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Disability justice

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     Disability justice is viewed as the framework through which it has sought to draw attention to the ways in which ableism has been related to many others who go through oppression (Berne, 2021). This field of study necessitates the needs as well as the voices of disabled people of color, immagriants, queers, trans, and gender non-conforming individuals, individuals who are houseless, individuals who are incarcerated, individuals whose ancestral lands have been stolen, and others with disabilities (Berne, 2021). It is based on ten principles; intersectionality, sustainability, collective liberation, interdependence, anti-capitalist politic, recognizing wholeness, commitment to cross-movement organizing, commitment to cross-disability solidarity, and leadership of those most impacted (Berne, Morales, Langstaff & Invalid, 2018). 


     Disability Justice as a concept advocates for justice and rights on behalf of those who live with disabilities. This includes, but is not limited to, justice for those who suffer from both "visible" and "invisible" disabilities. For example, many physical disabilities are often recognized as "visible" disabilities, due to the nature of their visibility by others within the community, both able-bodied and disabled alike. These include, but are not limited to, autism, Down syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Tourette syndrome, Amputations, Paralysis, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, and Multiple Sclerosis.  Invisible Disabilities, by contrast, tend to escape the scrutiny of the naked eye, and thus earn their title as "invisible." These include, but are not limited to, ADD, ADHD, Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, OCD, Asperger's, Diabetes, and other Chronic Illnesses. Disability Justice has gained momentum as a form of justice in the wake of the civil rights and women's rights movements. It seeks to create a sphere where those who live with disabilities are able to live or thrive in spite of, or because of, their status as disabled persons. The goal of disability justice is to allow those who live with disabilities access to the same resources associated with justice that are available to those who live without disabilities. Disability justice, in particular, is intersectional in nature, being that the disabled population finds itself among a highly diverse swath and group of the population, indiscriminately affecting many. Disability justice will remain an important issue in the years to come, as the disabled population remains a significant population whose needs should be addressed. 



     The intersectionality concept recognizes that each person has several identities. Each identity is vulnerable to oppression or advantage (Berne, Morales, Langstaff & Invalid, 2018). The sustainability concept emphasizes the importance of lessons about human lives and their bodies. It emphasizes long-term, societal, and individual direction and behaviors that lead to justice and liberty (Berne, Morales, Langstaff & Invalid, 2018). In collective liberation, nobody or mind should be left behind as jamming together helps achieve the revolution required in disability justice. Interdependence focuses on individuals meeting each other’s needs while working towards liberation. In disability justice, human worth depends on what and how a person produces (Berne, Morales, Langstaff & Invalid, 2018). As a result, the anti-capitalist political principle attacks the concept of labor owing to body supremacy, gender, and race. This  principle is recognizing wholeness, values people for who they are and places value on people outside their capitalist productivity (Berne, Morales, Langstaff & Invalid, 2018). Disabled people are whole people since they have their thoughts, sensations, emotions, fantasies, and perceptions.



     Cross-movement solidarity transfers the idea of disability to contextual ableism, which leads to unity among movements and individuals. Disability justice expands its potential as a movement aligned with racial, reproductive, environmental, and anti-police terror justice movements. As a result, disability justice enters alliance politics (Berne, Morales, Langstaff & Invalid, 2018). Commitment to cross-disability solidarity honors the insights and participation of all members despite the isolation they may face (Berne, Morales, Langstaff & Invalid, 2018). This type of justice fosters a movement that breaks down barriers between persons with physical disabilities, chronic illness, mental health problems, and developmental disabilities. It also focuses on leaders and people who are most impacted by the disability systems. It centers on the leadership of the most impacted and keeps disabled people grounded in problems and strategies to resist. 



Literature Review:

     Disability has been linked to various definitions. As a result, different models of disability have been developed to establish different views on disability. The medical model defines disability as a health or medical condition that differentiates individuals from normal human beings. The model recognizes that there are different procedures an individual can go through to correct their situation and achieve a sense of normalcy as defined by society (Lawson & Beckett, 2021). If medical interventions fail to restore the individual to normalcy, he or she is crippled, dysfunctional, or abnormal.



     The social model, on the other hand, describes impairments as necessary to human experience and exposes that certain situations are inappropriate for people with impairments. The model holds society responsible for the creation of disability. Simply put, it identifies disability from its organization rather than individual characteristics that leave a community vulnerable to the experiences of individuals (Lawson & Beckett, 2021). 



