Friday, June 12, 2009

When the word disability is used in quotes

BBC is running an article about a minke whale who was injured by a net at sea. He now has a deep laceration around his feeding pouch and has adapted his feeding technique in a way scientists have never recorded, rotating toward the right to feed and never the left due to the injury.

The scientist called it a "unique lunge-feeding behaviour."

Aside from ongoing concerns for the well being of these animals, the article is interesting to me because it is entitled "Net injury 'disables' minke whale" with the word disables in quotes, obviously because the animal has adapted a way to feed itself.

The reason I find this so interesting is because we apply the same thinking to people with disabilities. When the nature of the disability is such that someone can adapt and do an activity independently, even with technology, we ascribe a lesser degree of disability to them than when he or she continues to rely on human help and is unable to independently do that activity.

There is a hierarchy that exists regarding disability and this is one aspect of it, in my opinion. It is when the word disability is used in quotes.

Of course we sometimes forget that there are those who , if we took away their assistive technology would then be considered more disabled and many who if they had such technology would be considered less disabled.

With animals, it's understandable that such concerns are rarely addressed, although I've heard of vets rebuilding broken beaks on pelicans and such.

With humans, it's usually an issue of money.


Sophia said...

Some disability thinkers also point out that rich able bodied people frequently have huge amounts of personal help for all kinds of tasks--yet this is considered completely different than the kind of help that disabled people use.

Wheelie Catholic said...

Good point.