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Apologies

I’ve not posted anything on here for a long time, and there isn’t really any excuse other than I simply didn’t know what to post on here. I’m yet to realise what form this blog is going to take over the continuing course of my studies. I may decide to use it to offer opinions and links to current news stories affecting disability, with perhaps an emphasis on my local area. I’m still to finish the letter to my M.P. asking about the provision for Changing Places facilities in the city, but that will be completed over the next week or two and posted here… along with any replies received.

Hopefully there will more updates and posts in the coming days.

Changing Places are campaigning to have accessible toilets fitted in all big public places. These particular toilets are bigger than the more common accessible toilets around at the moment and have more specialised equipment to make it easier for people with profound learning difficulties to use the toilet or be changed by their carers. The toilets are bigger, contain an adjustable changing bench, provide hoists, have a non-slip floor and provide a more suitable bathroom environment than the standard accessible toilets in terms of the health and safety of both the person with the impairment and their carers, and in terms of removing the disability caused when people with the impairment are not able to participate in their local community due to the lack of suitable toilet/changing facilities.

I am currently in the process of writing a letter to my local councillors and my local Liverpool Riverside MP, Louise Ellman, to ask about any plans for the council to install one or more Changing Places bathrooms within Liverpool in time for the 2008 European City of Culture celebrations that will soon be taking place within the city. With the amount of investment being injected into the area, I feel there should be several installed as a matter of course (and am disgusted that there aren’t already), and will be saying this within the letter. I will also be asking Louise Ellman to sign the Changing Places Early Day Motion. I’ll post the letter up on here when it’s written, along with any replies received.

Anyone else from Liverpool or beyond interested in finding out if there is one near you, or in writing to your councillors/MP to lobby for the installation of one then you should check out this link from the Changing Places website.

From a social model point of view “disability ceases to be something that a person has, and becomes instead something that is done to a person.” (Swain, French and Cameron, 2003:23). To be a disabled person means exclusion and “physical, environmental, legal, cultural and additional barriers” limiting their experiences as humans. With the introduction and developmental thinking associated with the social model of disability, the exclusion of disabled people was less tolerated by themselves, being compared to other forms of oppression such as sexism, racism, class and sexuality (Thomas, 2004); the key to the social model way of thinking lying right with the word “oppression.”

To be disabled in the social model context meant to be socially disadvantaged as opposed to physically disadvantaged; and excluded, not because of the individual’s inability to fit in with their surrounding environment, but because of society’s inability to include them. The definition of disability in this way is the key to identifying “social barriers” within the lives of disabled people, and once identified, removing them.

Barnes et al. state that the “social model of disability, transformed disability from medical fact into an outcome of relations of power.” As such, disabled people were now able to identify their own areas of oppression. Agreeing with this, Thomas (2004) states that to disabled people, the social model of disability transformed their lives, allowing a self-vision away from the oppressed ideas, it increased the self-worth of a disabled person, and gave all disabled people a self-identity and shared political fight.

The Disabled Rights Commission was set up in 1997 by Government, and “claims to be guided in everything it does by the social model of disability.” (Oliver, 2004). As argued earlier, the social model of disability is very leaned towards the idea of disabled people as being oppressed, and as disabled thinking from a legal standpoint is now completely influenced by the social model, some critics have come forward against the social model. Tom Shakespeare (2006) identifies UPIAS as being the founders of the modern day rights of disabled people, but also argues that this social model thinking is changing to an extent that it is reversing the good it once did.

He sees the new social model v medical model thinking to be damaging. He argues that the social model does not take into account the people who’s disability leave them completely dependant on care and on medicine. He argues that the social model way of thinking needs to stop recognising the non-disabled as an enemy or immediate oppressor, but rather that as well as only society needing to change to allow inclusion of disabled people, there also needs to be a shift in the recognition of the roles of non-disabled doctors, teachers and supporters in reaching this goal; there needs to be a realisation that not every disabled person wants, or is capable of attending demonstration or disability events; that the social model is just as in danger of promoting exclusion as the medical model.

He believes that the way forward is a combination of both models, drawing on the best points of each, and also creating new ways of thinking to help overcome the barriers that disabled people still face.

References:

  • Barnes, C., Oliver, M. and Barton, L. (2002). Introduction. In: C. Barnes, M. Oliver, and L. Barton, (eds). Disability Studies Today. Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Oliver, M. (2004). If I had a hammer: the social model in action. In: J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes and C. Thomas, (eds). Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments. London: SAGE, pp. 7-12
  • Swain, J., French, S. and Cameron, C. (2003). Controversial Issues in a Disabling Society. Buckingham: OU Press
  • Thomas, C. (2004). Disability and impairment. In: J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes and C. Thomas, (eds). Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments. London: SAGE, pp. 21-27


 

This post concerns a rejection of the Medical Model of Disability, and the subsequent formation of the Social Model of Disability.

Social Model of Disability

“Disabled people want the same chances and opportunities in life as non-disabled people: to gain an education, and employment, to live in affordable accessible housing, to have relationships, to be able to make their own decisions about the issues that affect their lives.” (Swain et al., 2003).

Disabled people and their rejection of the medical model approach to how they were considered and treated led, in 1976, to the production of a document by the Union of Physically Impaired against Segregation (UPIAS) called Fundamental Principles of Disability. They were formed due to the initiative of Paul Hunt who wrote a letter to The Guardian in 1972 calling for a group to be formed who put forward the views of disabled people themselves (Shakespeare, 2006) and this is the main argument for disabled people rejecting medical model thinking.

