According to the World Health Organisation, a disability is…
"Any restriction or lack (resulting from any impairment) or ability to perform an activity in the manner, or within the range considered normal for a human being".
If you can apply this definition to yourself and feel you have a disability, you can access protection from UK law, like the Equality Act (2010), so being aware of a disability can help you get fair equal treatment and access support if needed. If you have a diagnosis/label, you may have mixed feelings. Having a label will help you understand areas you may have difficulty in and, importantly, areas you may have strengths. It will open doors to support, such as education help and plans, specialists, and even support if needed with supported accommodation, for example. A label can, however, lower self esteem for some. It may wrongly lower expectations. You must remember a label is just a guide to the types of challenges you may face. Everyone is different. Many conditions have strengths that result as well like creativity or determination or empathy. The label/diagnosis is just one aspect of who you are and it must not define you. Think about all the other aspects of who you are and your personality.
Disability can be defined using the Medical Model or the Social Model of disability. If you use the Medical Model, then disability is seen as the loss of ability due to a medical condition that it is felt needs to be fixed and made ‘normal’. So, for example, someone with Cerebral Palsy has a physical disability, someone with Dyslexia has a learning difficulty, which is also a disability and so on. But when we say the Medical Model tries to fix disability and make it 'Normal', what is normal anyway!? Increasingly, society is understanding disability in terms of the Social Model. This is when it is felt everyone has differences and that some people’s differences make it difficult to function in society because of the way society is run. The barriers society can create, therefore, need to be removed.
The Social Model is explained as:
This Video by Dyslexia IO explains that neurological conditions, like Dyslexia, Autism and ADHD are part of natural variation and there is often co-occurring difficulties due to Nero-diversity, rather than as a disability or disorder. If you prescribe to this belief, it means everyone’s unique abilities are valued and considered neurological differences, like Autism and ADHD, are simply due to variations in the human genome.
The Disability Rights Commission did a video called TALK a number of years ago and while the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) has been replaced by the Equality Act (2010), the video still provides insight into the idea of the Social Model of disability, showing what life would be like if almost everyone had an impairment, as those without a disability would struggle due to the way society would accommodate disabled needs first. You can see the first part of the video here:
Many people with disabilities dislike the word DISABILITY because it focuses on something wrong, when many people feel their abilities outweigh any Disability. In fact, Disability can give qualities, like, determination/motivation. As Steph Hammerman shows:
A Few Disability Facts
The Family Resources Survey 16-17 states that there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. They also state 19% of working age adults are disabled. The Papworth Trust, found only about 46.5% of people of working age with a disability are actually working. Given the amount of support in place, like with Access to Work, reasonable adjustments, employment programs, and the existence of the Equality Act (2010) and other efforts, this is still very poor. A lot of the problem is awareness of the options and support available to get people work ready and working in paid roles.
This may explain why sometimes in society, with the best of intentions, people may make comments to you if you have a disability, like, you are an inspiration when you are just managing like everyone else doing okay. It is because of the lack of awareness and the lack of people with disabilities in key roles, like teaching, which needs to change and how the lack of this means society's expectations can be very low for those who have disabilities, and should not be. The battle then is not the medical disability but the social attitude or understanding. See Stella Young's Ted Talk.
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