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2/10 - Thinking Again About Disability and Labor Capability

laurentanel's picture

As discussed in class, it is known that one of the defining factors of a disabled body is the inability of its owner to perform labor. This creates a constantly changing definition, which depends on the form of labor required of a person to function in society. Last week I reflected on the disabled African people and their exploitation for slave labor. This week Nielsen begins to analyze the place of a disabled person in the American society that is moving towards industrialization. She explains that disabled people are increasingly left out of employment and discriminated against during the industrial revolution because the ability to perform labor is much more exclusive (74). People are required to be manually active and function in factory settings. What strikes me as troubling, however, is that this new form of labor is not only more exclusive to the type of person that can contribute, but also creates an environment far more susceptible to causing injury and disability on the job. With an already diminished hiring pool, the high-risk industry (focused on increasing productivity at all costs) continues to harm the few people that can be used. Why did this unsustainable practice continue for so long? And why, if disability was a commonly occurring result of these new jobs, did it continue to be so discriminated against?