Not Our Problem: Impairment as Difference, Disability as Role

Cameron, Colin (2011) Not Our Problem: Impairment as Difference, Disability as Role. Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education, 3 (2). pp. 10-25. ISSN 1759-2224

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In this article I want to offer what I hope is a useful insight into the experience and meaning of impairment and disability that will be of value to disability practitioners. I am interested in this area both as an activist in the disabled people‘s movement and as a disabled researcher who has wrestled with the impact of personal tragedy narratives in shaping my own experience – both in terms of other people‘s perceptions of me and the way these have impacted on interactions I have been involved in, and in terms of the impact this has had on my own self-perceptions.

Taking as my starting point the social model, which identifies disability as an oppressive social relationship imposed on top of our impairments – something done to us rather than something we have – (Swain, French and Cameron, 2003) - I want to begin, perhaps contentiously, by arguing that both disabled people and professionals are often complicit in maintaining the practices and discourses by which disabling relationships are materialised. Not knowingly or deliberately, perhaps, but because they conceive some things as given, as being 'just the way things are', and see no other way it could all be. As Simon Charlesworth has noted:

"We are not simply in the world, we are amidst it, our world comes to inhabit us because we come to know it through our socialisation into a way of being that discloses the world in a certain way" (Charlesworth, 2000:91).

Iris Young has suggested that oppression refers to the injustices some people suffer as a consequence of the often unconscious assumptions and reactions of well-meaning people in the processes of ordinary everyday life (Young, 1990). Following this, I want to outline a recent theoretical development that has emerged within Disability Studies, an idea originally suggested by John Swain and Sally French in 2000 and clarified in my recently-completed PhD: the affirmative model of disability (Cameron 2010). My intention is that this will be of use as a practical tool for making sense of the everyday experience of living with impairment in a disabling society. In order to illustrate my points, I will be drawing upon observations and comments made by participants in my research.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
L900 Others in Social studies
X300 Academic studies in Education
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2011 16:23
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 14:37

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