     The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) serves as a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, enhancing people with disabilities' political and economic power. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD promotes equitable opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political involvement for the approximately 60 million Americans with disabilities (AAPD, 2018). Convener is justified as Justin Dart, the ADA's father and one of the AAPD's founders, frequently urged for unity among all who value justice and equality. The disability community is enormous and extremely diverse. AAPD, as a convener, is a cross-disability organization that fosters trust and togetherness through open, honest dialogue. When we stand together on any issue, we have the capacity to effect long-term change (AAPD, 2018). As for connector, it is when disability happens to be an unavoidable aspect of the human experience that affects all of us. As a bridge, AAPD connects the disability community with our friends, foes, family, businesses, schools, and the larger community, amplifying a powerful voice for change (AAPD, 2018). Finally, catalyst serves like champions of justice have demonstrated, seemingly insignificant deeds can lead to great transformation. As a catalyst, AAPD takes action by initiating chain reactions that accelerate the pace and speed of change. A little spark can set off a chain reaction of events that have far-reaching consequences (AAPD, 2018). Individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to feel powerful within our society rather than inferior. This is a great organization that helps ignite change and give voice to individuals who are disabled in all demographics. Equality is the main focus to empower these individuals in society than can build trust in our communities anywhere.  



     According to Patty Berne, there has been phenomenal and historical work to develop the disability rights movements in the United States. The movements achieved significant victories in the improvement of independent living and the creation of new opportunities for disabled people. The activities collaborated with advocacy groups, service providers, constituency centers, and membership-based organizations involved in academic and cultural areas (Kopit, 2019). It focused on people who were disabled or marginalized and identified chances for them to get access to the legal and rights-based system. The radical activities of the movements invisibilized the lives of people who lived in oppression. It invisibilized people of color, disabled immigrants, disabled queers, homeless, disabled individuals and families, and disabled people oppressed through their ancestral lands. However, they did not address ableism in their radicalism. It led to significant discussions in 2005 that led to the second wave of disability rights, which launched the disability justice framework. The framework establishes an understanding that able-bodied supremacy has been formed concerning intersecting domination and exploitation systems (Kopit, 2019). It identifies that ableism cannot be understood without its interrelationships with colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy. It understands that all bodies are unique, essential; they have strengths and should be met and satisfied. Individuals are solid and robust due to the complexities of their bodies.



     She states that disability justice is from a collective struggle, and it draws up its legacies from cultural and spiritual resistance that have built consistent rebellion in daily lives. Disabled individuals from different communities share a common ground of confrontation and subverting the colonial powers in the struggle for life and justice. With the ten principles of disability justice, the framework is an honoring and longstanding legacy that develops resilience among disabled persons (Kopit, 2019).  It is a vision and practice that brings all disabled persons together to form a movement that views everyone as beautiful despite their differences. 



     Disability justice promoted participation, accountability, equality, and empowerment among disabled individuals and communities. It encourages disabled persons to participate in the decision-making processes that influence their lives, gain access to growth and development opportunities, and remain empowered through education and training programs (Kim & Sellmaier, 2020). Through it, disabled communities can exercise their rights and freedom within a society without any limitations. As a result, disability justice is linked to social justice. Social justice is the concept that asserts that everyone is entitled to equal economic, political, and social possibilities. It is associated with all persons having equal rights, options, and treatment. It is aimed towards marginalized and disadvantaged persons and groups such as disabled people, the elderly, women, and young people (Kim & Sellmaier, 2020). Social justice is based on access, participation, rights, and equity principles. Furthermore, social justice is linked to economic justice. Economic justice is a collection of ideas that ensures that economic infrastructure promotes an environment in which individuals have equal opportunity. In addition, a foundation that empowers communities to live creative, dignified, and productive lives. It is founded on three guiding principles: participative, distributive, and social justice. Participatory justice focuses on how each individual contributes to a country's economic prosperity. It involves disabled and marginalized people who participate in the labor-intensive manufacturing of goods and services. Distributive justice refers to the matching of outputs depending on an individual's labor and capital input  (Kim & Sellmaier, 2020). It ensures that everyone has the opportunity to acquire and enjoy the benefits of their hard work and effort. Social justice is a type of corrective feedback and guiding concept that promotes an equitable and balanced economic order. It aspires to other ideals as well, such as truth, equity, and fairness.


