Lens of Disability

Second Wednesday of the month means something humorous. Aside from being blessed by a total stranger who repeated himself because I was ignoring him, nobody has done anything worthy of my ridicule. So, something short, sweet, and light. A great dessert after all the heaviness.

Sometimes I feel as though this disability thing has gone beyond an avocation and reached the level of obsession. Often I bite my tongue so as to not yet again say, “AS a disabled person…” I am quite possibly “Jen The Broken Record.” Shockingly, nobody has attempted to muzzle me. Yet.

Recently, I had a revelation: Anything can be looked at from a disability perspective. Absolutely anything. What lotion will I put on after my shower? Well, if I am going out in public, the scent might negatively impact somebody with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity forcing them to avoid me or possibly leave the room. So, I reach for unscented lotion. How should I emphasize a phrase on a poster? If I simply use color, anybody who is color blind will miss the point, so I should probably use a change of font as well.

If disability creeps into such mundane considerations, no wonder it is possible to see more significant issues through that lens. Obama’s stimulus package? Oh, let me count the ways. Disabled people are often at the bottom of the economic ladder, so mortgage assistance is often not relevant to our lives. We cannot afford to buy homes. Instead of helping people get out of trouble they often got into eyes wide open, some of those funds could be better spent on accessible transportation or a food stamp policy that allows for increased amounts for those with food allergies or sensitivities resulting in higher food costs. San Diego is considering water rationing. Has anybody thought about people with mobility impairments who take longer to wash themselves or dishes? Public health concern anybody.

I still wonder if my life’s work has morphed into an obsession. So, I dare each of you to come up with a social, political, or economic issue that you think cannot be examined from a disability perspective. I’m not sure if this will prove or disprove I’m obsessed, but it should be interesting.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

6 thoughts on “Lens of Disability

  1. I’ll give this one a go. I submit: “The deforestation of the Amazon.” I’ll also submit, if I may, “The arms deals that North Korea has apparently brokered with Pakistan wherein a plane laden with Korean weapons was seized in Thailand a week or two ago.” (That could be generalized to “Arms trading between any two countries”) Those issues both have political and economic components.

  2. The second might take more than sixty seconds of thought, but the first is very easy. As they kill off the vegetation by cutting down the trees, unique plants are perishing. These plans have medicinal properties that are being lost before science can discover them. Drugs help manage all sorts of disabilities and the loss of such knowledge could directly impact quality of life.

    I think the second can be seen as a disability issue at the very least because it has an impact on our military and war causes disability. Every time our president sends off more troops I think about how many Americans will come home with injuries that make them more like me than you.

    Have I convinced you or am I grasping at straws?

  3. I came to the same conclusion regarding the second one when continuing to think about it this morning.

    The first one though, I would argue that the loss of diverse plant life affects the treatment of general ailments as well as the treatment of disabilities and as well as the treatment of universal ailment of simple aging in which we’re all equal.

    It can be seen from a disability perspective, but is that perspective fundamentally different from the perspective of: “I, a TAB, _might_ be missing out on a treatment that will restore my hearing range to what it was at age five, and will lubricate all my arteries such that no blockages will ever form.”?

  4. And why would you take the drugs in question? To prevent disabling or deadly conditions. For better or worse, disability is tied up with medicine which attempts to prevent people from becoming disabled.

    There are disability issues that are not universally about disabled people, like curb cuts and ramps. People with strollers, bikes, or skate boards appreciate them as well.

    Give me another issue. This is fun. 🙂

  5. OK. I thought of another issue. “The Swiss recently banning the construction of new minarets within the borders of their country.” There are definitely social and political elements to that. Again this could be generalized to “any country banning a particular religious item” The whole fracas about whether or not to allow depictions of the Ten Commandments in federal courthouses, or locally the issue of the Mt. Soledad cross falls in the same bucket.

    Back to the issue of drugs in/from the Amazon, what if there were a plant found there that would triple the muscle mass of anyone who took it with no adverse side effects. Barring how that could ever possibly work biochemically, how does something that enhances a person beyond the average fit in to the discussion? It could allow some paraplegics to walk again, but if everyone used that, then said people would still be one third as strong as the new “average”. I personally don’t take steroids because I do enjoy not having the side effects that come with them, but if “biological upgrade technology” were available with side effects no worse than the troubles of usual daily life, I would indeed take them.

  6. Steve,

    Sorry for the delay but my life has been utterly insane.

    Banning new buildings? Okay, so, that means no new buildings that might be more accessible than the old ones. There’s the disability take on that part of it. I can’t come up with something right now for simple banning or retaining religious icons, but give me a few days.

    I have strong feelings about bio upgrades on a personal level, especially since plastic and reconstructive surgery could be considered part of that general category. I definitely don’t believe in going to extreme lengths to retain physical abilities or appearance. If those “upgrades” had no downsides whatsoever, I am very torn because I see the potential downsides on a social level. For example, will those who choose to stay wheelchair users when they could walk suddenly be condemned by society? Would they lose the essential supports they need for survival like personal attendants?

    If you don’t consider disability to be a negative state, it boils down to a question of change: do you want your life to drastically change when you are alright with how it is now? Humans don’t deal well with change, so many avoid it like the plague.

    The functional limitations of disability can be mitigated in two ways: change the body to eliminate the physical condition or change the world so the condition isn’t limiting. I vote for the second for a few reasons: 1. I believe in retaining diversity and “cures” would make us a more homogenous people. 2. I don’t think disability will ever completely be eradicated so changing the world will benefit somebody while reducing the stigma of disability. 3. There are things disabled people need to function that could benefit other people if they could see past the stigmatizing nature of accommodations. For example, Braille is useful because you can read in bed while not keeping your partner awake with the light. Sign language is incredibly useful in more ways than two Deaf people communicating.

    I’m rambling. Guess I woke up the writing part of my brain so now I’m going to use it for this week’s entry. One of these days we should actually discuss this stuff in person.

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