“Who’s Who”?

The next Disability Blog Carnival is scheduled for January 24th at Ryn Tale’s Book of Days.  There, Kathryn has indicated her theme will be "what professionals should know about disability".  Below is Steve’s response to that thought.

Who decides that one group is “professional” while another is “disabled”? The very question: “What professionals should know about disability” is discouraging since it replicates the cultural dissociation between the working class and the physically modified class. This disparity began with the first wave of the Industrial Revolution when factory work demanded a singular kind of human body and it’s of some interest that the term “disability” enters common English usage at that same time period. The economist Karl Marx used the word disability to denote people who were rendered unemployable by means of industrial accidents.

What’s in a word? Plenty. The term “disability” carries the early 19th century notion that a physically challenged person has no utility or worth. That the idea continues to linger well into the information age is of considerable interest.

Disability is a cultural construction. If architecture or technology is built for everyone to use “disability” disappears. IN this way disability differs from other historically marginalized social conditions.You will always be a Finn or an Apache, but you need not be disabled if you have the proper tools to get around with.
People who employ other people should be aware that there’s no such thing as disability. They should be aware that accommodations to make the work place accessible are inexpensive.

Employers who have figured this out have reliable and enthusiastic employees.

In any case, people who have disabilities are already “the professional class” and in my view the only “unprofessional” class would be any potential employer who would bar the door to a person with a physical or learning difference.


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

0 thoughts on ““Who’s Who”?”

  1. I agree. I have a friend who has CP. At her house she can cook, clean, use the computer and the facilities–at my house she needs help for most of those things. She does not become more disabled in transit to my house, the problem was never with her. The problem is with environments that do not meet her needs.


  2. I’ll take responsibility for the word “professionals” in the theme this time round. Ryn was originally discussing it in terms of “what doctors need to know,” and we changed it to “professionals” to broaden the range a bit. But there’s no class or ability line intended here: “professionals” in the sense we mean includes hairdressers and driving instructors, firefighters, park rangers *and* college deans; and it definitely includes people with disabilities, too.


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