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The term disability. Use it – with care.

March 29, 2012

 I just re-read part of a recent blog post of mine – “disability/disabled?” I did this because I was reminded of my struggle with using the term disability or disabled today while I was reading “The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability” by Susan Wendell (1996). Below is a quote from the book that helped me to clarify some of my confusion.

 “In the ethically ideal situation, the only practical reason for defining disability would come from the need to identify people who should receive certain resources in order to develop their potential and to participate in a given community. But this need would apply to everyone (in an ethically ideal situation) not only to people with disabilities….In such an ideal circumstance, the category (disabled) itself would probably disappear.” (pp. 32-33)

 She said what I was trying to say in my blog post “air plane articles & BC teachers’ job action”. My dream is of a society in which we don’t ‘need’ the labels, diagnoses and terms like disability. However the terms disability and disabled do have some use in the society in which we currently live. I did ‘other’ the people I identified as disabled (when I asked them to give me feedback on my course Disability Studies for Occupational Therapy Students). However, because they were willing to speak with me, I guess they have experienced the difficulties of being different from the ‘standard’ person with ‘standard’ physical and/or, intellectual, and/or social skills.

 I have not experienced insults like “you crazy woman”. However, the stigma of mental illness as well as the mental illness itself has definitely impacted my choices and therefore my life and the lives of my family.

 My goal as an occupational therapist is to be aware of how assumptions and/or stigma may affect how I make choices that could negatively impact my clients, their families and our community. I do this by trying to look at ideas and behaviours with a critical or sceptical lens. This does not always make things easy but it does help me to constantly remind myself to consider people’s dignity. It is a daily struggle and sometimes I don’t realize until afterwards the implications of what I have said or done. Do other occupational therapists struggle to ensure that they are not inadvertently making their clients’ lives less satisfying rather than more satisfying?



From → labels/diagnoses

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