The Disability Issue in Business Society
Introduction UK Legislation Economical Aspect Social Aspect Threats
Opportunities Conclusion References Appendices Marking

Chapter 4
Social Perspective
Of the Disability Issue

It's not the wheelchair,
It's the stairs.
(The Social Model)

Content of Chapter 4

4.1 Introduction

4.2 The Difficulty to accept Diversity

4.3 Fundamentally different Views

4.3.1 The Medical Model Language Pity To Star Bundesagentur für Arbeit

4.3.2 Social Model Working for a Living

4.3.3 So how can this Problem be resolved?

4.3.4 Conclusion

4.1 Introduction

The guideline of this chapter is an academic pedagogical work (Rütter & Kokigei 1999), which includes a dialog. A blind woman (Jutta) discusses with a colleague (Marianne) about the integration of disabled people in work society who is a non-disabled person herself but mother of a wheelchair user.

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4.2 The Difficulty to accept Diversity

Equality should take place. However, it is normal to prefer some people over others in daily life. There are various reasons for this behaviour. A good example is that we treat a friend better than we would treat a stranger. Yet per ideology, there should be no differences. Disability is controversial to ideology. (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 p.164, Translation 1)

Marianne states very clearly, that the aspect of integration is difficult. Even if someone would treat everybody the same way, there would still be someone who wouldn't be satisfied. The cause for this can be, the need to be accepted as an individual and therefore different from others. A disabled person has the need for special treatment. Two aspects underlay this: First, he/she needs more help and attention compared to a non-disabled person (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 p.164 Translation 2) and secondly there are tasks, which cannot be done. (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 p.164 Translation 3)

Jutta, being a disabled person knows, disability often causes the inability to achieve the same level of performance as a non-disabled person. (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 p.164 Translation 4) This also applies for non-disabled persons. Generally, performance is the major aspect. An organisation exists to do specific tasks. For these tasks, it uses specific amounts of resources. An investment in human capital is made, to develop the organisation and its output. If there is no ratio of input and output the investment should not be made. (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 p.165 Translation 1) This is a provocation for a disabled person. Jutta returns:

    "Thus, I think on a disabled person, who has paraplegia and needs a lot of help. What charisma he has. He is a profit for the company. It might be absurd to employ somebody who needs so much assistance. But you have to remind that such a consideration meets a disabled reality, which is always calculating for you and that you are cheaper fostered in a home." (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 pp.165-166 Translation 2) (11.)

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11. Footnote:

‚Jutta: "Also, ich denke an einen Behinderten, der einen Halswirbelquerschnitt hat, der ganz viel Hilfe braucht, und was der für eine Ausstrahlung hat. Er ist ein Gewinn für die ganze Organisation. Es mag zwar unsinnig sein, jemand zu beschäftigen, der so viel Unterstützung braucht. Man muß aber dabei bedenken, daß solche Überlegungen auf eine Behinderten Realität fallen, die ständig vorrechnet, wie viel man kostet und das man im Heim billiger aufgehoben ist."' Back to Context

4.3 Fundamentally different Views

Generally there are two different perceptions of disability. One is the medical model; the other is the social model. The two different models explain disability as active or passive behaviour from society.

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4.3.1 The Medical Model

Traditionally, discrimination is known from Christianity. Disability is perceived as Gods' punishment for committed sins. (Sanders 1999 p.79 Translation 1) The medical model is the traditional view, which sees the disabled person as a useless victim: depending, helpless and lavish. They are minorities where the social discrimination is accepted as reasonable. Disabled are different, ill and are patients. Disabled ought to be thankful and lowly behaviour. (Sanders 1999 p.83 Translation 1)

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Some terminology is discriminating but people do not always care. For example, the term 'handicapped' is considered offensive sometimes, although it is preferable over the derogatory term 'cripple'.

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In fact, one of the most common forms of discrimination is to show pity. (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 p.170 Translation 1) It is wrong to assume that people with disability are always feeling depending and helpless. The situation of a disabled person is already present for certain period of time. Therefore, for Jutta, who was born blind, it is normal not to see and statements about pity are pointless. Pity leads the disabled person to a bad conscience, helplessness and therefore a desire for distance. The disabled person is excluded from social life. Nevertheless, those statements can also be perceived as helplessness from the non-disabled. People tend to express pity to overcome their own problems, divert this threat so somebody else has this problem.

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People with disability are powerless when they are victimised. (Rütter & Kokigei 1999 p.177 Translation 1) They might feel as minority and therefore helpless and alone. Staring at somebody means that this person is unusual and different than 'normal' society.

