Disabled People

"The social model of disability gives us the words to describe our inequality. It separates out (disabling barriers) from impairment (not being able to walk or see or having difficulty learning) ….Because the social model separates out disabling barriers and impairments, it enables us to focus on exactly what it is which denies us our human and civil rights and what action needs to be taken"

Jenny Morris

(In)Justice International envisages disability through the lens of the Social Model of Disability where impairment is the condition and disablement is a social construction of relational and structural impediments: thus, blame is rightfully taken away from the individual and placed squarely upon the shoulders of society. Nevertheless, and contrary to many critiques, the Social Model does not disregard the actual impairment. Rather, the Social Model is a heuristic device that recognises each different impairment to give previously unseen insights that can be incorporated into proposed solutions to the difficulties and obstacles imposed upon individuals disabled by socio-economic practices, institutional behaviour and structural barriers. 

 

Indeed, the Social Model perspective—which was adopted by the first Disabled People’s International Conference 1981—primarily represented a shift from individual medical assumptions about disability to an analysis of how society responds to impaired individuals and disables them from full participation.  This is not a minority issue. Rather, the opposite is true. Most people acquire their impairments (to varying degrees and in different forms) through poverty, pollution, violence, accident, war and ageing. Tragically, the WHO Report on Disability (2011) pointed out that the biggest cause of impairment/disability was poverty. And poverty, when it is analysed in depth, is usually the result of government failure, ineptitude, immorality or criminality (click here for more on poverty).

 

As a starting point, however, it is important to acknowledge that contemporary understandings and attitudes towards disability have been shaped by the onset of capitalism (which is inherently criminogenic) and its associated ideologies of individualism, liberal utilitarianism, industrialisation (specifically waged labour) and the medicalisation of social life. As a result, the injustice of 'disableism' (in all its discriminatory forms) is endemic to most, if not all, ‘developed’ contemporary societies. And to compound issues, disabled people are the excessive victims of immoral crimes and criminality as a direct consequence of this prevailing discrimination.

 

Without a shadow of doubt, the on-going passive or deliberate neglect of governments across the globe to fully address the social determinants and inequities of health and disablement has led to a growth in the number of disabled people in most countries. Moreover, corporate-governmental immorality/criminality is especially evident when governments and self-interested politicians blame disablement, the cost of disability and social support networks for the innumerable economic crises that have ‘dogged’ societies since the mid-nineteenth century. Quite distressingly, all these economic crises have been politically portrayed as the fault of welfare policies for the unemployed, the poor and disabled people who have supposedly imposed unreasonable and unaffordable costs on society, despite not being the only recipients of welfare or even being the biggest ‘drain’ on government finances (click here for more on welfare). 

 

Ultimately, the overarching consequence of this ‘blaming’ has been a consistent failure to enact meaningful policies which produce and maintain a fully accessible infrastructure relating to public buildings, housing and transport systems that will accommodate all sections of society, including people with impairments, those suffering from long-term ill health and, of course, elderly people.  Nor have the debilitating effects of discrimination—despite legislation in the likes of the UK, the US, Australia and Canada to name but a few—been effectively overcome. In sum, these factors have, in combination, generated and perpetuated an overarching culture that views disability, disablement or ‘handicap’ as an individual rather than a societal problem. Hence the predisposition to view disabled people as economically dependent and, in the eyes of the immoral right-wing press, as ‘welfare scroungers’.

  

In due course, this attitude/viewpoint has found expression in more obvious criminal and immoral activities. Such actions comprise of:

  • Infanticide for unborn and new-born infants with impairments; often with non-life-threatening conditions such as Downs syndrome or Cleft palate

  • Involuntary euthanasia for disabled adults in hospitals with DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) notices

  • The leniency meted out to those who illegally kill disabled people under the guise of ‘mercy killing’ and

  • Hate crime against disabled individuals including cognitive, verbal and physical abuse.​

Yet despite the link between criminality, disability and social justice having implications for us all (regardless of Indigenous origin, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability and social class), it rarely receives the discursive, legislative diligence and attention it deserves. This is the very opposite of what is needed if we are to contribute to the construction of a more equitable and just society free of the heinous, immoral actions that persist today. 

 

(In)Justice International is, therefore, intent on bringing these atrocities into public awareness (through dissemination and exposure in our conventions, workshops, blogs, journals and books) and thus take the first step toward a morally justifiable set of socio-economic-political relations and behaviours that benefit everyone and not just the elite few. For related videos click here.