I am an able-bodied male-coded individual, and despite the fact that being able-bodied is in truth a transitory condition for every single person alive – that some form of disability awaits us all as we age (Potok, 2002) – ableism remains prevalent, a “common set of stigmatizing social values and debilitating socially constructed hazards” that disabled people have to live with and navigate that results in recurring experiences of “cultural devaluation and socially imposed restriction, of personal and collective struggles for self-definition and self-determination” (Longmore & Umansky, 2001).
The normative attitudes toward disability arise from the medical model which locates the disability in the individual (as a failure in their body) rather than in the failure of social structures to ensure accessibility for all. This is a capitalist logic at root, in that the cost of addressing disabled folks’ social marginalization and economic deprivation would be high, while their value to the capitalist machine, built as it is on the bodies of workers, remains low. And so we have the conception of disability as “pathological rather than political, clinical and not cultural” (Longmore & Umansky, 2001). The primary building block of this structurally oppressive edifice of thought seems to lie in the idea of normality - positing disability, or sickness, as a deviation from it (Baynton, 2001).
This concept of normality is used to manage populations and situations, which brings us back to the present moment, one in which marginalized folks around the world were and continue to be disproportionately affected by the global pandemic, with people of colour the frontline workers among those most exposed, elderly folks in care homes a significant proportion of those tragically lost, and the disabled – which includes those who are immunocompromised and/or have what are known as “pre-existing conditions” – the most at continued risk. The vulnerable have been left to fend for themselves – with accessibility as high a priority for institutions as it ever was (meaning not very much at all).
Herein lies the difficulty: it’s incredibly hard to convince people that they should care about other people.
I may not be able to make anyone realize that it is good to care about other people, but I can certainly try to help people return to genuine care and compassion for themselves - in the hope that from such a place, genuine care and compassion for others might arise. With the well-being of my immunocompromised and high-risk clients in mind - as well as the basic issue of accessibility - I am therefore focusing on virtual (telehealth) sessions for now. If and when this changes, I am nevertheless decided to always retain this as an option for clients in the future.
Baynton, D. C. (2001). Disability and the justification of inequality in American history. In Longmore & Umansky (pp. 33–57), p. 33.
Longmore, P. K., & Umansky, L. (Eds.). (2001). The New Disability History: American Perspectives. New York: New York University Press, p. 12.
Potok, A. (2002). A Matter of Dignity: Changing the Lives of the Disabled. New York: Bantam Books, p. 12.
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health