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Ableism

October 25, 2012

Small child with head down on highchair.

According to Fiona Kumari Campbell (2008), “a chief feature of an ableist viewpoint is a belief that impairment or disability (irrespective of ‘type’) is inherently negative and should the opportunity present itself, be ameliorated, cured or indeed eliminated.”  This got me thinking.

I have smaller than average breasts.  Should I have surgery to increase the size of my breasts so they are average?

My daughter had a gap between her two front teeth.  Should she wear braces to eliminate the gap so that her smile is more average or normal?  Does it matter that she loses this feature that she shares with her beloved uncle?

I have a regular cold caused by a virus.  Should I take over the counter medications to eliminate these symptoms (none of them will eliminate the cold) so that I can go to work or should I stay home to rest and allow my body to heal itself naturally?

A child uses a tube to receive her nutrition because previously it was unsafe for her to receive nutrition by mouth.  It is now safe for her to eat.  However, she finds eating very, very unpleasant.  Should she be made to eat by mouth?

A different child has a tube to receive her nutrition and fluids and it is not safe for her to eat anything but small amounts of food.  Should she be made to practice eating even when it takes longer than a half hour to enough food to constitute a meal?

A child is in elementary school and has not yet learned to walk.  Should school time be used for him to learn to walk?  How much school time?  How much play time should he have to use to learn to walk?  When is it OK for him to decide that he prefers to use a wheelchair for mobility?

My mother is able to walk but it is very painful for her to walk.  When she uses a scooter she can go out and about in her community.  How much scooter use will lead to even less walking?

I believe that these questions are scattered along a continuum.  They all have to do with deciding if you need to cure yourself.  Do I need to undergo surgery to cure myself of small breasts?  Does a child have to have three to five unpleasant experiences a day in order to be more average.  Does my mother need to be home-bound so that she doesn’t lose (more normal) walking ability?  I suspect you know my answers to those questions but I would love to hear your answers and your thoughts around those answers.

Sheila

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