UPIAS’ way of thinking was that to be able to locate and remove the disabling aspect of society, the link between impairment and disability needed to be broken. They redefined impairment as “lacking all or part of a limb, or having a defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body,” and disability as “the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes no or little account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities.” (UPIAS cited in Swain et al., 2003)

Disabled people stopped viewing their disability as the caused of problems faced by them, but rather the way “society responded to us as an oppressed minority,” (Oliver, 2004) which became known as the social model way of thinking. UPIAS argued that although having a disability was a personal tragedy it was society, and in particular society that had fully embraced the medical model way of thinking about disability that actually prevented a person with a disability from functioning fully (Finkelsein, 2004)

The breaking of the link between impairment and disability now meant moving away from handing disabled people’s lives over to professionals to decide where they were allowed to go to school, what support they got, where they lived and whether they were allowed to work; and changing social barriers to allow disabled people the same rights as non-disabled people in accessing schools and colleges, going out to work and being allowed to work in a suitable working environment, to access leisure and entertainment facilities, use all forms of transport, and control their own personal, family and social lives.

References:

  • Finkelstein, V. (2004). Representing disability. In: J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes and C. Thomas, (eds). Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments. London: SAGE, pp. 13-20
  • Oliver, M. (2004). If I had a hammer: the social model in action. In: J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes and C. Thomas, (eds). Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments. London: SAGE, pp. 7-12
  • Swain, J., French, S. and Cameron, C. (2003). Controversial Issues in a Disabling Society. Buckingham: OU Press

Although I would ultimately like this blog to become a place where my own views and thoughts of what i’m studying is what is being written here, the first few things i’m going to post will be a little more academic. I will need to offer some terms and definitions and theories to people who may be reading this with no background knowledge to disability studies, and people who may read what what i’m writing about later on as the blog progresses. Hopefully later on, the posts will be a lot easier to read and will resembe opinions rather than essays to allow anyone who reads to comment without having to read further into the subject if they don’t want to.

Medical Model of Disability

The medical model of disability is one that is primarily concerned with the justification of disability. It sees disability purely as a problem of the individual, without any discrimination between the impairment faced and the disability itself. “Any economic or social deprivation encountered by disabled people was located within the individual and their impairment.” (Swain et al., 2003)

To put it simply, a disabled person is seen as faulty and in need of fixing or curing. Disabled people are by definition then dependent on others to help them and decide on care/treatment for their disability. Disability is a tragedy, and focusses on what a person cannot do. This results in segregation of disability, giving anyone perceived as different a label due to the fixation of “normality” by society (referring to people by their disability… “he’s a Down’s baby,” “she’s the dwarf”), lack of individual respect and the ignorance of cultural, social and institutional barriers that disabled people face in trying to lead their own independent lives.

Paul Hunt wrote an essay in 1966 arguing that due to society’s treatment of disabled people in the past and society’s high regard for the “normal,” disabled people have felt themselves to be “unfortunate, useless, different, oppressed and sick,” and although this may not be how disabled people actually see themselves, due to the constraints placed upon them, this is how they have been forced to view themselves.

“Unfortunate” because they haven’t had the opportunity to marry, have children and contribute to earning their own money and independence; “Useless” due to their inability to contribute to the economic wealth of society, relying instead on charity and feeling of less worth than the “breadwinner;” Feeling part of a minority and singled out as “different” due to their physical disability against the “stares of the curious;” An overwhelming feeling of “oppression” due to society not allowing the disabled person to challenge its view of them, either through lack of education or through lack of independence; “Sick” compared to people who are relatively healthy, and who’s mortality is challenged by the disabled.

In 1976 The Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) produced a document due to the Guardian’s printing of a letter by Paul Hunt in 1972 calling for the formation of a group that would allow the views of disabled people themselves to be heard. This led to the creation of the Social Model Of Disability. (Shakespeare, 2006)

References:

  • Swain, J., French, S. and Cameron, C. (2003). Controversial Issues in a Disabling Society. Buckingham: OU Press

Introduction

I have created a page with all this information on that can be permanently accessed from the main page of this blog, but feel I should put it here just to introduce myself and to explain why I have created this blog to anyone who stumbles across it in the course of me setting it up.

My name is Andrew Fallon and I am currently a student at Liverpool Hope University studying for a BAC Childhood and Youth Studies with Special Needs degree.

I originally started out doing a BSc Biomedical Sciences degree several years ago, before leaving the course prematurely to pursue a path in Social Work instead. This came about due to my parents deciding to become foster carers, and due to my complete loss of passion towards Biology. Having been offered a place on the BA Childhood and Youth Studies with Early Needs course, I decided to accept the place, and was persuaded by my personal tutor to combine the course with Special Needs for which I am eternally grateful as I adore the course and wish to pursue disability studies further in the future.

I have set up this blog as a way of keeping together links that interest me and to provide a way of airing my views in a public way to allow potential discussion of disability matters, and to also chart the progress of how my views have been challenged by things I have read and would not have read had I not taken up this course. I also hope that people reading this blog will be directed to and want to read more about issues surrounding disability that (like myself) they may never have been aware of.

I have no political agenda, no wish to impose my views on anyone, no wish to offend anyone, and no wish to come across as particularly right-on or charitable, but would hope that this could be a way I can engage in debate with both disabled and non-disabled people about the subject as a whole.

I feel I should make people aware that I am, myself, non-disabled, and am interested in opinions from both non-disabled and disabled people as to the creation of Disability Studies as a subject to be studied at Universities, and their viewpoints on non-disabled people actually studying it.