One of the things that takes people by surprise when they start to discover the true size and diversity of the disability world is how divided it is. Disabilities, themselves are very different, generating some huge differences in experience. Disabilities also cut across all other groups and subgroups of humanity, including gender, race, nationality, philosophy, ideology, and economic status. So, every disabled person is “disabled”, and also “X”, “Y”, “Z” and many other designations. Also, there are several different fundamental ways to see and understand disability, each of which depends partly on personal experiences and partly, I believe, on each person’s underlying personality and world view.
Just for fun, I decided last night to try and map out the main “fault lines” in “disability world”. I call them fault lines instead of divisions because like actual fault lines on the earth’s crust, a piece of fine china, or an eggshell, the divisions aren’t always visible, and only become real cracks under pressure. The disability community can often look unified, and from the outside it’s easy to see how similar we are, but the fault lines are there, and tend to follow some logical paths.
Here is what I have so far … with a note on each about my own status:
Disabled from birth / disabled later in life.
I have had disabilities since birth.
Physical / sensory / intellectual / mental health disabilities.
I have physical disabilities.
Stable disabilities / disabilities that are progressive / disabilities that cause considerable pain and illness (chronic illness or “spoonies”).
My disabilities are mostly stable, though lately I have started to feel like I might be becoming a “spoonie”.
Visible (noticeable) disabilities / invisible (not immediately apparent) disabilities.
My disabilities can be seen right away.
People with disabilities / families of people with disabilities.
I am a person with disabilities, and nobody else in my immediate family has disabilities.
Medical / cultural / political approaches to disability.
I tend to be most interested in the political implications of disabilities, though recently I have become more interested in disability culture.
Disabled people from secure, privileged backgrounds / disabled people who are disadvantaged in multiple ways besides disabilities.
For the most part I come from security and privilege.
Do these fault lines look familiar? Am I missing any? Where do you sit? I’d love to read your comments!