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Impairment is a physical fact but disability is a social construction

That is to say, disability is something which is imposed from somewhere else, it does not exist on its own. Disabled people are created as Shakespeare talks about identity formation and how disabled people receive messages from the environment or other people that creates and reinforces an inferior position in society Shakespeare It is important to understand how we speak about disability because it shapes our attitudes about it.

  • Is there an empowerment life cycle?
  • Thus, education tries to restore the idea of a moral community, one in which the members question what constitutes a good life, to form a reconceptualization of education, where physical and mental conditions would be seen as part of a range of abilities, where different talents were distributed in different ways, and all talents would be recognized.

Some critics claim it is more important to see the impairment as the problem because it affects a person's ability to develop a healthy identity. Nevertheless, it can be argued that disability is not something that exists on its own but an entity that is developed through a process of social interactions An impairment describes the body, but disability inscribes the body, it is written in many ways, often with a negative connotation. With this inscription, we can say that disability becomes a social construction with a wide range of outcomes.

Shakespeare explains that disability is formulated through social construction taking on several meanings. He builds on the social model which claims that disability is imposed through societal interaction, but refines it by employing other methodologies. He wishes to explain disability by means of narrative. Discarding old narratives that are not useful to the disabled is replaced with new narratives that are more liberationist 2. The social model, as we have seen is something imposed upon us by an oppressive society but it can be remedied through progressive social legislation such as accessible buildings 3.

Disability: Definitions, Models, Experience

The minority model, less useful relies on identity politics and power politics, but it does not transgress its border in defining disability or to reclaim the imposition of how disability is defined by an unequal society 4.

Claiming an identity is not enough, it must be re-written into a narrative that builds on a framework where disabled people are not marginalized but viewed in a larger social context. The Foucauldian definition of disability relies on a policy approach that can only relate to people if they are placed in certain categories 4.

Categorical definition essentializes the the nature of disability without acknowledging it as a dynamic and fluid entity. Otherness argues from point of view where we are still viewed as an outcast. For equality to exist, disability needs to be written as difference but part of a larger constitution where its voice is recognized. He rejects the above models of disability because they construct disability without approval of the disabled.

They argue for a politics of difference which will not categorize us as many social constructionist and biological arguments do. Social construction is a useful concept but if it fails to understand the physicality of a disabled body, then it becomes a feedback loop that refuses to acknowledge alternate corporealities. Several experiences of disability intersect for example, race, sex, and gender but the one he sees as most powerful is that of class because of the large number of disabled people living in poverty.

It is my contention that poverty is constructed socially, therefore it is a social problem that must be approached with that understanding to effect beneficial social policy 5. Poverty is a pervasive social problem that often receives attention from social scientists and policy makers Saraga She says that social problems can be examined by four questions she poses. What sorts of differences are seen in society?

What consequences do these differences have on society? What do we do with differences and where do these differences come from 1? These differences present themselves as problems and there are two things that make a problem a impairment is a physical fact but disability is a social construction problem. Firstly what claim does it make on public attention and secondly what sort of problem was it?

These two questions are examined in terms of events and people. For our purposes, poverty is an event that poses as a social problem 6. The poor and the disabled are actors in this event. As the problem or event confronts an individual, it is easy to see how it is socially constructed because it is the dynamic of societal influences upon certain groups of people such as the poor and disabled.

Private problems seldom get noticed. The poor and the disabled are not seen as important until someone understands their oppression is a matter of social justice.

Towards a Critical Theory of Disability in Social Work

Once the problem leaves the sphere of a private matter to the sphere where it is seen as a public matter, then policy makers can begin to alleviate the problem. Once the problems can be defined in terms of a social construction, then there is the opportunity for justice seeking in terms of good social policy.

Disability and its relationship with poverty must be examined within the context of a rights based approach before it has a beneficial impact Grech Thus far, poverty remains on the margins of policy development, institutional settings, and at the program and research level Grech Most of the literature approaches disability from the perspective of the industrialized world, thus leaving a significant population, mostly the poor of lesser-developed nations out of the dialogue.

The definition of poverty is written from a western perspective and does not address specific issues arising from countries of varying cultures and colonial pasts Many times theorists and development workers initiate programs from a top down approach without taking into consideration cultural differences. The results often reinforce poverty because they are part of a neo-liberal agenda that is subject to structural adjustments required of host countries through the World Bank and other development agencies Furthermore disabled people are not a homogeneous group; gender religion, tribal roles and rights often vary drastically according to geographical location.

  • He rejects the above models of disability because they construct disability without approval of the disabled;
  • Many times theorists and development workers initiate programs from a top down approach without taking into consideration cultural differences.

The rights revolution of the West reflects western values with little meaning for the developing world Poverty becomes the overriding issue where rights are something that rarely is discussed thus leaving one part of the picture vacant.

