Just what counts as having a disability these days anyway?


Could having health conditions such as arthritis, a ‘bad back’ or having undergone any form of reconstructive surgery such as hip or knee replacement, or having bones repaired with the use of rods and pins, now qualify a person as being disabled, even after the wounds have healed, the pain reduced or full functioning has returned?

In the minds of some the answer to this question is a resounding yes. But I’m far from convinced this should be so.

Over the last few decades the ways in which we discuss ‘disability’ has changed greatly. As a consequence of this two major changes have occurred.

Firstly, many conditions that were previously understood purely as health conditions, have now been labelled disabling conditions.

Secondly, this shift in emphasis towards labelling health conditions as disabling has led to greater levels of awareness, access, understanding and acceptance for some forms of disabilities but not others.

So I question whether or not, in the rush to create awareness and embrace or champion the rights of those with disabilities, a few too many of the hard and inviolable truths of living life with non physical disabilities have been all too quickly wallpapered over.

Instead of fixing the hardships that so many face, these new redefinitions of what is and is not a disability, have merely succeeded in replacing the decor of society by creating new and more palatable concepts of what a disability is or ought to be considered to be.

With the concept of disability once again being viewed through the lens of a physical condition that can be medically helped or cured, (such as ‘bad backs’, pinned arms and legs, new hips and knees, electronic ears), or at the very least, successfully catered for with the introduction of technology, wheel chair ramps, rails, traffic lights that beep and specialized services for the hard of hearing, more and more people who experience other forms of disability are becoming further marginalized.

If we fall for the concept that all it takes for a person to be considered disabled is the existence of any physical condition, either temporary or permanent, that’s viewed as disabling in any way, including old age, then we may also fall back into the dark days of ignoring all those who experience the so-called ‘invisible’ disabilities (intellectual or cognitive delays or differences, autism).

People with intellectual disabilities or cognitive differences may once again find themselves being pushed further and further back down the conga line of help, awareness and support.

Thereby undoing decades of activism.

It seems to me that by including the term ‘disabling’ to conditions which were previously recognized as ‘health conditions’, ‘illnesses’ or ‘age related conditions’, the powers that be are once again re-framing disability as a purely physical experience/condition that can only be medically understood and cured.

And we all know how well defining disability by applying a purely medical paradigm to it worked out last time.

“The steady accumulation of a thousand slights”…….. Nelson Mandela


“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom 


Simple Truth or Twisted Logic?


This supposedly simple truth is one that I’m not at all sure I agree with.

No matter how logical statements like these first appear to be, there’s always something about them that pulls at that questioning part inside of me.

The part that makes me wonder whether or not we should accept statements like these too easily, and if we do accept them, what is it exactly that we are buying into when we do?

Saying that one shouldn’t expect a lion not to eat a person just because a person wouldn’t eat a lion, which is indeed a true statement, is one thing, but to then use this truth as a justification for saying that we shouldn’t expect the world, (which really means the people in it as the world itself is an inanimate object), to treat us fairly just because we treat others fairly, is another issue entirely.

After all, people are not lions….. and now that we’ve established that fact……

Just why is it again that we’re not to expect others to treat us fairly if we do the same to them?

Oh that’s right, it’s because being preyed upon, ripped off, taken advantage of, lied too, stolen from, beaten up or maimed in some way by others in life, is supposedly all part of the natural order of things, therefore we should just accept and expect it.

Well it may be the natural order of things for lion’s to behave in this way, but once again, people are not lions and I’m still far from convinced that behaving like a wild animal, in any way, should constitute what’s considered to be the natural order of behavior for human beings.

I don’t truly think that many people would, upon rational reflection, agree to the statement that we should all expect to be preyed upon by others.

Nor accept the idea that being nice to others automatically  means that we deserve to become the victims of human predators.

Especially considering that the validation of such ideas are based on little more than the observation that lions in the wild, hunt to survive.

Or perhaps I’m just being foolish.

What do you think?