Film and lit crit about disability

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"Inspector Lewis" -- Point of Vanishing (Masterpiece Mystery! -- PBS)
Colors of me, Me
capriuni wrote in crip_crit
Tonight (on most stations -- check local listings, etc.), there's going to be a repeat of "Inspector Lewis," where the plot revolves around a family whose teenage daughter becomes paralyzed in a car crash, and the action is driven by the different family members' reaction to same -- including the daughter's reaction.

The first time it aired, I got to wondering how the way this is dealt with reflects the difference between Britain's predominantly Social Model of Disability, and America's predominantly medical model.

So... you know, if you have 90 minutes or so to spare sometime this week, maybe you could check it out so I have someone to talk to about this?

(cross-posted from my own journal)

Edited to add: Spoilers may appear in comments. Read at your own risk.

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There is, not a lightbulb above my head, but a candle burning a bit brighter right now. Thanks awfully for the clarification. With that explanation, absolutely this episode is an example of the difference in concepts. Were I to pick one to follow as a practitioner of any sort of healing art, I would rather follow the social model.

Not that I have any experience with that, oh, no... /sarcasm

The difference also shows up in the way the two nations have named their Disability Rights Laws. In Britain, it's the "Disability Discrimination Act--" it's framed in term of dealing with discrimination, society-wide. In America, it's the "Americans with Disabilities Act--" it's framed in terms of individuals dealing with this "thing" they "have" that sets them apart.

That's kind of what got me thinking about how that nuance made this a "Britishy" show as much as lines like: "Get yourself a pint." And if a similar storyline and attitude would ever fly, here.

One thing that I liked: That Jessica always insisted on pushing her own chair. And people let her.

One thing that made me squirm: even after all the abuse, the sanctity of the family unit was still bowed to, at the end (Won't say more for spoilers).

You get it in the preferred terms, too. It's not universal, but in Britain, we tend to say "disabled person" rather than "person with disability", because the former makes it clear that the disabling is something that's been done to them, whereas the latter suggests that the disability is something the person brings along with them.

That said, I also understand the rationale behind 'people first' language, and I think there are good arguments for both terms.

To be honest, I think it's just because "person with disability" is more unwieldy. It's also often the preferred term because it presents a person with a disability tacked on, whereas "disabled person" presents a disability with a person tacked on. The latter is still the dominant way of viewing us, I think.

Well, there are different ways of even looking at that.

For example (using the way we describe inanimate objects as an analogy): "Vase with a crack" does make the vase the center of the focus, but "Cracked vase" makes the break the focus.

However -- when you're talking about people, and the facets of their identity (which includes Disability) the "with" can come off as insulting. You wouldn't say, for example: 'A person with Blackness."

Toward the end of "Point of Vanishing" last night, the mother chides the investigating detective when he talked about "___ class for the disabled," and told him: "We don't use that word in this house."

Under the social model of disability, that would be kind of like a white woman being a foster parent to a child of color saying: "We don't use the word 'race' in this house."

Good point about "person with blackness"; maybe that's why the term tends to irritate me? I think it depends on the context, and what other words it's being teamed with. "Person with AIDS" is far preferable to "AIDS victim", for instance.

"The disabled", on the other hand, is definitely undesirable as it elides the person altogether. Similar, RNIB now stands for "Royal National Institute for Blind people" rather than "for the Blind". I can't put my finger on how it works semantically, but putting "the" in front of a disabled group always seems to disempower that group.

I agree that banning the word "disabled" is daft; yes, it's problematic, but it's still one of the best terms around and it remains useful. It's certainly better than smug jokes such as "differently abled", which frankly I just find insulting.

Incidentally, while the social model is undeniably useful, it also causes problems. I am not disabled because people refuse to make accommodations for me, although that makes matters worse; I am disabled because I have a massively debilitating medical condition which affects all aspects of my life. People can make disability accommodations until they are blue in the face and I will still be hugely disabled, unable to do the vast majority of things. This would be the case even if disability accommodations reached standards currently unimaginable.

People can make disability accommodations until they are blue in the face and I will still be hugely disabled, unable to do the vast majority of things.

True. And that's where the distinction between "impairment" and "disability" becomes blurred. "Impairment" being the limits of your abilities in a simple, value-neutral way, and "disability" being how much your impairments impinge on your role in the world at large.

There's a societal attitude out there that says that to be considered an equal citizen in your community, you must be able to do X, Y, and Z. And if you can't, then you'll be kept to the periphery and treated as a charitable afterthought.

My current favorite blog (Since April of this year I think) is Rolling around in my head. Its author has worked as an advocate for folks with cognitive impairments for many years, and four years ago, became physically disabled himself. So he's seen the Disability Rights fight and social implications from both sides. He's also a very good writer.

Actually, I wasn't thinking about my role in the world at large, I was thinking about how my disability affects me personally. If I can't shower when I want to or read a book for pleasure or make myself a meal, that's about me, not how I interact with the world, and that's definitely about disability. Frankly, I find the idea of moving the focus to purely how other people respond to me to be taking it away from me and how I am disabled, and thus disempowering me. My disability is primarily about me, not about other people, and this is not just because I am so ill that I am almost entirely socially isolated. As far as I am aware, this is true of the vast majority of disabilities.

Quote: and this is not just because I am so ill that I am almost entirely socially isolated. Unquote

What if we lived in a world where even seriously ill people were remained integrated into their communities?


That said, the DDA (now replaced by the Equality Act, but the provisions are the same) very much uses a medical model to define disability. It's something like a long-term condition that affects functioning, something along those lines. But then, I guess it would be difficult to have a law that went "has a long-term condition that people react badly to." On the other other hand, it includes stuff like purely cosmetic facial scarring, and so does acknowledge that the problem is often other people's reactions. It's a... transitional... piece of legislation. It means well.

it includes stuff like purely cosmetic for facial scarring, and so does acknowledge that the problem is other people's reactions.

That actually sounds like another example of the medical model to me, actually -- dealing with people's bigotry by "fixing" the person discriminated against, instead of confronting the bigotry directly.

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