digital-disability

The Politics of Disability

Outside Centre: Disability Perspectives
"Disability everywhere in everything at all times"

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Nick Danzinger
Nick Danzinger
Photographer and Filmmaker
My favourite disability film is Reach for the Sky because Douglas Bader's extraordinary courage is inspirational.

The Politics Of Disability

Disability has nothing to do with the bodies of individuals. 'Disability' is a product of those processes of society that identify and subsequently marginalise certain groups of people. In the case of disability, the group is those who are physically or intellectually different.

 

The 'social model of disability', the term now used by disabled people themselves, defines such a process, whether it stems from an attitude, an institution or an environment . The 'bodily' component, one's own impairment, is not the cause of disability. Society creates disability as it does racism, sexism and homophobia - it is not caused by the biology of the group. As such, there is no such thing as 'people with disabilities' but there are disabled people. Disability is not a personal tragedy but is instead the result of identifiable and rectifiable social processes. This does not deny that some people cannot walk, hear or see, or are not as intellectually capable as others. Such factors are people's impairments. What disabled people share is a collective identification as something 'other', something that is not 'normal'; they share an objectification which society has created.

 

What is interesting about film culture is its role in such processes, whether it is challenging those processes or perpetuating them. The one thing that needs to be clear is that normality does not exist. As the disability protest badge says: The problem with normal people is that they don't exist. The view that impairment constitutes a disability defines the 'medical model of disability', a model rejected by disabled people and their groups. The medical model's problem - and the reason it has been replaced by the social model - is that it has a lack of clarity. It is essential to be clear about what one is discussing in relation to disability:  is one talking about the body  (the impairment)  or the social barriers the impaired body faces (the disability)? The social model of disability allows for a more precise use of language  that is  thereby  more accurate. Although most film representations of disability are conceived within the mode of the medical model, they are nonetheless interesting  because of what they reveal about society and its view of disabled people.