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aamen's picture

Cultural Standards and Disability

I thought an interesting point made during our discussion was the ideathat the process by which people accomplish tasks should not be what is important - what is important is the fact that the tasks are accomplished.  Culture should be willing and able to accept different methods of solving a problem as long as the problem is eventually solved. It seems to me that it would not be fair to classify someone as disabled simply because they go about doing things in a different way than what is considered by society to be 'normal'.  For example, to my knowledge dyslexic children are perfectly capable of learning to read, it just has to be approached in a different manner.  I'm not sure then that is it fair to call children with conditions such as dyslexia learning 'disabled' - as has been discussed, it seems to me that the condition simply results in a difference in learning style that makes some things come harder and some potentially easier.  


Paul brought up the issue of whether or not an autistic person's brain can be considered 'broken' when autism can cause a sort of genius in some aspects of life as well as an inability to function in our culture.  People in class were concerned with the issue that minor conditions considered to be 'disabilities' can be argued to be merely differences, but that if you follow this logic on and on, eventually you hit a point where a person is so significantly 'different' that they must be considered disabled.  It seems to me that this is what makes discussing autism so tricky, since there are such varying degrees of autism.  People with more minor cases of autism might have difficulty functioning socially in society, but also may be able to overcome this difficulty, in which case I personally would not consider them to be 'disabled' or 'broken'.  However, severe cases of autism might lead to the inability of an individual to overcome such difficulties.  It is not a matter of reaching a goal through a different path; they are simply incapable of reaching the goal.  In such cases I would be willing to use the term 'disabled' - I guess I think that when an individual has a condition that renders it impossible for them to function normally in our society then they are disabled in terms of whatever it is that they are unable to do.  For example, I would call a blind person 'disabled' because they cannot get around their inability to see. However, I recognize that if this is the case being disabled is completely a function of culture, since I am defining disability as not being able to live up to cultural standards.  


I also don't think (as I'm sure most people agree) that it is fair forthe term 'disability' to have the stigma that it does.  In labeling people with certain conditions as 'disabled', I would not want to imply that they are somehow less than people who are notdisabled, simply that there are things they are unable to do.  I think the real problem lies with the connotation of the term, although this is something that would be very difficult to change.


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