Are we disabled people or people with disabilities?
This question confuses many people, and indeed it is more about language than disability or people. Language and the words we use are imperative. They shape the way we see ourselves and the way people view us. Many people I have come across go by the ‘people with disabilities’ is putting the person first. I do not see it that way. We are disabled people. We are disabled by many things, but not usually ourselves.
As Titchkosky and Michalko (2014:101) pointed out; people may subscribe to one particular story of disability. An important story today says that disability is a social phenomenon produced by a society’s failure to respond adequately to impairment. This story, however we judge it, does not eliminate other dominant storytellers, such as medicine, that tell the story of disability as something unwanted that lurks in an individual and must be rooted out or managed.
Disability is an identity that has been hotly contested since the 1970s it the UK. In 1975, an early disability rights organisation in the UK, Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) claimed “in our view it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are isolated and excluded from full participation in society.”
In 1983, Mike Oliver, the disabled academic, coined the phrase “social model of disability” about these idea’s building on the distinction between impairment and disability suggested by UPIAS. Oliver never meant the ‘social model of disability’ to be THE theory of disability, but a starting point in changing how society views disability.
The ‘social model’ was then developed more by both academics and activists in Australia, the UK, the US and other countries, and came to include all disabled people, including those with learning difficulties/learning disabilities, mentally disabled, and people with emotional, mental health or behavioural problems.
A fundamental part of the ‘social model’ concerns equality and is a reaction to the more dominant ‘medical model’ which believes the body should be fixed so it can fit in with society.
The ‘social model’ focuses on changes in society including:
- Attitudes, such as being more positive towards people with mental impairments and not underestimating the quality of life possible with those impairments.
- Social support to help deal with the barriers, aids, resources and positive discrimination to help overcome them, such as a ‘buddy’ to explain the culture of and at work for an autistic member of staff.
- Information, and making sure it is supplied in a format the person needs such as large print, braille, or explaining more or simpler.
- Physical structures, such as installing ramps and lifts, and
- Flexible working hours for a person who has panic attacks travelling in the rush hour, or someone with a sleep disorder.
The ‘social model’ argues against disabled people needing to be ‘fixed’(medical model), but rather society needs fixing.
So where do you buy your walking aids?
There are many places you can buy walking aids online and it does make things much simpler for many people, me included. It might be nice to go to a shop or showroom and have a look around and maybe even try a few, but it is not always as simple as it sounds for us. I know when I go out, sometimes to a rugby match, sometimes shopping, maybe even meeting friends for a drink and a chat, even though I am in the wheelchair it still tires me out. I nearly always take a PA with me, so it is not from the manual wheeling, it is from so many things we used to take for granted. Personally, my problems start with my cognitive thinking. I have problems with many aspects of thinking such as my short term memory, attention span, planning, decision-making, understanding and concentration. This also exhausts me just by trying to think. This fluctuates from day to day so I cannot tell you if next Saturday I am going to be OK for wheelchair shopping or not.
It is also difficult for me to go out on the spur of the moment as I need to organise myself and find a PA. Then transport and working out the best route to walk after we have parked. The UK roads and causeways are notoriously bad for cracks, potholes and other problems and there are streets I cannot go down. There areas where I cannot cross the road as there is a drop curb on one side of the road, but not on the other.
This is why I buy most of my products online. Grocery shopping is much easier online these days, and although I miss the browsing, I think I spend less as I am not as tempted by things I see. Toiletries I buy either with my grocery shopping or from somewhere else, but still by making a list and following it.
The same goes for any walking aids for disabled people. It is much better to write a list of what you need and follow it so you don’t get distracted by things you don’t need and then forget what you do need. I can no longer shop on the high street for important things due to the problems with my cognitive thinking. If I manage to concentrate until I have all the facts, I still cannot make a decision.
If I was shopping for a new walking stick, I would need one with:
- Comfort handle
- Adjustable size
So I would probably choose:
A new wheelchair would include:
- self propelling
So I could choose:
You also need to check seat size is the right one for you.
Just make your list out and search.
I suggest doing the shopping the easiest way for you. I used to check what I needed in a store, then go online once I had decided, but now I know what I want and need I don’t bother going to a store at all. I can find everything I need online and usually start with Amazon and EBay. Don’t waste your energy