Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Disability Pride?

I've written previously about models of disability - at least the medical model and social model.  Recently I read a post on Tumblr that got me thinking about where I sit on the issue, particularly where disability pride comes in.

I want to be involved in disability pride.  I want to be involved in normalising disability so that we're not seen as problems to be solved or tragic cases.  A big part of disability pride to me is about saying that there's nothing wrong with being disabled, and that sounds great to me!  I recently stumbled on this video by Robyn Lambird on youtube that really resonated with me:

"Your only answer is to pray and that God will help take it all away, but what about if this is just me and there's no one else I'd rather be? Maybe this body of mine, maybe it does just fine and the thing that has to change is you"
I like this concept but I struggle to reconcile it with the fact that my body is and will continue to fail me as part of its degenerating condition.  It's hard for me to take pride and ownership in that, especially as the goal-posts gradually shift and change.  But I think it's important that I process that and work on that as I strive to reduce ableism in the wider setting and normalising disability to reduce the societal barriers we face.  

This is where the models of disability come in.  I'm not comfortable with the medical model of disability.  It suggests that we are faulty, wrong, and need fixing.  I don't believe that.  If anything I think believing that for most of my life and striving for healing and cures has done me more harm than good in both my physical and emotional well-being.  That said, to say that disability is entirely as social construct as per the social model of disability denies the reality of some people with disabilities for whom all the accessibility in the world won't change their experience of disability - for example those whose pain is so severe they can't get out of bed/function/etc.  I have been learning of another theory that kind of balances the two, though I've heard of several different names for it.  I'm going to look into it more closely when I can in part of my studies so I'll get back to you :D

Do any of you struggle with reconciling these ideas?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. I believe the model you are referring to is sometimes called the critical realist model. Although, to take a step back, I would say the social model you are referring to is actually two different models. You have the old-school British social model, which has a materialist (focused on the physical world) and sometimes Marxist underpinning. Disability in this model is oppression caused by the economic and physical structure of society (which in turn is caused by the evolution of capitalism).

    Then you have the culture turn, in which the social model become more post-modern and focused on social norms and ablest discourses, sometimes this model is called critical disability studies. In addition, you also have the more American version of the social model, which focuses more on identity, disability pride, and minority status and rights.

    1. Thanks! That's actually really helpful info and something I would like to explore more. My knowledge is fairly limited so far as it's only really been brushed over in my uni studies and the rest is info I've pieced together from reading various things online. Can you recommend any sources I should read for more info? I personally feel like all of the models you have described apply in varying degrees which is perhaps why I've come to understand it all as one big conglomerate model when that's not the case haha.

    2. Thanks, I heartily recommend Mike Oliver's recent retrospective on the social model. Mike was one of the original founders of the social model. You should be able to get his article for free here:


      If you cannot access Mike Oliver’s article, let me know.

      Also, have a read of one of the other original founders, who is a bit more radical than Mike, Vic Finkelstein here:


      Together the two articles provide a good overview of the intent of the old-school social model of disability.

      This is a good article to understand the current debate between critical disability studies (which can be thought of as the newer version of the social model) and critical realists. The article is written by critical realists though so take that into consideration:


      Should be free, let me know if it is not.

    3. Got them all. Thank you so much! I probably won't be able to read them for a while - it's coming up to the end of the semester so I'm swamped with assignments at the moment. But I really appreciate the feedback and extra info :D

  2. Just one last article that you might dig. Fair warning, this article is long (it took me the best part of a Sunday afternoon to read it, with the obligatory alt-tabbing to lighter fare every now and then) and is quite academic (although it does explain some terms). It is a great read though and plays with some powerful ideas (going beyond models of disability and assessing the political cost (the practical effects) of different models).


    The article is behind a paywall. You might be able to access it through your tertiary provider. Alternatively, hit up our library and they should be able to source a copy.


  3. Ah I'm going to miss my uni library access when I graduate! Got it and will read as soon as I can. Thanks again for all the info! I really appreciate it :) If you think of any others feel free to email me if you prefer. The address is theafflictionfiction@gmail.com