Major debates in Disability Justice 


A. Intellectual Disability and the Question of Citizenship


One realm where Disability Justice theorists have prominent debate is in the area of intellectual disability and the question of citizenship. John Rawls, the political theorist and philosopher who advocated for the concept of the original position and the veil of ignorance, is the main figure involved in this debate. In Rawls' work, he mostly excludes discussion about disability and reveals traces of ableist prejudice. Rawls' inability to recognize people with intellectual disabilities as rational agents ultimately casts doubt on the universal applicability of Rawls' original position theory. Rawls conceptualized "normal" functioning along a scale that operationalized "normal" according to IQ measures. This allows Rawls to remove any conception of disability from original position theory. In Stacy Clifford Simplican's The Capacity Contract, the author explicitly states that "Rawls constructs people with intellectual disabilities as peripheral to matters of justice and abnormal to human functioning" (Simplican, 76). Rawls' failure to take into account what the author sees as the terms of redistribution being necessitated by the range of capacities present. Therefore, the cost of freedom of mobility and equal participation, under the difference principle according to Rawls, will be higher for some people with disabilities.


Rawls also appears to stigmatize the disabled as arousing pity, which highlights the discrepancy between implicit and explicit beliefs about disabled persons. This stigmatization of disabled persons then makes it easier for able-bodied persons to avoid explicit questions of justice that address those within the disabled community. In particular, Tod Browning's 1932 movie Freaks uses the spectacle of carnival sideshow performers in the early twentieth century as a means of telegraphing a satirical message wherein the characters that make up the carnival sideshow are both viewed with repulsion and discomfort by the audience, while simultaneously being the heroes of the film, in the face of the venal exploitation of their good nature by the able-bodied characters in the movie.  While the message of the film is moralistic, the film itself acts as a cinematic example of the stigmatization of disabled persons. Within The Capacity Contract, Simplican further makes the case that critical and feminist theorists' critiques of Rawls' commitment to compulsory capacity is equally flawed as they "continue to disavow disability, either by failing to comprehend fully the function of disability in Rawls's work or by relying on citizens' cognitive capacities to remedy the consequences of deeply embedded theoretical exclusions" (Simplican, 83). Returning to the film Freaks, critical disability scholars point to disabled people surfacing as narrative tropes, for example, used to symbolize death, foreboding or malevolent nature. Charles Mills critiques Rawls' construction of ideal cognitive capacities as a source of inequality but then calls on the production of heightened cognitive skills to combat inequality. Ultimately, Simplican's argument is that Rawls' framework fails to include those with intellectual disabilities as part of the discussion on justice, by physical spaces that discriminate on the basis of cognitive capacity and by reliance on philosophical solutions to democracy that depend on the further exclusion of disabled persons. 



B. Models of Disability 


Historically, discussions around disability have been separated into two distinct models, the Medical Model of disability and the Social Model of disability. The Medical Model of disability posits that disability is a problem that belongs to the disabled individual. Within this model, the disabled person is seen as the only one being affected and so the issue of a disability is placed squarely upon the disabled individual. The Social Model of disability, by contrast, sees society itself as the cause of disability, since the design of society is tailored to fit the needs of the able-bodied. The onus is placed on society, then, to remove the barriers to disabled persons, persons who if not comprising the majority of society, do still deserve the same access available to able-bodied persons. The medical model attempts to remedy the issues faced by those with disabilities by striving to allow them to lead a "normal" life, which places the source of the disability on the disabled person. This asserts that disabled persons are somehow inferior due to not fitting in with normative ideas of ability. The Social Model asserts that barriers within society are what disables individuals and, thus, personhood may be reasserted through inclusive means.



 When conceptualizing these two disparate models, we can see that in the Medical Model, the disabled person can be seen as being "broken" and needing to be "fixed, repaired, or corrected." The Social Model sees society and the barriers it has in place for disabled persons as being the main issue that needs to be addressed. The Social Model of Disability has come to be the prevailing model when used to describe disability, as it offers a more inclusive means of addressing concerns within the disability community as a whole. The social model of disability evolved from the political activism of disabled people's movements and disabled scholars. According to one of the creators of the social model of disability, the social model "does not deny the problem of disability but locates it squarely within society" (Terzi, 90). The social model is made legitimate because it expresses the experience, reflection and political aims of disabled people. Further, the social model advocates that 'normal' as a concept is something that can be addressed by and within the social model. Just as disability can be defined by the social model as a barrier, so too can 'normal' be seen as a construct of society, and not a biological function, as it might be perceived under the medical model. 



