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Disability: a badge or label?

In this video different people with disabilities share their stories about labelling and classification.
DUNCAN: Disclosing one’s disability, or, you know, being willing to be labelled a certain thing is, I think, in some respects, quite personal. I’m a, you know, partially blind lighting and furniture designer. So, in a lot of my work, it does revolve around the deflection of light. My disability is part of my work, and that’s something I shouldn’t necessarily shy away from. Also, it’s part of my work. It’s not all of my work.
But it’s still quite an interesting line to try and…try and tread. Like, for example, I was curating an exhibition at one point and I got asked about my practice and my vision impairment. I had to shut the journalist down and just say, “Look, no, this is not about me or my vision impairment. “I’m curating a show.” I didn’t want the show to become the Duncan Blind Show.
STEVE: I mean, people are people. They may look different, act different, but they’re really not. It all comes down to your attitude. If you don’t have a good attitude, then that’s a really…disability.
ANTONI: I and my other friends with disabilities in Indonesia believe that we never have disability because we believe that everyone has different abilities. All we need is a chance. All we need is an opportunity. All we need is accommodation. This is what my parents have always been teaching me. “You have to be grateful to the God for having created you like this. “This is not something bad, you know. “We are proud of having you. You can make achievement.”
JORDANNA: We’ve actually got four classifications. We’ve got the capital ‘D’ Deaf. We’ve got the small ‘d’ for deaf. And we’ve got hearing-impaired and hard of hearing. We’ll start with hearing impairment. And I personally think it’s not a nice word. It actually comes from a medical perspective, and it’s indicating to us that, you know, there’s something broken and so it needs fixing. So it’s quite a negative term. ‘Hard of hearing’ - generally people who are deaf can pick up some sounds. Now, the small ‘d’ - this means a person who can sign, they can speak a little bit, which is different from… from the big capital ‘D’, which means that you’re Deaf.
And, you know, that comes with Deaf pride, Deaf power and terms like that. And, basically, it’s your own identity. And, personally, I’m proud to be Deaf, so I’m a capital ‘D’ Deaf person.
VIVIENNE: Everyone counts as having a disability. I have not seen one person who could spread their wings and fly like a bird yet.

In the above video, Duncan, Steve, Antoni, Jordanna and Vivienne share personal stories about how they have been labeled by others, as well as how they have badged themselves as having a disability.

A link to an audio description of this video is available in the See Also section below.

In the video we can see how our guest speakers have had different and contextual experiences of:

  • being labeled as disabled by others;
  • disclosing their impairment;
  • claiming identity of disability or impairment with pride.
In many ways, owning the disabled identity has been central to disability politics. You can definitely hear how important it is for Jordanna to identify as Deaf — to count herself in to a group with a strong cultural identity. Paradoxically, when someone is labeled by others as having an impairment or disability, it can be more difficult. For example, Duncan describes the challenges around his vision impairment being sensationalised by the news media.
Disability scholar Tom Shakespeare has helpfully described this distinction as the difference between having a badge (which is a positive, self-identification) and being labeled (which is done by others, without personal control).

Talking points

  • What particular insights did you gain from the video about what counts as disability?
  • How have each of these speakers tried to challenge or combat the negative effects of labels?
  • How do the themes in this video relate to ideas about living a good life?
  • If you have a disability yourself, or are closely connected to people who do, you can also comment on how the personal perceptions and experiences of the speakers resonate with or differ from your own.
This article is from the free online

Disability and a Good Life: Thinking through Disability

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