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The German federal labour agency (BA) is trying to push disabled people away from their own competence and responsibility into the social welfare system. The BA is legally obligated to conduct rehabilitation of disabled employees. But an official BA-paper states that for 'these clients' it is 'not reasonable' to attempt steps for promotional integration. (Der Spiegel, 10/2005, p.17, Translation 1+2) An example from a 35-year old female journalist shows this statement used (Appendix 3: BA)

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4.3.2 Social Model

Emancipation of disabled people has been going on over the last two decades but they are still trying hard to establish the social model This claims, society is actively discriminating disabled people and do not accept disability as a living form. (12.) Barriers are built by the society and disabled people have the right of no restriction because of their own diversity. (13.) It is said, society is repressing the disability issue as a whole. Yet, disability might be experienced by everybody at any time: "You try to stay healthy but then along it comes and you have to live with it." (Philibert 2002) (Appendix 5: 'être et avoir')

    "But for the disabled to be active citizens, society first needs to change. In the contrast to the 'medical model', which holds that disability is the result of an individual's personal impairment, and so best resolved by clinical or other individual intervention, Holdswoth champions a 'social model'. This sees disability as the failure of society to adjust to different impairments. The problem isn't the wheelchair, it's the stairs." (Daniel 1996)

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12. Footnote:

"Disability is seen more as a social construction than a medical reality." (Wikipedia: Search word 'disability') Back to Context

13. Footnote:

This point of view is the basis for the US DDA. This law says for instance that the public transport has to provide the access. Back to Context Working for a Living

This means the social model also includes a less comfortable aspect for people with disabilities, as the traditional soft-focus charity images a victim culture. Therefore, people with disabilities should take control of their own lives.

    "We need to get away from the idea that disabled people will never be able to work. No one wants to live on benefits. It's amazing how much I agree with Blair." (Daniel 1996) (14.)

This perspective has been picked up in the New Labour's critique of the 'dependency culture' as well. It focuses on work, being the passport to citizenship. At a benefits road show David Blunkett talked of the need to

    '(…) renew the enterprise, work ethic and the spirit of self-reliance which have driven the British nation for centuries... The corrosive move away from the world of work has taken its toll on families and communities across the land.' (Daniel 1996)

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14. Footnote:

Stated by a rights-activist for disabled people. Back to Context

4.3.3 So how can this Problem be resolved?

Some discrimination happens out of habit. Social habits are acquired and can therefore be changed. However, this might be the most difficult point and the reason why changes in society are so slow. The following quotation shows the neurological function of habits:

    "The connections between neurones in the network may have different strengths, and any one element may tend to excite or inhibit the other elements to which it is connected. Learning changes these strengths between the connections: neural elements that fire together gradually tend to become more strongly interconnected." (Zohar & Marshall 2000 p.52)

This means that once we have learned how to feel at a given stimulus it is difficult to react differently when we are confronted with such a situation again. Emotional behaviour is usually not rational, as we have habits to overcome the lack of complete data. Our EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is developing through our whole life. Still many habits are built up over time and stored in our long-term memory. (Zohar & Marshall 2000)

Finally yet importantly another social fact should be mentioned, for which though it is difficult to find academic evidences. Therefore, I use a song-quotation from the 'Die Toten Hosen' (15.):

    "Needless to say I am not a racist,
    I'm not a blockhead,
    Most lesbian black disabled are all awful nice,
    Yet exception like this one proves the rule,
    Even lesbian black disabled might be godawul."

    (Toten Hosen, Die 1999 Translation 1) (16.)

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15. Footnote:

'Die Toten Hosen' is a respected German pop-punk band and has been successful for over 20 years. Especially the singer and songwriter 'Campino' is often a gladly seen interview partner, as he confronts social problems very directly and is a voice for people, who struggle to make themselves heard. Back to Context

16. Footnote:

‚Natürlich bin ich kein Rassist,
vor meinem Kopf ist doch kein Brett,
die meisten lesbischen, schwarzen Behinderten sind alle furchtbar nett,
doch Ausnahmen wie diese, schließt die Regel ein,
auch lesbische, schwarze Behinderte können ätzend sein.'
Back to Context

4.3.4 Conclusion

Disabled are still depending on non-disabled. Here, the circle starts again where it began:

    "Only, whether disabled are there and whether something can arise, decide still the non-disabled." (Sanders 1999 p.94)

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