody there. I don’t think you could define a “disability culture” in Morocco. You are just Moroccan with a physical or cognitive difference.

I support equality and support for people with physical or cognitive differences, but I am not sure that people need to be defined as “disabled” or part of “disability culture,” unless people want to self-define – that is their right. It seems in this day and age, the more we create separate definitions, the more divided we are. We are who we are: We are all human-beings.

Albert Pham
As the article mentions, disability culture is often invisible to those living around it. This is mainly due to people having negative connotations of the word “disability”. Different cultures have a different definition of the word “disability” and the word “culture” so it makes sense that so many people are interested in this topic when combined together. The article mentions that these two words have many different interpretations, so it causes a lot of controversy and interest to the public.

After seeing all the searches on this topic, I asked myself why there was so much interest in “disability culture”. Especially why there were at least 242 million search results just on this topic. One point that one of the articles mentions is how even though there is increasing awareness towards this issue, we would rather focus on promoting our differences and separating our identity. This is why it is hard to integrate disabled people into our society.

I feel that one solution towards this should be better policies towards helping those that are disabled. Another solution is to have all disabled people join together in one organization. This would allow for more focus on the integration of these people in the normal world as having too many organizations with people who have disabilities draws more attention towards different issues that are not focused on integration. As someone who suffers from ADHD, I was labeled as a student with a disability and my negative connotation on the word “disability” caused me to doubt my abilities. This article definitely increased my confidence in myself because, at the end of the day, increasing awareness for people with disabilities will help create a new disability culture that can actually do good in the long run.

Tsai Yen Hu
When I think of disability, it is a simple word to describe someone with cognitive impairments. Instead of referring to disability as a negative thing, in modern definition, it is just a description for us to identify differences in people. In this article, the author emphasizes how disabled people are proud of who they are. I am sure that this is not true for every disabled individual; however, it is a goal for them and everyone else to accept and embrace the differences.
The author also mentions that disability culture is “a set of artifacts, beliefs, expressions created by disabled people ourselves to describe their life experience”. It is a true statement, but I don’t agree that it is a cultural thing. Instead, I would call it a basic behavior and norm of a human being. It seems like the author is trying to minimize negative thoughts and discrimination against disabled people by emphasizing its culture.
In another article “The Disability Movement and its History”, the author indicates that “In order to understand the disability movement a person has to understand the disability experience.” I think this is an important message for everyone. Often times, we try to relate ourselves with others only to pretend that we know what others are going through while we actually don’t. By understanding disabled people’s story and life, it encourages us to be mindful. I believe that it is the path that we need to walk on.

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