Disability and society

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Disability continues to be a fundamentally important idea in society. The fundamental problem concerns how people with physical disabilities are treated. The emphasis is on the society's perspective of those who may have some type of physical handicap. A society that discriminates against physically disabled people harms their well-being. Disability is an issue that demands attention as a result of how affected individuals are treated. The purpose of this analysis is to provide an in-depth examination of the concept of disability. The comprehension of the topic is essential since it highlights on how best to treat people having particular forms of disability.

Keywords: disability, physical impairment

Disability Defined

Disabilities according to the readings presented in class, is a condition that has impaired the functions of the body significantly making it slightly different from the usual standard of human beings (Shakespeare, 2003). The term has been used in various contexts to explain the individual functioning, which includes the physical (body), intellectual (mind illness), sensory, cognitive impairments and other types of chronic ailments.

Disability conceptually describes experiences of the individual involved which are viewed in a multidimensional in nature (Altman, 2001). In some instances, it can affect body or organs, and in others, it has an effect on the individual’s areas of participation in life. Consequently, this has led to research which has come up with three disability dimensions; activity, participation, and body structure and functions.

Disabilities exist as either mental or physical (Altman, 2001). Physical impairments can be injuries acquired at workplaces through accidents or development of medical conditions interfering with day to day activities of the human life. Physical incapacity causes an individual to be unable to perform or participate in activities that he once enjoyed (Shakespeare, 2003). Other physical inabilities may render an individual unable to work after that. Peace, (2002) explains through the study of Christopher Reeves how physical incapacity occurs and renders an individual useless. Reeve is paralyzed and is unable to move which means he cannot participate in activities he once did like for example horse riding. Mental disability, on the other hand, has been discussed in details by the case study of ‘expecting Adam’ (Beck, 1999). The woman narrates the story of her son who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Disability can also exist as either permanent or total (Altman, 2001). Permanent one is declared to a patient where an individual cannot participate in any substantial or gainful activity as a result of mental or physical condition (Shakespeare, 2003). On the other hand, where the physician diagnoses that the condition is expected to last for a period of one year or cause death that is called total disability. Some people with permanent disabilities find it difficult to live with the fact that they will never walk again. An example is Christopher Reeve who was paralyzed while doing horseback riding back in 1995 (Peace, 2012). Having been unable to walk again for a decade, it was obvious he was permanently disabled and would be unable to walk ever again; Reeve still believed he would walk again. He even devoted to all his time, money and efforts to walk again.

Disability is no longer incapacity if the disabled person learns to cope with it and accepts the fact of the reality (Shakespeare, 2003). At first coping is usually a huge problem mostly to people who gain disability in accidents or ailments (Shakespeare, 2003). The rest who are born with certain conditions of the body malfunctioned cope easily. Those who acquire infirmity along their paths of life get traumatized and try out any available remedy that is available. Some people have gone on to dedicate the rest of their lives trying to figure out a cure for their conditions. They hold it within themselves that someday they will be fine. A good case study is that of Christopher Reeve from the class reading who has dedicated his entire life to finding a cure for spinal injuries (Peace, 2012). Even after a decade of unfruitful work, he still believes his facility of research will come up with a cure and he can walk again. Many people have criticized his works and quotes over the years but he remains steadfast in the search of a cure. However noble his work is towards treating spinal injuries, he might have self-acceptance issues which would translate to unhappiness.

Using social models, disability is defined as a relationship between a person and his social environment i.e. exclusions of certain people with physical or mental impairments from the main social life domains (Altman, 2001). Their exclusions are shown through deliberate segregation. Often this can be through built environments or social activities that are organized for the public and preclude or disallow participation of individuals perceived as disabled. This is the reason why Christopher Reeves is so determined to heal his spine and walk again (Peace, 2012). His disability has led to denial. Reeve was once a sports man who enjoyed publicity and with it comes social acceptance. In his condition, he is viewed different and therefore he is excluded to participate in many aspects of life social interactions. This is the driving force for him to seek a cure and participate once again. Beck, (1999), explains how the woman is determined to reject the assumptions made on a book he comes across discussing how Down Syndrome people cannot have normal lives (Beck, 1999).. To her, they should not be segregated. From the tow cases studies, it can be concluded that disability should not be used to segregate individuals socially.

A full explanation of the concept of disability is incomplete if areas of a person’s life that are affected are not outlined (Altman, 2001). The main disadvantage of acquiring physical and mental inabilities is rendering the victims unable to perform in daily routines, work, and family affairs, maintaining friendships, school work and even play (Shakespeare, 2003). These activities make up the human aspect of living. Where individuals acquire a disability in the course of their lives, it could be traumatizing to be incapacitated and unable to do these life defining activities. Accident patients get psychological counseling to cope up with their current physical situations. Where patients do not get proper help, they develop mental problems. People born with inabilities to do most life activities may learn to cope on their own from early ages and thus are better off in coping with their body situations. Christopher Reeve is no exception; an accident rendered him immobile and thus excluded him from all activities (Peace, 2012). Going by this concept, Reeve fits the definition of a disabled person since he cannot do any activities. The woman with a child with a Down syndrome has made many believe that her child’s condition is normal it is not; the child may not be able to do the activities that define a normal person (Beck, 1999).

In conclusion, disability is a permanent or total, physical or mental condition that leaves the patient unable to participate in normal life activities or social activities. The patient’s ability to cope with these conditions determines how they live their lives after being diagnosed. The way they interact socially in the environments will either lead to denial or self-acceptance. The social environment they live in may be segregate them through aspects of life like which sports to participate in, where to park cars and lanes to drive in, but their greatest asset is learning to embrace their condition.


Altman, B.M. (2001). Disability definitions, models, classifications schemes, and applications. Handbook of disability studies, 97-122.

Beck, M. (1999). Expecting Adam. New York Times Books. PP 211-23

Peace, W.J. (2012). Wishing For Kryptonite: A Response to Christopher Reeve’s Pursuit of Cure. Ragged Edge Online.

Shakespeare, T. (2003). Disability rights and wrongs revisited. Routledge

April 19, 2023

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