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Gene Editing and Conditions of Disability

gwatkins's picture

When reading about CRISPR technologies and the growing use and potential use of gene editing technology, there were two quotes that resonated with me the most:

  1. “Women should not be given the responsibility of ensuring the genetic fitness of their children based on lack of support for children with disabilities”  -Dorothy Roberts (Hayden 1)

  2. “Most Deaf people would grant that there is little disability in an all-signing environment. It is only once there is no access to communication that the conditions of disability become evident” (Bauman 314)

A lot of the arguments for editing out disability involved narratives surrounding the hardships that disabled people face that make their lives “less worth living”.  This is evidently untrue as it is based on prejudice and nondisabled people tend to rank disabled people’s quality of life much lower than the actual disabled person would.  Furthermore, many of the hardships that may go along with disability (not that they warrant gene editing at all) are not caused by the impairment itself, but rather lack of accessibility and accommodations in society.  Why are we trying to remove these hardships by getting rid of people with disabilities/impairments instead of trying to get rid of the conditions (like lack of access) that create disability?

The first quote stood out to me because raising a disabled child can come with additional time and financial efforts than a nondisabled child, but so much of that has to do with lack of adequate government or other organizational support.  If that support existed, pregnant people would not have to worry if there would be enough resources and access for their child’s education and well-being when deciding if they should keep a disabled child.

I really liked the second quote because it emphasized that Deafness, and potentially other disabilities, do not have to be disabling if the right conditions exist.  Instead of trying to reduce the amount of Deaf children in the U.S., what if we started including ASL in our curriculum and built a world where Deafness would not have to be seen as a disability?  Then, no Deaf parents would be criticized for “intentionally disabling” their children as it would no longer hold a negative association to some, it could just be a regular part of life.