Disability, Culture, And Society

Discussion: Disability Law and Policy

It seems that every quarter when we address disability-related laws and policies, someone always says, that “disabled people should be treated like everyone else”. Please stop saying this! Why does this bother me? Because, it suggests that EVERYONE else is treated well by the world in which we live. We know this is not true. Further, it still sets disabled people apart from “everyone else” because, if they should be treated LIKE them, then they must not actually be them. Finally, it bothers me because so many of the people who say this are themselves members of marginal and oppressed groups and when they say this about disabled people, for both reasons mentioned above, they are ignoring that they themselves are not treated ‘like everyone else’. In effect, it makes me angry…and then sad. What do you think?

Similarly, so much talk of disability laws and policies implies that these things are “improving the lives” of disabled people. In contrast, I’d suggest that these laws and policies are in place to improve the quality of opportunities available to disabled people. What do you think is the difference between these two descriptors?

You’ll notice that both the lecture and the book begin with a thinking through the foundational beliefs underlying laws/policies before detailing specific things. Why do you think we take this approach or, put another way, is there value in doing so?

Finally, you’ll notice that parts of the lecture and of the textbook suggest that laws and policies to improve the quality of opportunities available to disabled people also works to improve the quality of opportunities for other peopleHow can passing laws/policies to improve the quality of opportunities for disabled people serve to improve the quality of opportunities available to many other sorts of people. 

You don’t have to be a legal or policy expert to answer this question and I don’t expect you to reference, for instance, subparagraph six, clause 9, subsection IX of the Such and Such Act of 1814. I’ll give you an example of what I’m thinking of…the ADA says that cities have to be accessible (because they receive federal money) this has led many cities to install curb-cuts at sidewalk intersections. You know, that little dip in the curb on the corner. This is ostensibly intended to make street-crossing possible for wheelchair users. Who else benefits? Stroller users, some cyclists, people who can’t deal well with stepping off a curb, etc.

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