Sunday, 25 September 2016

The 'Other' side

Some terms that often come up in sociology and social justice discussion is that of 'Other' and and 'marginalisation'.  I've talked a little bit about marginalisation in previous posts, and Othering is essentially the same, though in my interpretation encompasses more of the individual interactions and ableism.  However the differing interpretations of different people based on different experiences can make working out solutions tricky...

In my last post, I wrote about how I attended a 'join the conversation' workshop run by the Office of Disability Issues, to help review and improve the draft NZ Disability Strategy

There were a few issues that came up in discussion that really had me thinking about the concept of 'Other' and 'Othering'.

First was the question over the writing style.  The draft strategy was written in the less conventional style of first-person.  That is: 'I this and I that'.  Some people loved it and others hated it.  For me, I found it refreshing and effective in a way to encourage everyone to take ownership of the strategy and to even increase awareness of how anyone can become disabled at any time and disability affects everyone.  At the same time it reminds me of the unfortunate reality that for many people, they'll never understand the difficulties of life with a disability due to ableism and inaccessibility until or unless they experience it themselves.

[Image Description: in large text "Disability is just another way for a
mind and or body to be" and in the background in very small text,
 the repeated phrase all across the image, "Repeat after me, 
disability is just another way for a mind and or body to be", 
on the bottom left corner is an image credit "@RebelWheelsNYC"] 
Source: RebelWheels NYC
Another point that was raised was the frequent use of 'just like everyone else' throughout the text.  I didn't notice it at first as this kind of language and the (although clearly unintentional in this and most cases) attitude behind it is so prevalent.  This is where Othering really comes in.  The notion that non-disabled people are the norm and disabled people are abnormal and less than for not being able to meet the same expectations and standards as non-disabled people is a common and often harmful one.  It's reminiscent of the medical model of disability, which I have discussed in previous posts.  I think it's far more productive for the notion to be set up that disability is just another way of life.  There is the risk of setting up an impossible standard for disabled folk, which can lead to negative self-worth, anxiety, and depression.  I'm not really sure how the wording could be fixed however, as the intention was to promote inclusion and remove any excuses to exclude, and that was a good way of doing so.

The Office of Disability Issues people at the meeting definitely seemed to take these ideas on board however, and I look forward to seeing how it all comes out soon.

A side note:  I know my posts have been incredibly sporadic lately.  Life has been in quite a state of flux for me lately.  I might put up a life-update post on all that soon :)

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