Friday, October 4, 2013

Medical Model vs. Social Model

If you're wondering what I'm trying to get at with the Misery Calculator thing, click here and read some good dialog about the Medical Model vs. Social Model of disability.

Photo(s) Of The Day

woman in wheelchair, underwater, with scuba gear
woman in wheelchair, underwater, with scuba gear
woman in wheelchair, underwater, with scuba gear
woman in wheelchair, underwater, with scuba gear
From TedX.

The Misery Calculator, Patent Pending

You know how in the film, "Dead Poet's Society", the stodgy, old-fashioned headmaster uses numerical ratings and graphs to teach his students how to "appreciate" poetry? In the movie, that's supposed to dramatize how regimented and soulless the school is before Robin Wiliams' Mr. Keating arrives, but I always thought that graphic system got a bad rap. As long as it is just one of several ways you use to experience a poem, I don't see any harm in it, and it could even reveal things you might miss with a more holistic, emotional approach.

Maybe we can use a similar approach to understand better how we are doing on any given day, or in general, regarding our disabilities. I figure what we need is some kind of spreadsheet that would amount to a calculator where we enter a 1-10 number of each of, say, 10 quality measures … with 1 being the lowest level of difficulty or suffering, and 10 the highest. Then we get the thing to draw us a chart so we can see not only the amount of awfulness we are experiencing, but what kind. You know that "spoons" is going to be one of the measures, and I'm thinking of dividing the ten measures up into 5 that are purely personal or "Medical Model", and 5 that are external or "Social Model". That would allow us to see what percentage of our total misery really is due to social barriers and breakdowns, prejudice and ableism … and how much is, in fact, about our physical or mental impairments.

So, I set up a spreadsheet, plugged in number ratings for myself, and here are my results:

Charts showing results from experimental "Misery Calculator"
This seems about right. For myself specifically, my physical, medical impairments are a somewhat bigger factor in my life than "Social Model" pressures, although they are unmistakably there, too. But I don't use a wheelchair, so accessibility is going to be less of a factor. I have a car. My life at present doesn't involve a whole lot of interaction with the public, and I don't depend much on bureaucracies. My biggest disability-related thing is my lung condition. If I miss out on something or feel incapacitated, it's usually because I'm not breathing very well and don't have enough energy or endurance.

This is my first shot at something like this. I'd appreciate any suggestions to make this more meaningful … a different rating system, different categories, etc. What would your "Misery Calculator" results look like?


Raw data from charts:

Stamina / “Spoons”
Mental & Cognitive
Physical Barriers
Systemic Barriers
Tools & Resources
Prejudice / Ableism

16 (57%)
12 (43%)

The Michael J. Fox Show - S1, E3 "Art"

old TV set with wheelchair symbol on the screen
The third episode of this new series actually made me kind of angry, not because of anything disability-related, but because I never bought into the main conflict of the episode ... Eve's parents trying to stop her from taking photos of nude people in her Community Center photography class. I kept expecting Mike and Annie to realize how silly they were to object to this fairly standard part of learning artistic photography, but the turn never happened. Maybe this was meant as a fresh alternative to the "family realizes their daughter is growing up" cliché, but if so the device fell flat, because I disagreed with Mike and Annie's objections, and they never even explained their point of view.

On the plus side, Mike's impairments played no substantive role in any of the stories or scenes, while still being noticeable. The only time in the whole episode I laughed was at the single direct Parkinson's joke, but that was mainly a nicely-delivered one-liner. Mike throws a napkin at his son, Ian, who is texting at the dinner table:
"If that was Parkinson's, we're cool. If not, what the hell Dad?"
Otherwise, Mike Henry's Parkinson's is just there in Mike Henry's body language and voice. Neither of which are distracting, but I don't "forget" about them, either.

Over time, this approach, with an occasional Parkinson's-centered plot thrown in, can really help "normalize", de-mystify, and de-romanticize this kind of disability. The show has to be funny though to survive, and it's got to make sense, both of which it mostly failed to do this week.