A lot of ‘disabled’ activists assume all people with impairments are united in their often left wing aims and objectives and have similar experiences of impairmentism, based on their own experiences. They become defensive when you try to explain that due to the broad nature of impairment and the broad range of society it affects, unity is absolutely impossible.
I would like to propose to in the current social and political environment, there are 3 types of people with impairments. These are Acceptables, Defectives and the Workshy. I have deliberately chosen these terms to be provocative and because they accurately describe what I am trying to explain.
Acceptables are people with visible impairments that society are able to cope with and currently enjoy a level of fashionability in the media, especially if they are able to conform to the norms of society. This is the group of people with impairments, especially younger people with impairments, many ‘disability’ charities like Scope use to sell their messages in a clean and sterile manner that makes everyone feel good.
I would never suggest Acceptables do not face problems or discrimination although it is unlikely to be anywhere near what was experienced by the previous generation. They are often unaware of this and as sometimes as from the last generation it can often be frustrating for me to hear about things they take for granted.
Defectives are people with impairments which society generally find uncomfortable as individuals do not know what to do when they encounter them. Defectives may include people with speech impairments, jerky movements and facial disfigurements as some examples. I would consider myself to be a defective.
Defectives are by their nature are likely to experience more difficulties and discrimination than Acceptables. Also, there are likely to be fewer defectives than acceptables due to the severity of their impairments. The means their needs and requirements may not receive the attention deserved, and in the current social and political climate this is likely reducing. which is another story.
And then we have the workshy. These are people with minor impairments and this is something I will not take that away from them as they face a range of health and other difficulties. However, whether they face social difficulties or discrimination that makes them worthy to consider themselves ‘disabled’ is a different matter.
And here we have the current political and social crisis in terms of disability identity as the point where an impairment creates a social barrier and therefore disability, and indeed where when sickness becomes an impairment. This means a lot of people who are sick now consider themselves as disabled and feel they have an experience of discrimination equal to defectives. which is not the case.
The workshy often only see disability in terms of receiving benefits, and they are currently those with the loudest voice in terms of disability because they are most affected by the welfare reforms as in their eyes they see disabled as being automatically unfit for work which the other groups may not.
This article is a simple overview of the impairment and disability landscape on what is, in reality, a very complex issue.
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