This post is in response to several other posts by other bloggers on the net discussing the concept of what it means to be disabled.
I think that Joel at NTs are Weird started it with his post about how many people in the autistic community don’t identify themselves as being disabled, as a result of seeing it as a negative thing, and how this is ultimately hindering the autistic acceptance movement. His post was called “Welcome to the Disability Community.”
From there, Ballastexistenz responded with a post called “This post is mainly for three sorts of people, who are in some ways really one sort after all.”
And those two posts resulted in a few other responses, like disagreement from the Autistic Bitch From Hell (ABFH) in a post called “Not Just About Barriers”. Also, Shiva from Biodiverse Resistance posted a response (not in disagreement though) called “Really Good Discussion on Autism and Disability as Identity”. So finally, here’s my two bits.
Thesis: Having a disability to me means . . .
Well, you have to define what it is to be human first.
If you’re alive, then you have these things in common: Breathing, sensing, cognating (at some level), dreaming, moving (in some form), ingesting, processing, and sometimes reproducing.
But animals are alive, so what makes us different from animals? In addition to the previous list, I should also add in creating/creative thinking/problem solving (some animals do this too, but not all), having an opinion, wanting–as opposed to just needing, reacting (in some way) to stimuli . . . I choose also to include these definitions from dictionary.com:
- Having or showing those positive aspects of nature and character regarded as distinguishing humans from other animals: an act of human kindness.
- Subject to or indicative of the weaknesses, imperfections, and fragility associated with humans: a mistake that shows he’s only human; human frailty.
Now it seems to me that in the very definition of being human, having weaknesses, imperfections, and fragility is simply a given fact in the state of the human being. Therefore, saying that a person is disabled, saying perhaps that they are a “disabled human,” you’re merely being redundant. A human being is imperfect; a human being is frail; and compared to most other large mammals on Earth, humans are very weak indeed. Humans are mortal; destined to die at some point.
Should a person deny their own mortality, their own weaknesses, then they are denying the common thread that we all share, and thus are denying their own state of being. If a person denies their own weakness, or perhaps worse yet, criticizes or laughs at those who are also imperfect (whatever the level), then that person is the one who is lacking in their ability to be human.
Thus, if a person actively rejects those qualities that make us all human, either through criticism, bigotry, personal denial, pride or (in the words of Father Mulcahy) “jocularity,” then they are the one who is in fact disabled, or lacking in ability to be part of that which makes us all human. Perhaps I can coin a new term for these people who are lacking, and call them “dishumans, ” or “dishumanized” or even having “dishumanability.”
A baby is weak; so does that make the baby disabled or lacking?
By my definition then, the answer would be no. Babies are capable of treating people equally with the true innocence and purity that only babies have.
Babies and other people in infantile states are perhaps the least disabled of us all, because they make no self-righteous distinctions between them and those around them. They are the most human and thus the most abled.
Therefore, we are all disabled, but only some people have dishumanability. Strange that the most disabled of us are the ones who assume themselves to be the most abled.