The colonialization thesis that informs much liberationist thought in Third World development, is applicable when we come to understand that poor disabled citizens face colonialization from a dominant, well-off able-bodied community. Some measures, following Sen, argue for the capabilities approach where communities are given more than basic necessities in order to escape the construction of poverty For example, the social model of disability argues that people are made disabled by inaccessible buildings.

Likewise, the social construction of poverty model advocates for more resources such as accessible day care and social housing to counter the problems of poverty. This happens best when the culture of a society embraces certain features that decides that poverty is unacceptable and that it is something that can be lessened Cox Since the end of the last world war, liberal states defined citizenship as something that held rights for its people.

Ideas about the welfare state and poverty do not arise on their own. They are a reflection of the values and norms of the surrounding society.

If that society believes that it has the capacity or agency to develop a welfare state with the goal of reducing poverty, then it will d so. The welfare state in itself is socially constructed through institutions, values and citizens, so it is the same sub-system that has the potential to enact policy that is part of a social construction However, the ideological nature of society gives impetus and meaning to institutional change.

The discourse is changed by actors and actors only reflect the values of society. This explains why poverty is linked to disability because disability is stigmatized, therefore to be poor is to be an outcast and not worthy of equal citizenship.

Furthermore, the ideological nature of society has shifted from a liberal one to a neo-liberal structure where the emphasis has transformed from one of equal citizenship into another system calling for fiscal responsibility, thus enabling harmful reduction of services to the poor.

Certain groups are affected by poverty such as women through the feminization of poverty and the racialization of poverty Jordan Similarly, poverty impacts disabled people more than the able bodied.

Towards a Critical Theory of Disability in Social Work

Poverty is more than an economic consequence accounting for one group having more resources than another. It arises out of social interaction as groups participate in the economic sphere 4, 5. People react to economic variables and form opinions as to why certain activities lead to certain results. Theorists such as Rawls, Nozick, and Dworkin talk about what we can expect from a liberal society in terms of economic and freedom and equality.

Community and citizenship are the basis of a liberal society and this is important because it will provide some answers to justice seeking groups such as the disabled who see themselves on the outside of society Morality and social value enforce and develop rules of who is marginalized in society with explanations that arise from a social nature The social construction of disability and poverty intersect because disabled people are not seen as being useful to an industrialized society.

Moreover, the poor are often blamed for being poor rather than trying to determine why certain classes are subjected to economic and social inequality. Seccombe extends this impairment is a physical fact but disability is a social construction of blaming the poor for being poor through the connotation that welfare mothers are lazy and undeserving. Several myths exist to explain the stigmatization of people who live in poverty and rely on the welfare system.

Our society values individualism in that it believes people can make rational choices for how they live and what happens to them. Consequently when certain people do not meet these expectations they are automatically stigmatized Seccombe Others believe that poverty is part of a structural problem as a result of capitalism and so it is naturalized as something society cannot avoid.

Once people enter the welfare trap the structural nature of poverty makes it difficult to move from this position. The culture of poverty arises when generations are conditioned to feel that what they have is all that they deserve Foucault believe that power structures which can arise in capitalism inhibit people's ability to move from a marginalized position Other theorists such as Gramsci talk of hegemony that accounts for class distinction where the poor are pitted against rich The authors conclude that poverty is socially constructed through a system where structural conditions make it appear as if this were an unavoidable situation leaving poor people feeling helpless and prone to self blame for their situations.

There is a relationship between illness and gender which we can translate into how illness and disability intersect Lorber Gender and disability are related to poverty where women are seen as less valued to a society that values utility.

Gender accounts for a differing process in its relationship to society because of biological imperatives that happen due to the capacity of females to reproduce. These biological qualities are then transmitted into cultural norms and practices such as the family, economy, politics, medical and legal systems.

The gendered body is expected to fulfill several roles in various social contexts in order to be valued 4. Likewise the disabled body must be viewed within social contexts. Some factors such as the qualification of financial benefits because of disability require that people with impairments are judged and classified according to what an impaired body can do in relation to an able body.

The disabled body is often viewed as inferior rather than different according to what it can do in modern society. Society under values the female body and it becomes doubly oppressed because of gender and physical characteristics.

Old age is similar to the concept of explaining gender and disability except that the marginalizing factor is seen as ageism. It explains that what might be impairment in one situation or culture does not become a disabling factor until its utility is questioned in relation to that society. For example a wheelchair and good public transportation is required for a person to negotiate modern society. However, if the person chooses not to work, than the issue of transportation is not seen in the context of employability.

In terms of ageism, the body naturally ages at differing rates. No two bodies are the same. What is required for a sixty year old might not be required for an eighty year old. The body is not a static object in terms of what it requires. Therefore old age must be seen as something that is not uniform.