There’s a prevaricating article in this morning’s New York Times about Victoria Arlen a Paralympic swimmer who has been ruled ineligible for competition because its possible her disability may improve. What’s missing from the piece and the concurrent debate with officialdom is that disability is not a medical condition (though diagnoses play a role) but rather a series of constructed obstacles. I am blind but with the proper accommodations I’m capable of achieving many goals. Ms. Arlen is currently severely impaired and capable of swimming in the Paralympic competitions, save for the odd shilly-shallying from medical experts who say she might conceivably improve–that her disability is therefore not permanent. Well forgive me for barking! Life isn’t permanent. Able-bodied-ness isn’t permanent. My blindness may not be permanent. What with the remarkable research with stem cells my friend L may discover her multiple sclerosis isn’t permanent.
Using the logic of the Paralympics, able bodied people shouldn’t be allowed to compete in able-bodied sporting contests because their physical conditions are not guaranteed.
Maybe in five years Victoria will be running across Nebraska without a disability. But she’s got a disability today. She will have it tomorrow. Shame on the Paralympics for relying on 19th century ideas both about medicine and disability.