Written by Michael Waterstone
Amongst other subjects, I teach and write in disability law. In a disability law class, I will always start with a few exercises to get students to question their own assumptions and prejudices about disability. The build up is to get them to think about disability in different ways. In particular, my hope is that they will at least understand the social model of disability: the idea that an impairment itself is not necessarily disabling, but it is often society’s response to that impairment which creates (or at least contributes to) disability. If someone who uses a wheelchair is in front of an inacessible building, is the disabling condition that they may not have use of their legs, or couldn’t it equally be that we have chosen to build (or allow) buildings with stairs instead of ramps?
I like to think I do a reasonably good job of getting student to at least see this point. But I heard this segment on NPR on the way to work the other day, and I realize it made these points and others far better than I ever could. Check out the link – it is worth your time. It is from commentator Ben Mattlin, who has spinal muscular atrophy and is a paraplegic.