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Three postit notes reading "Limiting beliefs does not equal facts"

Challenging assumptions

When the word ‘disability’ is mentioned, there is an assumption we all know what ‘it’ is. Do we?

What are we really talking about?

Broken body parts? An inability to do something? Malfunctioning organs? Or are we labeling something that has no equivalent word in some cultures? Even the experts disagree; many maintaining disability has nothing to do with the human body, viewing it instead as a product of social oppression.

The media also contributes significantly to the confusion about disability. It twists messages and reinforces stereotypes, to push an agenda or to suit the story being told. As you can imagine, personal experiences of disability can differ greatly from what we see in the media.

Given the varied definitions and understandings, it’s not surprising there are so many assumptions made about disability. Have you ever had one or more of the following thoughts?

  • A person’s disability defines who they are.
  • You can always tell if someone has a disability.
  • A person with disability can’t lead a full and productive life.
  • We should treat people with disability differently because they are special and need our help.
  • Life with a serious disability wouldn’t have any ‘quality’, it wouldn’t be worth living.
  • People with disabilities are inspirational.

Your task

There is no doubt that the term ‘disability’ has powerful associations for different people and groups in our society. Stop for a moment and consider your own view.

Do you see disability as:

  • a statement of a medical condition?
  • a purely social construct (something created by society)?
  • part of the terminology of oppression and exclusion?
  • or something else?

In the comments section, share your take on disability.

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This article is from the free online course:

Realising Career Potential: Rethinking Disability

Griffith University