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2004 Conference Archive
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'Non-disabled' - an oxymoron? Exploring the foundations of a divisive label

Jennifer Harris, Social Policy Research Unit, University of York

Powerpoint presentation


There are several reasons why the term 'non-disabled' is problematic within the social model of disability. Firstly, there is the fact that very few people enjoy total health in today's society due to combinations of environmental pollution, stress, exhaustion and lack of time for family life caused by the requirements of capitalist society. The latter ensure that most people experience impairment at some stage of their lives. In this light, where are the 'non-disabled' to be found? Secondly, the term 'non-disabled' is part of a dichotomous relation to 'disabled' within the social model - it is an either/or descriptive label that cannot cope with the realities of fluctuating impairment levels experienced by yet another group of people. However, the real problem with the 'non-disabled' label is its effects, which are divisive, which exclude older people who acquire impairments and cause problems for Deaf people also.

In the paper I will explore these effects via an examination of the genesis of the disability movement which was constructed upon the politics of difference, thereby casting the 'out-group' as oppressors. Whilst not denying the realities of oppression, the paper seeks to explore whether what is required is a more sophisticated framework that copes with the complexities of current lived experience.

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