International Women’s Day 2012

8 03 2012

This post is dedicated to the International Women’s Day, which is held today, worldwide. While the aim of this global day is to celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future, I wish to focus (how surprising…) on the  women with disability.

Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) is known throughout the world for her unusual and colorful paintings and for her activities in Mexican political causes which led to her joining the Communist Party. Ms. Kahlo is remembered because of her courageous, ambitious and colorful personality. The fact that she had a disability (a disability that stemmed from childhood polio and a bus accident when she was eighteen) is mainly refered when people discuss her art which sometimes reflected the physical pain she suffered through most of her life.

Unlike Ms. Kahlo, many women (with or without a disability) can not actual their potential and to achieve their life goals due to exclusion, discrimination, prejudice etc, let alone women with disabilities that double stigma/exclusion/discrimination significantly reduce their life opportunities and their chances to actual their potential. That is to say, not only that women with disabilities have to cope with the objective difficulties of the disability, they have to deal with disability-related stigma and gender-related stigma.

This is the problem. The possible solutions would be presented in the next post. In the meantime you are more than welcome to suggest ways to improve the situation.

Happy International Women’s Day and Happy Purim!





Social inclusion from the perspective of persons with disability

5 03 2012

The professional literature indicates that social inclusion means full and fair access to community-based resources and activities, having relationships with family, friends and acquaintances, and having a sense of belonging to a group. Furthermore, this approach claims that it is not enough that people with disabilities would be in the community, they should be part of the community. That is to say, social inclusion represents more than the mere physical presence, but the participation and engagement in the mainstream society.

While the literature on social inclusion is vast, there is no one consensual definition of social inclusion. Furthermore, we still don’t really understand what social inclusion means and there is still no real way to determine and measure whether service providers are successful in facilitating or achieving social inclusion for the persons they support.

Given the fact that in the disability field we can not fully understand social inclusion or any other topic without asking the notion of people with disabilities, it is encouraging to see studies that examined the perspective of people with disability on social inclusion. For example,  in her meta-analysis, Hall* describes the elements and experiences of social inclusion for people with disabilities. Furthermore, she identified six dimensions of social inclusion:

  • being accepted and recognized as an individual beyond the disability
  • having personal relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances
  • being involved in recreation, leisure and other social activities
  • having appropriate living accommodations
  • having employment
  • having appropriate formal (service system) and informal (family and caregiver) supports.

What can be learn about these dimensions and how you think that they could help us promote social inclusion of people with disability?

* Hall SA. The social inclusion of people with disabilities: a qualitative meta-analysis.

J Ethnogr Qual Res 2009; 3:162–173.

Disability Studies

19 02 2012

Following my previous post I wish to present a more detailed definition of disability studies and to share some links of basic papers in this topic.  I would like to thank Dr. Sagit Mor that send me some of these materials.

First, here is the way the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University, NY, define disability studies. This center is one of the only Academic institutes that have a specific program in Disability studies.

“Disability Studies refers generally to the examination of disability as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon. In contrast to clinical, medical, or therapeutic perspectives on disability, Disability Studies focuses on how disability is defined and represented in society. It rejects the perception of disability as a functional impairment that limits a person’s activities. From this perspective, disability is not a characteristic that exists in the person or a problem of the person that must be “fixed” or “cured.” Instead, disability is a construct that finds its meaning within a social and cultural context.
Disability Studies is a vibrant and diverse area of academic inquiry. First, It is interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary. No single academic discipline can place a claim on Disability Studies. Rather, the field is informed by scholarship from such different disciplines as history, sociology, literature, political science, law, policy studies, economics, cultural studies, anthropology, geography, philosophy, theology, gender studies, communications and media studies, architecture, and the arts.
Second, Disability Studies includes a diverse group of people. People who are blind or deaf, or who use wheelchairs, have chronic pain, or learn at a slower pace than other people, and so on have vastly different experiences and perspectives. Yet they share in common society’s definition of them as disabled, with consequences for how they are viewed and treated by the majority which is presumed to be nondisabled.
Finally, defining what Disability Studies is may also be informed by what it is not. It is not medicine, rehabilitation, special education, physical or occupational therapy, and professions oriented toward the cure, prevention, or treatment of disabilities. Although Disability Studies scholars generally subscribe to the minority group model of disability — the view that the status of people as a minority shapes their experiences in society — they agree on little else. For example, some Disability Studies scholars view disability in terms of culture and identity, while others see disability as a label and a social construct. Some Disability Studies Scholars use different language to refer to the people at the center of inquiry in Disability Studies. Disabled person is used to draw attention to the centrality of disability in individual identity; person with a disability or “people first language” conveys the idea that having a disability is secondary to a person’s identity as a human being; person labeled as disabled (mentally retarded, mentally ill, and so on) focuses on how disability is a socially constructed definition imposed on people who may or may not agree to this characterization. A deaf person and Deaf person mean very different things, with the latter emphasizing membership in a culture defined linguistically”.

For more information, check out these great papers:

What is Disability studies? By Simi Linton

The social model of disability: An outdated ideology? by Torn Shakespeare and Nicholas Watson 

Employment of people with disability in light of the disability studies approach by Sagit Mor (In Hebrew)

If you do not have a disability you do not exist…

17 02 2012

“…Do you have a person with disability in your family? Do you have a friend with a disability? Do you experience some kind of a disability?”

These are some of the questions that people ask me when I mention that I work in the disability field. Well, the answers to these questions are yes and no. Yes, because I belive that all human beings are disabled in some ways, and thus “if you do not have a disability you do not exist”. No, because neither me nor my close family members or friends, are labeled as people with disability. What is the difference though? disability is a disability, right? well my friends, this is not the case. Labelling and the stigma and discrimination that may be attached to it, have more negative consequences as the disability itself. That is to say, like many other things in life, it does not matter what you have or do not have, it matters if people know about it….  What do you think?

In my next post I will ask what is Disability and how the definition of disability is strongly impacted by culture, professional, society, religion etc.

Have a great weekend!