What is a disability?


That obviously begs the question of whether or not there is real impetus for change. I would submit not, at least not in any near time. Look at the two of us. Each of us has his or her own biases. You say that mobility among the SES is a myth, and I say that’s a steaming pile of it! 🙂 You are not unique, my love. Unusual, maybe, but there are people like you in every community on the friggin’ planet! Is it hard to get above the poverty line? You freakin’ betcha! But isn’t that what the society needs, to make it hard enough so that only the very, very best excel? That is unfair on a personal level, certainly. However, we are talking about the communal level. You speak of luck. Well, some say we make our own luck, partly through who we know. (Yes, you hit a nerve. :))

Now, let’s turn that around a bit and ask you this question: Can you name one quadriplegic (besides me) who has been even moderately successful? Reeves and Hawkins do not count, as they were established before becoming disabled. Go ahead and name someone. I actually hope you can because I can’t name anyone.

It no doubt interests you that I specified a subset of the overall disabled population, and I did so to bring up another point. What do we mean by the term "disabled?" The deaf and blind definitely are disabled. Yet, they are nominally able to learn to live relatively independent and rewarding lives. In my experience, they have the fewest number of problems in society, and gain the most acceptance. Naming successful examples is pretty easy. Depending on where the injury is specifically, I noticed in college that paraplegic spinal injury victims usually enjoyed much the same cache. (Indeed, their bulging arm muscles had a way of getting the coeds wet.) They drove their own fast cars, and had no need for caregivers. Quads, on the other hand, do need care, marking the dividing line for whether or not you are likely to find a job and acceptance. In other words, I’m telling you that disability is not a homogeneous population by any standard. There are no solid statistics–that I can find–on the demographic breakdown of the disability factors. That’s why I can’t get any venture capital. The first question VCs ask is, "how large is the market?" They don’t want approximations either!

Yes, my remark about making your own luck would seem to say I haven’t done something I should’ve since Shell laid me off five years ago. I’m sure that’s true, although I’ll be damned if I know what it is! I’m trying my hardest, but I get closer to the ragged edge each day.

—–Original Message—–

From: Alecea Standlee [mailto:stan0504@yahoo.com]

Sent: Friday, March 23, 2007 11:42 AM

To: Scott Royall

Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it


Good point. And while poverty and SES can be intergenerational but its a mistake to assume that individuals have alot of control over it. Sure, I am an example of one of the rare people who have ‘pulled themselves up by the bootstraps’ but first of all my sucess is in part due to luck, right place/right time…and secondly for every person who is able to change their SES in a positve way are thousands who can’t. Not because of some failure on their part but because they exist within a social system that limits them. Thats because society, as it currently exists, needs the poor. They function as a potential source of cheap low wage labor thats necessary for the functioning of of cultural and economic systems.

janitors, mcdonalds employee’s ect. Even criminals are necessary to help us draw the lines between the good guys (us) and the bad guys (them). If the poor are necessary in our economic system, what possible advantage would their be to make sucess possible? Once in a while, you have to let someone in, otherwise we can’t perpertuate the myth that sucess is possible for anyone who works hard enough. IT keeps the poor and working class in line. You have a good point about disability being something you are stuck with. But its a mistake to assume that poverty is a choice or a result of failure to work hard enough…

I sometimes think that the whole notion of language, ‘political correctness’ if you will is more a way to distract people from real problems. It’s like if we all say "african-american" or "differently abled" its means we are not bigots anymore even if we still treat people differntly, refuse to live by or hire someone…Sure, language has power but its not a matter of fixing the world by just changing the way we speak. We have to change the way we think and act first!


— Scott Royall <royall@conchbbs.com> wrote:

> You should bear in mind that disability is generally not

> intergenerational.

> Certain disabilities can be inherited, but they are the exception.

> Additionally, would-be carriers of those exceptions usually choose not

> to pass them along. As for SES, yes, that is normally

> intergenerational in the sense that you usually get to start off with

> the SES cultural context of your parents. Yet, SES is also something

> that the individual can unilaterally exert some control over.

> Disability, on the other hand, is something you are pretty much stuck

> with. You can sometimes do things to moderate it somewhat, but the

> basic disability remains.


> The whole concept of "reclaiming" language seems to me to be a case of

> "perception is reality." Are people really that naïve? Your perception

> is only reality if everyone else agrees with you. Guess what. They

> usually don’t. Trying to redefine reality seems very dangerous to me,

> because it is the same sort of self-referential crap I spoke of

> earlier. The real problem is, you are eventually going to smack into

> other perceptions, and those are the ones you must deal with. No doubt

> the mother I spoke of is, in part, trying to protect her son’s

> self-esteem. But what happens when he has to deal with the outside

> world? I honestly don’t know.

