Consider the notion that an individual with a disability may feel primarily defined by his or her ability status. Also, consider the historical treatment of people with disabilities and the number of individuals who were euthanized and sterilized in the U.S. and across the globe due to having a disability.
For decades, individuals with disabilities were left in institutions, hidden away from the rest of society. Parents were told if their child was born with a disability, they should have them locked away. Consider in today’s society how people with disabilities are still “hidden.” Think about how many people you see each day that have a visible disability. While there are many hidden disabilities that should not be ignored, it is significant to recognize the limited number of people you see each day with disabilities. Also, consider how others react toward a person with a disability in public. Do they stare? Do they move away? Do they invade the person’s space and ask inappropriate questions? What experiences have you seen in public with a person with a disability? Why do you think society has marginalized this group for so long? Why are those with disabilities limited or eliminated from full participation in society today? Who has the right to decide what makes a “good life” and how is that decision made?
To prepare: Read the case “Working With Individuals With Disabilities: Valerie.”
By Day 3
Post an explanation of why our society has marginalized those with varying abilities historically. Then, explain the role of social workers in supporting clients with varying abilities (not limited to physical and mental) while recognizing and honoring those clients’ other identity characteristics. Use specific examples from the case study in your explanation.
Discussion 2: Ability and Disability in the Parker Case
To prepare: View this week’s media, Parker (Episode 30).
Think of the many names and labels you may have heard to describe persons with disabilities and those that are currently socially acceptable. The changing monikers given to those with disabilities are evidence of the continual negotiation of the society who labels and those who are so labeled to define what disability is and who is disabled. What do these shifting labels suggest about the social construction of disability?
Society is inconsistent in its treatment and protection of the rights of individuals with disabilities, creating a situation that contributes to marginalization that can complicate other forms of marginalization and oppression. Consider that being labeled with a disability can be simultaneously something to be fought against because of the stigma it entails and fought for because of the access that it grants to social services that meet basic medical needs, aid economic survival, and improve access to education that society can otherwise deny.
By Day 5
Post an analysis of the implications of the social construction of disability. Describe how disability can be defined as a social construct. Explain how that relates to the perception of disability. Be specific and draw on examples from the Parker case to illustrate your thoughts. Also, describe the intersection of Stephanie’s mental illness with other characteristics of her identity. Explain how those intersections could serve to further marginalize Stephanie’s place and experiences in society. Finally, explain how such marginalization impacts her ability to make choices, use self-determination, and be an active agent with equitable status in her interactions with other professionals.