Defining Disability and Societies Stereotypes Society is always searching for a way to define or generalize what constitutes being disabled. Some would say disability is nothing out of the normal and that one’s who are disabled are still on a level playing field with abled persons. In contrast though, some argue that being disabled is something that totally hinders your life and will never allow you to fit in with the “social norm”. The focus of this paper is not to define disability, but to use educated points of view to help better an understanding of what disability may be, in order to form one’s own definition of being disabled.
Information from three different authors will be used to help better the understanding of what society views as disabled and what their contributions to the stereotypes created are. Colin Low, a blind filmmaker, article called Some Ideologies of Disability will be used. In addition, Disability and Representation written by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, who is a specialist in disability studies, will be used to both agree and argue points involving the disabled.
Finally, a TED talk discussing prosthetic legs, given by Aimee Mullins, who is a leg amputee as well as a former Paralympic athlete will be used to state her self-imposed views. Through comparing and contrasting along with analyzing these authors uses of rhetorical appeals, including pathos and ethos, and the materials they use to defend their information, hopefully a clearer definition or idea of what disability is, begins to form. Throughout the course of all three articles, the authors use pathos to help support what they see as defining disability.
In Low’s article he uses an excerpt from the play “Children of a Lesser God” where he uses lines from a deaf characters script in which she speaks, “Until you let me be an individual, an “I”, just as you are you will never truly be able to come inside my silence and know me” (Low,110). Similarly, Garland- Thomson uses pop culture references when expressing her thoughts on the subject. She uses examples such as Finding Nemo, A Beautiful Mind, and Superman, all who have some form of disability.
In both cases, the authors are reminding the reader that even famous people or characters, who many people may see as above normal society or as heroes, can even have disabilities too. This provokes emotion from the reader because like stated, these are people or characters that society often looks up to and like both writers are trying to say, their disabilities do not make them abnormal, and if their disabilities do dictate their life they do so in a positive way, unlike the negative stereotype that society has created.
When Mullins uses pathos in her speech she refers to disabilities as being able to be looked at as being “super-abled” if it wasn’t for the stereotypes already created by society. Mullins states that whenever children approached her they looked at her with a complete innocent state of mind that has yet to be altered because of society. Low supports the discrimination by society that Mullins discusses in her speech when he states that in the pseudo-radical observation of the disabled they view them as being defined by their disability.
They believe that both their individuality and humanity have been lost and that the fact that the disabled get treated so different from other humans leaves society with no choice other than to be discriminates (Low, 111). The emotion drew out in these examples leaves the reader questioning if they in fact discriminate against the disabled? Do they perform the generous acts for someone that is disabled in a purely genuine matter or does the idea of their disability sway the person’s personality to pity?
The materials used amongst the three authors to support their ideas of discrimination of the disabled in society along with trying to define disability both agree and contradict with each other. For example, Low uses a story about a giraffe and an elephant. The giraffe invites the elephant over to his house, which is accustomed for giraffes, so when the giraffe begins discriminating against the elephant for being too heavy and too wide, the elephant replies that he is not the problem to the house, the house is the problem to him.
This conveys the message that disabilities are what you make them. To one person missing a leg could very well serve as a huge disadvantage. To the person missing the leg though, with the adjustments they learn to make, it could very well be an advantage to them. This point is again supported by Mullins’ material when she says that her using a prosthetic limb does not have to be looked at a loss but rather her being able to be creative and serve as a symbol of power to use that space to generate whatever she pleases.
Low’s materials that are used evolve around the four ideologies of disability that he discusses. The pseudo-radical approach that he examines is that, generally, disabled people have a very negative experience with their life. This idea is both supported and disregarded in the other articles. Garland- Thomson supports the pseudo- radical view when she includes the magazine shots in her writing and then further goes on to say that they present disability as shameful and disposable, both negative things.
Where as, in Mullins’ speech, she talks about how being disabled has pretty much created the successful life she has. One can assume that if it weren’t for her disability she would not have had the inspiration, or at least been as passionate about creating prosthetic legs, as what she is today. The materials used by these authors all give very good information for the reader to begin forming their definition of disabled. At the same time though, the information presented can make you think twice about what disability is.
Reading these articles, from educated and credible individuals, and having them not firmly be able to state what they believe constitutes disability supports the idea that it is something very difficult to do. As stated at the end of the last paragraph, the authors and their information that this paper has been based off of are of credible sources. Using ethos the credibility of these authors can be revealed. A very prominent factor to Mullins reliability is that she has the first hand experience at the idea trying to be defined; she is disabled.
She has been through the stereotypes and discrimination that is stated to be so obviously found in society. The realization that she has overcome the adversity of her disability to become a successful person helps support the argument that maybe disabilities are not as bad as they are made out to be. Garland-Thomson has specified her studies in the area of disabilities. This is not simply just an area that she is interested in, but also one that she has made a career and a way of life out of.
She has written many books and has seen a wide variety of opinions, facts, and studies, all focused on the disabled. Similar to Mullins, Low is also experiencing the first hand effects of disability, as he is blind. He pursued a career in filmmaking amongst other things. This defies the ideas of disabilities hindering someone’s life as that he makes movies without the ability to see. These authors being credible makes it easier for the reader to trust and accept their opinions that are stated throughout the articles.
In addition, allowing the reader to use their ideas to contribute to their forming definition of being disabled. In conclusion, the analysis of these articles has better helped reveal some of the information and opinioned needed when attempting to define the disabled. Society has greatly influenced the meaning of disabled through the stereotypes formed and explained in the three author’s pieces. When the authors use their emotional appeal of ethos throughout their writing it is helpful to induce the reader’s emotions and let them to connect, enabling them to form a personal definition of disability.
In addition, the way that the author’s proclamations are strengthened by the materials and examples used, add to the clarity of the explanation of the disabled. The manner in which the three articles presented in this paper both agree and disagree with each other support the idea that disability may never clearly be defined. For as long as we have known, one’s disability may be someone else’s strength. Forming a clear and widely accepted definition of what being disabled constitutes can not and should not be able to be fully answered after this paper.
The project of this writing was to get a mind thinking of some of the discrimination that they may take place in themselves and if they in turn agree or disagree with the facts stated in this paper. Studies will continue to be done on the disabled along with society’s point of view on the subject. Similarly to how Low concludes his paper, I believe that the next step needing to be taken to accommodate the disabled into society is for both parties to meet halfway. Society and the disabled must accept that being disabled is both similar and different to someone of normal status in society.
This concept may take years more to begin to form or function properly but when it begins to do so discrimination of the disabled will lessen therefore clearing the way for a more distinct and accepted definition of disability. Works Cited Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Disability and Representation. 2nd ed. Vol. 120. N. p. : Modern Language Association, 2005. 522-27. Print. Low, Colin. “Some Ideologies of Disability. ” Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs 6. 2 (2006): 108-11. Print. Mullins, Aimee. “It’s Not Fair Having 12 Pairs of Legs. ” TED Talk. Speech.