Disabilities in Society
Disabilities in Society
Disabilities in Society
Disability may take two different approaches depending on the frame of reference or the circumstances. The meaning of disability may take a bio-medical approach or a functional approach. For the purpose of this research paper, disability shall be assessed on two main points of view. First, a disability shall be defined as any condition that when judged on the basis of function, it renders an individual impaired in comparison to the typical or standard way of functioning. Statistically, disability can be understood as a condition that renders an individual’s performance or functioning in a particular area to fall below the population average or the average performance of the general group in the same area. This impairment may be cognitive, intellectual, physical, mental disability, or some types of chronic diseases.
Disabilities are everywhere in the society. In learning institutions, there are students with learning disabilities. At the workplace there are individuals or employees with disabilities. While some disabilities originate from childhood or childhood experiences, some originate from the adulthood when an individual is already in the working-age. This research paper explores both scenarios and makes an attempt to draw a connection between them consequently assessing the policy implications of disabilities in the society and the practicability of these social policies in achieving their objectives. The main aim of this research paper is to explore disability on a wider perspective and examine it with respect to the society’s attitude to disability then explores policy implications of the experiences of the disabled members of the society with a more inclination on the learners and those in the working-age.
The theoretical framework used in this research paper is based on the framework developed by Connors (2007), which traces disability in the society from the sociology of childhood and through the social relationship model while at the same time incorporating the aspect of difference in the model. Even though the Connors’ theoretical was basically focused on exploring the experiences of children with disabilities in the society, the model is fit for this particular study since it gives an appropriate approach to the roots of disability and provides a better understanding of the experiences disabled members of the society experience from childhood to adulthood. Therefore, the theoretical framework of this paper is developed on the basis of the social model of disability and the social relational model of disability and incorporates the concept of difference to explore the subject of disability in the society. One part puts emphasis on the importance of the environment on the participation while the other puts emphasis on the significance of the quality of life.
The majority of previous childhood studies have dwelled mainly on exploring and researching on the development of the child and the main areas of focus have been the child’s psychological development, social development and physical development. it is important to trace disabilities in the society from a childhood perspective because most disabilities originate from early days of human development. However, as has been mentioned, the studies on childhood development did not put into consideration the disabilities that children acquire or are born with and which they live with into their adulthood. The studies mainly viewed children in adult eyes thereby giving children a passive role in their development. They were therefore viewed by the society as adults in training (Mayall 2002). The notion that childhood, as opposed to biological immaturity, could be a result of socially constructed aspect that results from the interplay of factors like social class, individual’s gender and ethnicity only came to materialization in the course of the ‘sociology of childhood’. A number of studies (e.g. Mayall 2002 and James 1993) recognized that children possess a distinctive perspective and dynamically shaping their own lives. These studies, which have provided a clearer picture of children’s accounts of their experiences, have enabled the society to realize and appreciate that the lives of the children in the society are not homogenous. This lack of homogeneity therefore necessitates studies that look at the children all their diversity (Brannen and O’ Brien 1995). Studies must pay special attention to the children’s experiences if at all the general themes in the lives of children should be understood. This approach, according to Colver (2005) in his paper on social model of disability, brings out greater potential for understanding the social model of disability and integrating the understanding with the sociology of childhood and this in turn allows a better understanding of the experiences of the disabled children. The social model accentuates the significance of the environment to participation.
Connors’ work (2005) was principally important to the achievement of this paper’s objective because of the extensive work laid out in the study relating to the experiences of the disabled people in the society. The author provides an extensive relationship between unequal social relationship and disabilities in the society. The author further likens this relations hip and its origins in the society to that or racism and sexism, which both result in social impositions of restrictions “of activity on the impaired people by the non-impaired members of the society” (Connors 2005). These imposed restrictions could be through creation of barriers to the individual to do something or to being someone. Barriers could be created and imposed on the disabled individual to do something that is physical or economic. Such barriers could also be material barriers such as inaccessibility to buildings, transport, and these by nature will restrict the disabled person from undertaking activities related to the barriers created. This point is further reinforced by the study carried by Bradbury et al (2001), who reiterate that creation of socio-economic barriers to the disabled members of the society is an impetus to prevalence of apathy and the notion that disabilities are a tragic accident and a mess to the enforcement of socio-economic policies.
