Medical Model, Social Model and betwixt and between

March 3, 2007 at 10:26 AM (Uncategorized) (, )

I apologize in advance to those that read this space who are firmly and completely in the “Social Model of Disability” camp.

I just can’t wrestle this all the way to the ground and feel comfortable with it…

First, the good side:

I believe society and attitudes should *not* constitute a level of isolation and barrier so great that it is greater than the impairment itself.

I do.

I also believe there are many many people who, in order to force society to treat them as people first, with the respect and dignity everyone, able or not deserves, say “My impairment is an integral part of me, and I would not be “me” without it, so I and my impairment are fine just the way we are…”and that is truly the case for them…

But, I’m sorry. This is where in my real day to day existence, the wheels fall off that wagon for me. Much of the time, this sounds like my therapist talking to me back in the late eighties, when I came to realize, that conventional therapy tries for a positive outcome by changing the client’s “perception” of the physical/emotional difficulties I was going through…

“Things are never universally ‘bad’ or ‘good’ it’s all in the way you percieve them.”

I’m sorry.

BULLSHIT!

And, in the haste to avoid the ‘victim’ label, or to make sure to disabuse the world of the notion that doctors are all knowing and that no one should assume they or any other caregivers have our best interests at heart, *any* medical intervention that might be a positive seems to be scorned. (I’m not talking Ashley. I’m talking medicines, common surgeries, and cool tech.).

So I’m stuck. The social model of disability is what I *want* to be true for me, as for others.

Because that means that physical and social barriers have a hope of coming down.

I’m not a victim.

But…without medical intervention I would not be able to work or socialize or be further down on the depression/anxiety rollercoaster than I am right now. I’m not about to say, “Me and my impairments we’re fine with each other so fork over the necessary dignity and respect.” Instead, I’ll say: “Give me some dignity and respect, dammit and right now, so that I can better bear the phyisical and emotional costs of my impairments.”

Because I won’t mealymouth around and say that none of my impairments hurt me, hinder me, piss me off, and force me into several difficult workarounds or prioritizations. They do cost me. Every goddammed day.

So someone well versed in the social model….explain to me how I get to a point that to be a true example of the social model *all* of my various impairments are really not the problem, that society is…

I can chime in with a yes for cerebral palsy and the carpal tunnel. They are not in the ‘hindrance’ category for me these days.

And, asthma is just an annoying pain in the ***.

But the other two. I’m not fine with, and cannot dismiss them and say “You see? It’s solely the ramp I need and the decent socialization that society learns about when they decide to treat us as people….those are my only real problems…”

I’m just unable to do that. So the whole theory seems to turn sour in my head.

I’m not opposed to that view. I just don’t see how I can ever get there….

4 Comments

  1. bridgett said,

    A tentative thought. The CP and Carpal Tunnel are states of existence, and to a greater extent, so is the asthma. There’s no time that you don’t have these conditons of being you. They can bug you more severely at times (esp. the asthma), but you’re just a wheezy customer with bad balance and bum wrists. However, the other two come and go, becoming more and less symptomatic. They sometimes respond to medication and sometimes they entirely fail to respond. They impede your ability to stay employed, which is really important to you. They are the unknowns that rest outside your ability to work around or control or effectively ask for accomodation, though god knows one does what one can. And they are also among the last things to jump on the “complicating conditions” bandwagon.

    I guess a social theory person would say “but the reason that you feel so aggravated and inconvenienced is that your workplace and those around you will not accomodate you…it’s not your problem that your innards want to do an Argentine tango and you can get so wack from depression that you have days that you just can’t deal…” But I guess I’m with you on this. You’ve got conditions that impinge on your ability to live the sort of life that you want — and that seems to be an acceptable definition of what disability is. The interior experience of depression (all too familiar to me) is such that I’m not sure how that would be something that could be remediated externally…as in poof, well, thanks, now I’m all better that we’ve all decided that me not washing my hair for three weeks and sleeping twenty hours a day is just fine. Some things are not just fine. It is crazy-making to be forced to pretend to avoid getting flack from other people in the movement.

  2. bridgett said,

    A tentative thought. The CP and Carpal Tunnel are states of existence, and to a greater extent, so is the asthma. There’s no time that you don’t have these conditons of being you. They can bug you more severely at times (esp. the asthma), but you’re just a wheezy customer with bad balance and bum wrists. However, the other two come and go, becoming more and less symptomatic. They sometimes respond to medication and sometimes they entirely fail to respond. They impede your ability to stay employed, which is really important to you. They are the unknowns that rest outside your ability to work around or control or effectively ask for accomodation, though god knows one does what one can. And they are also among the last things to jump on the “complicating conditions” bandwagon.

    I guess a social theory person would say “but the reason that you feel so aggravated and inconvenienced is that your workplace and those around you will not accomodate you…it’s not your problem that your innards want to do an Argentine tango and you can get so wack from depression that you have days that you just can’t deal…” But I guess I’m with you on this. You’ve got conditions that impinge on your ability to live the sort of life that you want — and that seems to be an acceptable definition of what disability is. The interior experience of depression (all too familiar to me) is such that I’m not sure how that would be something that could be remediated externally…as in poof, well, thanks, now I’m all better that we’ve all decided that me not washing my hair for three weeks and sleeping twenty hours a day is just fine. Some things are not just fine. It is crazy-making to be forced to pretend to avoid getting flack from other people in the movement.

  3. Kathy Podgers said,

    Well, nice post on the divisions within the disability world. You are right that some disabilities lend themselves more to the social model. In my case, two of my “conditions” are equally disabling, but one I can “live with” and one is killing me slowly, and painfully, and I do wish for a “cure.” It is not anywhere near on any horizon.

    It does not matter to me, however, when someone discriminates against me based on my disability, which disability it is that they are focased on. Treating someone “differently” based on their disability is just plain wrong, and illegal.

  4. Kathy Podgers said,

    Well, nice post on the divisions within the disability world. You are right that some disabilities lend themselves more to the social model. In my case, two of my “conditions” are equally disabling, but one I can “live with” and one is killing me slowly, and painfully, and I do wish for a “cure.” It is not anywhere near on any horizon.

    It does not matter to me, however, when someone discriminates against me based on my disability, which disability it is that they are focased on. Treating someone “differently” based on their disability is just plain wrong, and illegal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: