Ability, Disability, and Erasure
Consider the notion that an individual with a disability may feel primarily defined by his or her ability status. Also, consider the historical treatment of people with disabilities and the number of individuals who were euthanized and sterilized in the U.S. and across the globe due to having a disability.
For decades, individuals with disabilities were left in institutions, hidden away from the rest of society. Parents were told if their child was born with a disability, they should have them locked away. Consider in today’s society how people with disabilities are still “hidden.” Think about how many people you see each day that have a visible disability. While there are many hidden disabilities that should not be ignored, it is significant to recognize the limited number of people you see each day with disabilities. Also, consider how others react toward a person with a disability in public. Do they stare? Do they move away? Do they invade the person’s space and ask inappropriate questions? What experiences have you seen in public with a person with a disability? Why do you think society has marginalized this group for so long? Why are those with disabilities limited or eliminated from full participation in society today? Who has the right to decide what makes a “good life” and how is that decision made?
To prepare: Read the case “Working With Individuals With Disabilities: Valerie.”
An explanation of why our society has marginalized those with varying abilities historically. Then, explain the role of social workers in supporting clients with varying abilities (not limited to physical and mental) while recognizing and honoring those clients’ other identity characteristics. Use specific examples from the case study in your explanation.
Summary of Valerie’s case:
In the case study Working With Individuals With Disabilities: Valerie, the social worker treated Valerie as any other (able-bodied) client. She listened to Valerie’s concerns and reasons for reaching out and then created goals for them to work on and the most pressing issues to address. The social worker describes a traumatizing memory for Valerie, which brings insight to the conflicting position she is in. The fact that Valerie was smart enough to make a plan and get herself out of the abusive situation is definitely praise worthy in sessions. To make sure Valerie knows her worth and celebrates the victories of her decisions is part of a social worker’s job. This points out other attributes and breaks her from any mold of being disabled. Valerie also took it upon herself to reach out and get help for her depression and anxiety on multiple occasions including this one. Also, recognizing the struggles and allowing Valerie a safe place to discuss how she feels as someone with some physical challenges in a world created for non-disabled people, allowed Valerie to feel safe and confident and recognize that while there are often challenges, they are not obstacles she cannot over come, especially considering what she has already overcome in her past.