Learning disability affects the intelligence quotient of the individual. It is a condition that leads to fall in individual’s intelligence quotient below the normal range. Brain is affected adversely which makes the individual unable to perform very well in various activities. Children with learning disabilities encounter difficulties in sensory information processing which in turn impacts on the ability of the individual to interpret various activities in the learning institution. Learning disability limits individual ability to see, hear and properly understand what is been imparted to them in school like other normal students. It is important to take care of these persons in order to avoid severe impacts.
Duquette (1998) provides an explorative assessment of the various teaching techniques that should be used in the learning institutions that have students who have learning disabilities. It is imperative to understand the fact that children with learning disabilities are not very attentive, cannot realize their dreams by their own. They have to be assisted to learn various ways of doing things. Learning disabilities generally affect the process of information relay in the nervous system. This affects the way information is received, processed or communicated.
Allyn and Bacon (2007) posit that instruction intermarried with effectual teaching for students with learning disabilities calls for expert familiarity in the areas of spoken language and reading and proficiency in writing as well as specialized knowledge in handling math. This further calls for evidence based teaching within each area as proposed by Summer (2007).
As an instructor, it is important to realize that there are learning disabilities which encumber learners of average or above-average acumen in easily and reliably processing a range of types of information. For instance learners with dyslexia exhibit a perceptual deficit that scuttles sequences of letters or numbers. For this reason, it would be a big achievement for the teacher to understand how the learning disability exhibits itself and the methods that the student previously used to handle the disability in the past. The instructor will only gain the knowledge of that if he discusses with student about the issue. In addition, it is vital that the instructor appreciates that learning disabilities do not stem from a learner’s intelligence (Allyn and Bacon 2007). They also don’t result from physical or emotional health of the student; neither are they as a result of the student’s cultural background or socioeconomic circumstances. It is possible for learning disabilities to exist amid other disabilities. For example learners who have head injuries that are brought about by traumatic accidents may require adjustments (accommodations) similar to those provided to persons with learning disabilities.
Secondly, as supported by Hartman’s study (2008), there are a number of universal teaching techniques which may be very supportive and helpful in making learners with disabilities experience the necessary comfort in the classroom hence show maximum performance possible. First and foremost, while preparing the syllabus, it is important to incorporate a statement learning disability accommodation. For instance it would take something like: “If you have a disability and would wish to have specific accommodations, kindly discuss this issue with the professor.” Such a statement would clearly act as an indicator to the students with disabilities that the instructor, mentor, tutor or teacher is at ease to discuss the potential need for accommodations. Additionally, it acts as a fillip to the students by encouraging them to talk about accommodations prior to the actual need for them. The instructor carries the tool that can create an amicable environment for learning. For this reason, the instructor should inform the students in every meeting of every class about the Centre for Special Services (for students with disabilities), if any. The instructor may also be obliged to discuss privately with the students with learning disabilities more so those that have disclosed their condition and hence go further to ask them how the course could be made a good learning experience for them (Allyn & Bacon 2007). This would be helpful in bringing confidence in them. Students with disabilities may most likely have a problem with time management. To help them out of this, the instructor should issue sufficient notice concerning due dates for assignments. The students may also find reading and writing to be quite hectic and time-consuming. The instructor should therefore allow for extensions for assignments so that such students do not feel punished for their disabilities.
It is not only in the classroom that the people with learning disabilities will have problems. Even in examinations and undertaking of assignments. Duquette (1998) advices that the instructor should consider alternate methods for the exams as well as the assignments so that the students with disabilities are permitted to have input into the dialogue about alternate methods (for instance allow for handing in of electronic exams for hard copies). If the instructor encourages the students to play an active role in the classroom, it would be an impetus to their self- confidence and give them an opportunity to make it evident to others that they are not academically disabled. This would further enhance the student’s own learning (Abbott et al 2004).
For those students with visual impairment, it is appropriate for the instructor to address the particular student with his/her name. Apart from that, the students with visual impairment especially those with low vision should be provided with copies of overheads and board work. For easier follow-up of the lectures by the students, the instructor should allow them to audiotape the lectures. There are names whose spelling may not strictly follow conventions. Such proper names should be spelt out by the instructor for clarity to the students.
