“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, May 20, 2016

Seeing disability as the change in me

In other places on this blog, I have discussed the question, "What is disability?" I often will settle on saying that it is a combination of the medical model, characteristics of individuals and the social model characteristics of environments. Therefore, when I endeavor to address disability with interventions, I will try to help people with impairments to improve their skills, abilities, etc. and I will attempt to change environments such that they are not discriminatory against people who have the characteristic called impairment.
As I have thought through these effort to address disability, it occurs to me, particularly in the context of ministry, that when my work to address disability changes me, I have experienced success in changing the impact of disability. We often look for changes in individuals (they understand something, or have improved in some way for example as the result of special education) or changes in the larger social environment (such that it is less discriminatory or more willing to embrace integration, etc.). However, an equally relevant evidence of successfully addressing "disability" is the change that is seen in the change agent himself.
If I am more friendly, or tolerant or loving as a result of my efforts, I have experienced success in addressing disability in an individual or group.
Clearly, if our interventions only result in changes in the individual with the impairment, we are not fully addressing disability as defined above. Equally true is that if we only intervene to change the environment and do not work to assist someone with impairments to maximize their potential, we are also not fully addressing disability. However, it encouraging to note that the changes I see in myself are at the very least a small measure of my success in addressing disability.