Thursday, April 28, 2016
A Different Way To Think About Disability Accommodation
What blew me away when thinking of the social model of disability was to realize that everything is an accommodation. Everything. Your computer at work. Your chair. Your lunch hour and sick days. Work policies and union negotiations. Traffic lights, parking lots. Door height, step height, volume buttons, etc. The print in Newspapers, street signs, all of it--everything people create and design. Because my accommodations may look different than yours does not make mine special, lesser, unequal or taking it the other way, give me an advantage or special treatment. Disability is a natural part of the human condition, not a deficit. Societal attitudes about disability (or even its definition) are not even about medical conditions and impairments, they are simply about how wide a berth on any given bell curve of human characteristics we are willing to go to accommodate. Disability activists have shown time and again that the wider you go to be inclusive, the more benefits are enjoyed by all, no matter where they live on the curve.
The bell curve idea (which is not new, of course) came to me a long time ago when I heard about the reclassification of the term “mental retardation” as it was called back then. The criteria was changed by actually MOVING the line on the bell curve of a Stanford Binet IQ test. Instead of 85 (one standard deviation below the norm), it became 70 (two standard deviations). Or something like that. So, a bunch of people that previously met the criteria for services now did not and no longer received services. It also occurred to me that people hovering around there (what Special Ed people used to rudely call a “dull normal”), could probably use some level of support but got none, and probably got treated pretty badly.
Another example is Personal Care Attendant (PCA) services. in Oregon (and probably other states) people who need PCA services get a number that indicates how dependent on this type of care they are. The lower the number, the more care needed. At one point in Oregon, people could get PCA care if their number was up to 14. Slowly it has been lowered and now that number is 8. So, if you are an 8, you may actually be less “disabled” than a person who is a 9, because you are getting supports and they are not. Its interesting to see how disability is so dependent on socially constructed definitions and policies.
- Lisa Ferris, 2016