> The mother is a bit of a

> Democratic activist so she may actually be able to find him a shielded

> niche somewhere in the future. Who knows, I sure don’t.


> —–Original Message—–

> From: Alecea Standlee [mailto:stan0504@yahoo.com]

> Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 2:35 PM

> To: Scott Royall

> Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it


> Scott,

> Thats a good point. I still think have something interesting here. I

> might play with it a bit more. I do need to address the transitory

> nation of SES, and discuss how it might be fundimentally different

> than disability. Another problem I see with my theory is that the

> conceptualization of culture may be more intergrated in both SES and

> disability than I give it credit for. At least in some cases, there

> are arguments that say that intergeneration poverty is a transmission

> of SES culture.

> Additionally, as one of my collegues pointed out to me adeveloped Deaf

> culture also exists. Thanks for the feedback!


> On the topic of your person who uses "differently abled" it makes me

> think about the whole subject of political correctness and reclaimed

> language. I recently read a paper on the differing use of the terms

> African-american vs Black in different cultures along class and

> education lines. Similar are groups who claim that they can "reclaim"

> language by making previously derogatory terms part of their own

> culture and change the meanings. I am not sure how much I buy that. I

> agree that language is powerful. Naming something gives it a certain

> power by acknowledging its existence. But there is a line between

> reclaiming language and interernalizing prejudice. And the issue of

> renaming things…Black to African-American, disabled to differently

> abled I wonder how much power that actually has. Perhaps its more a

> reflection of changing attitudes than a driving force behind the

> changes?


> alecea

> — Scott Royall <royall@conchbbs.com> wrote:


> > You put forth an interesting thought, but I think

> I

> > see a large hole in it.

> > What you politely call "social class" is really someone’s

> > socio-economic status, and you know first-hand how transitory

> that

> > is. The minorities you

> > are used to have elements of identity involved.

> > Social class and disability

> > do not. The former is also different from the

> latter

> > because it is not

> > necessarily long term. While you might believe

> that

> > your past defines your

> > behavior, and it certainly contributes, you’ve

> also

> > stated that our behavior

> > is a matter of rational choice. I think you can

> see

> > a disconnection there

> > vis-à-vis any sort of identity-building.

> >

> > Disability has the additional reality that it doesn’t have a single

> > unified meaning. Even within a single diagnosis, there are so many

> > different ways disability can manifest itself that it’s hard to feel

> > any sense of commonality. And, that’s not to mention any denial

> > there might be.

> >

> > One of the moms who have contacted me about Xpress-It consistently

> > uses the phrase "differently abled" to describe her son.

> > That’s her choice, and I

> > know she means well. Yet, I keep having to resist the urge to ask

> > her if her child is a X-man or something. That might be a

> > cold-hearted response, but that phrase would literally mean we must

> > have abilities others don’t. That’s simply untrue in the physical

> > sense anyway.

> > Unfortunately, disability is

> > something you do have to come to terms with, and calling it

> > something else won’t help. This woman’s son will be entering high

> > school soon, and that’s definitely not a kind and gentle

> > environment. If

> he

> > isn’t already

> > comfortable with his physical limitations, they

> will

> > each be pointed out to

> > him in unflinching detail. Sadly, the only way to deal with

> > something like disability is with eyes wide open.

> >

> > —–Original Message—–

> > From: Alecea Standlee [mailto:stan0504@yahoo.com]

> > Sent: Monday, March 19, 2007 8:58 PM

> > To: Scott Royall

> > Subject: RE: FW: Xpress-it

> >

> > Scott,

> > I figured you would get a twist off the Marx reference. While Marx’s

> > political theory is a bit idealistic (we will all just…share.

> > Riiight)

> alot

> > of

> > his social theory work is behind some of the originators of conflict

> > theory. Not that they admitted it in the 50’s though. I wondered if

> > you would

> catch

> > it.

> > Something you said just got me thinking. You noted that working

> > together is often difficult in the disability rights area. I think

> > it it the same in social class struggles. I wonder if there is some

> > conceptual link between the two. Bear with me

> here.

> > I

> > am thinking through this. One thing that has

> always

> > seperated social class from other marginalized groups, like

> > African-Americans, women, gays and other minorities is this sense of

> > a shared culture. We have momvements where people can be "proud to

> > be…whatever." Remember the whole 70’s "sisterhood"

> > thing, or the Black power movement. (okay I was

> born

> > ’79 so remember isn’t exactly right :). Even in modern

> > manifestations you have gay pride or Latin culture


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