It is surely an easy argument that if you seek to identify a disability as
being susceptible to reduction or eradication you inevitably describe it as
something undesirable and that in turn causes people with that disability to
be regarded in a negative light that increases their oppression etc. Surely
it is to counter that argument that disability research and action when
combined lead to the development of an aggressive and assertive disability
movement that seeks equality of access and recognition of difference.
I worry about the argument that the cause of disabilities should be accepted
as inevitable and something that "will always exist" and that is why we
should not seek to erase them as to do so is to perpetuate the
negative/tragic view of disabled people.
I am really interested in disabled people who argue for this perspective. Is
it a perspective that only belongs to those who become disabled? Is it
because they have some personal investment in their disability? - "My
paraplegia was the best thing that happened to me" - patient in a spinal
unit. Why is there this view amongst some disabled people? Is it because
much of their life improved following their disability? Did they meet their
partner as a direct result of their disability? Did they acquire a new and
better social life? Did they find that their cultural experience was such
that they were celebrated (not many) by those around them? Did they find
that they could stop doing things that they felt obliged to do but which
they did not enjoy/ were not good at - work/sex/previous relationship(s)?
Did it reunite them with people they had 'lost'? What is going on? How, in
sum, can people have a preference for their disabled self over their
> On Wed, 9 Jun 1999, NICHOLAS ACHESON wrote:
>> Here, here to Martin's comment. Surely is is a matter of both
>> prevention and inclusion. Is there anybody out there who would
>> advocate the ending of road safety campaigns to reduce the incidence
>> of brain injury because to do so might somehow imply that they were
>> therefore opposed to the full social, political, and economic inclusion
> of disabled people as a social
>> Speaking personally, I suspect that I would continue to find my
>> own impairments - the results of meningitis - incommoding from time
>> to time even in a fully inclusive utopia. I have no problem with
>> research aimed at preventing and treating meningitis as an illness.
>> I think therefore that it is possible to argue that in any possible
>> world, it is better not to have had this particular illness. We're
>> back here to the distinction between illness and disability - not
>> the same thing at all!
> No--we're 'back'to the distinction of disability vs. 'normalcy,' I think;
> and whenever you situate the former as something tragic and undesirable...by
> aggressive work in PREVENTION...you reify the myth of the latter. It's not as
> simple as the road-accident scenario you offer: Of course we want to prevent
> injuries caused by drunk drivers, but does that mean we have to ascribe a
> 'worse-than-death' diagnosis to the person who becomes impaired due to the
> accident? I recall a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) poster enshrined in
> the cafeteria of my son's high school years ago: a photo of an isolated,
> deeply saddened young man in a wheelchair, with the inferred message,
> "Don't let this happen to someone because you mixed drink and driving." I
> asked a teacher to take the poster down, because (altho I couldn't articulate
> it at the time) it offended me. A case of 'prevention' unable to coexist with
> an inclusive mentality.
> Likewise, your example of meningitis--or another scenario recently offered,
> polio--These are, like the consequences of war, obviously something we'd all
> like to see diminished. But the fact is, congenital and acquired impairments
> of some kind will always exist, and as long as we posit the results as tragic
> we do further injury to the 'soldiers' who must endure society's conclusion
> that bodily difference is damnable, no?