Friday, March 22, 2013

Disability As A Topic

Crowd and a wheelchair divided by a gap
I think that I got two topics confused the other day in my blog post titled, "D Section, Back Page". On the one hand, I have been thinking about the fact, as I have observed, that personal stories about one's disabilities are just of limited interest to others as a topic of causal conversation. At the same time, I was thinking about how disability issues are categorized and prioritized, in part by newspapers, but also in other media and political discourse. I feel like people's limited interest in the day to day problems of a person with disabilities is reflected in the fact that disability is rarely seen as something of broad, national concern.

This is a problem, but I don't disparage this lack of interest or attention. Despite decades of progress, disability is still largely viewed as a medical problem, and is there anything duller than other peoples' aches and pains? To be sure, most people will focus and feel appropriate concern, for a short time, when confronted with an individual disability story. But these have a notoriously short shelf-life. At some point, you just want to ask, "Is there anything else we can talk about?"

The reason this is a problem is that disability is also about fairness and equality, laws and policies, labor and economics, debt and the role of government, education and poverty, freedom and security, youth and aging, gender and sexuality, and yes, it's about how fairly and effectively health care is delivered to everyone.

Disability in the narrow sense isn't the most interesting or central topic imaginable, for anyone but those of have one, but it is a useful and often unexplored pathway the most passionate and critical debates currently going. Its in that sense that I think it belongs on the "Front Page".