C. Capability Perspectives on Impairment and Disability


Amartya Sen believes that the object of egalitarian concern should be evaluating people's capability to achieve valued functionings. Capability reflects the person's ability and freedom to lead one type of life or another. According to Sen, equality of capability should be the appropriate objective of social policy. By adjusting for the human diversity of any given population, the capability approach factors in differences when addressing the demands of equality. The capability approach offers an egalitarian perspective that deals with the complexities of disability. The capability approach also promotes a conception of disability as one aspect of human diversity, comparable to age, gender, and race. According to capability theorists, physical and mental impairments should receive attention under a just institutional order and the distribution of resources and goods should be correlated with the distribution of natural features. The Capability Perspective on disability provides insights "toward a criterion for social justice in evaluating the demands of disability within the space of capability, in considering disability as having a specific place in the metric used to assess individual shares, and in reinstating the importance of the social framework both in influencing disability and in determining inclusion" (Terzi, 104). The Capability Approach, then, has significant application within the realm of disability justice. The capability approach to disability justice sees disability as a case where a human being has an extraordinary or greater than average need for resources in order to get a bare minimum threshold with regard to capabilities. 





     Disability justice is crucial as it helps in securing equal opportunities and rights for all people with disabilities. It breaks any barriers that stop disabled people from living everyday lives like other people. It blocks institutional, societal, and cultural barriers that may arise due to philosophical beliefs. It involves solidarity models that promote mutual respect and aid among individuals despite their differences. 


What makes Disability Justice such a compelling topic for inclusion in discussions of justice? The reality is that when one factors in the variety of disabilities that fall under the umbrella of both "visible" and "invisible" the potential for either ourselves or our loved ones, such as friends and family, to live with a disability becomes highly apparent. As a result, conceptions of justice that fail to take into account considerations of disability do a serious disservice to any sophisticated conception or theory of justice. Furthermore, disability justice concerns help us conceptualize justice concerns for other groups that have historically been outside the purview of justice, as the disability rights movement was mobilized during the same period as the Civil Rights Movement and Women's Rights Movement. Disability Justice also reveals who we perceive as worthy of citizenship and rights. The historic use of ableism to deny rights to minorities reveals that disability justice is a concern for all people. Disability Justice concerns also address issues of gender inequality, immigration, voting rights, labor, healthcare, education, housing, criminal justice, environment and infrastructure. Thus Disability Justice as an issue has roots in almost every other societal issue and justice concern. Disability Justice concerns will remain an important part of justice concerns in the foreseeable future, and proof of this comes in the form of the Disability Justice Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to use disability as a lens to across policy issues, centering wholeness, intersectionality and inclusivity to ensure both lawmakers and the greater progressive community understand disability issues as part of the broader set of issues progressives fight for every day. 




          AAPD. (2018). AAPD: American Association of People With Disabilities. 



Berne, P. (2021). What is Disability Justice? CODE: Commission On Disability Equality. The Regents of the University of California. 


Berne, P., Morales, A. L., Langstaff, D., & Invalid, S. (2018). Ten principles of disability justice. WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, 46(1), 227-230.


Kim, J., & Sellmaier, C. (2020). Making disability visible in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(3), 496-507.


Kopit, A. (2019). Defiant Memory as Disability Justice: An Interview with Patty Berne of Sins Invalid. American Quarterly, 71(2), 415-423.


Lawson, A., & Beckett, A. E. (2021). The social and human rights models of disability: towards a complementarity thesis. The International Journal of Human Rights, 25(2), 348-379.


Rawls, John. 2005. Political Liberalism. New York. Columbia University Press. 


San Francisco, A. I. D. S. (2020). “It’s about love”: Disability justice reframes access to focus on love and inclusion. policy.


Simplican, Stacy C. 2015. The Capacity Contract. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press.


Terzi, Lorella. 2009. "Vagaries of the Natural Lottery? Human Diversity, Disability, and Justice: A Capability Perspective." In Disability and Disadvantage. Edited by Kimberley Brownlee and Adam Cureton. New York: Oxford University Press, 86-104


University of Leicester. The Social and Medical Model of Disability. N.D. <https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/accessability/staff/accessabilitytutors/information-for-accessability-tutors/the-social-and-medical-model-of-disability> (12/08/19)


Wikipedia. Disability Rights Movement. 11/28/2019. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability_rights_movement> (12/08/2019)









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