Abbott et al (2004) argue that visual aides may be necessary if the concerned students have hearing impairment (this may call for items like acetates and slides). Secondly, the instructor should make use of a microphone in a large room and understand that while such a student with hearing impairment speech-reads, she or he does not see the instructor’s lips and therefore the instructor should talk while facing the class rather than the chalkboard. The instructor has a responsibility to extend his or her teaching expertise to the laboratory and in the fieldwork too. To achieve this, the instructor should ensure that when assigning group lab projects, it is done in such a manner that allows every individual of the group to contribute in accordance to individual member abilities. The laboratory equipment should be arranged in a way that makes them accessible to every individual and visible by everyone (Duquette 1998).
According to Summer, (2007), it is very important to employ appropriate teaching technique so as to ensure that students with specific learning disabilities can also get equal learning opportunity. These techniques are applied under different situations. Moreover, Hartman (2008) reiterates that these depend entirely on place where learning process is being carried out such as classroom, laboratory, examinations room and field work as discussed above. The technique to be used is predetermined to ensure efficiency (Hartman, 2008). When students are in classroom, it is important for the institution to select courses in advance to enable the students with learning disabilities get enough time to translate them to audiotape or large print. The teachers should make syllabus in advance, short assignment sheets so that they can be used by these students (Duquette 1998). The lecturers should give lectures in very supreme way in that they write key phrases and lecture outlines on the overhead projector.
Disabilities in Society
As Hartman (2008) adds in his paper on student disability paper, when students are going to learn in the laboratory, it is recommendable that the students with learning disability are permitted to take a tour in advance so that they can learn safety concerns so as to avoid injuries. Lab projects should be assigned according to abilities so as to enable all students undertake their projects efficiently and complete in time. The institution should ensure that the lab equipment is arranged in a manner that all students can access all the equipments necessary for learning. Lecturers should give oral or written lab instructions.
Some past studies have recommended that students with learning disabilities should undertake their exams in an environment free of distractions (e.g. Summer 2007 and White et al 2000). The exams should focus on the skills and abilities of each student (Hartman 2008). Students with learning disabilities should be given extra time during the time of examination. Exams should be composed in a way that disabled students can easily access them and that they are clearly typed in large black letters with spaces between lines (Duquette 1998). The items in between should be double or triple spaced so as the students can easily read.
Teachers should be very sensitive to students with learning disabilities who may not be able to read aloud due to certain impairments. Teachers and lecturers have the obligation to discuss ways in which students with learning disabilities can participate in class work upon realizing their deficits. Some of the most powerful tools that an instructor can develop include respect to the students, positive attitudes, flexibility and acceptance (Summer 2007, and Hartman 2008). In situations where the students are faced with teachers who mistrust them or who are not flexible, they (students) become disheartened and may easily fail to maximize on their performance.
Disabilities in Society
Studies have shown that research into the area of disabilities in the society would be meaningless if the studies cannot lead to a quantitative contribution to the subject by creating a positive attitude towards disability and people with disabilities (Connors, 2005, and Hannon, 2010). In the study by Hannon (2010), the author posits that the key to improving the efficacy of the efforts pit into addressing the negative experiences of the disabled people in the society should focus on changing the attitudes to people with disabilities. Hannon further observes that there have been persistent negative attitudes to disability around the world though the trend is improving with more awareness being put into action and governments as well as other stakeholders investing considerably in the creation of awareness in the area of disabilities in the society.
In another research study, White, Jackson and Gordon (2006) explore the implicit and explicit attitudes toward sportspersons with disabilities and they reiterate that there is a positive relationship between the attitude and the experiences of the athletes with disabilities. Their study further show that the prevalent attitudes, which are negative in nature, provide evidence that the members of the society that have disabilities are not yet fully integrated into the society especially given that they are expressed towards intimate relationships for the individuals with disabilities.
Disabilities in Society
Studies have indicated that more positive attitudes are expected when individuals who have disabilities voluntarily get together with other members of the society who have disabilities. Negative attitudes among the people with disabilities deserves special attention since it is likely to slow progress towards equality when it is the disabled people who have negative attitudes about disability. It means policy making also slows down since the campaigns must target the negative attitudes from the individuals without disabilities and those with disabilities. The campaign is all about the change of the mindset.
The attitudes could be related top employment where barriers have been created to enhance the socially constructed boundaries within the workplaces or the society in general. Appropriate support mechanisms have been explored by Hannon’s study (2010) as a way that can help employers to have positive attitudes towards those with disabilities and disability as a whole. Hannon (2010) argues that if such mechanisms are put in place the welfare of workers that have intellectual and mental health can be improved. To support this idea by Hannon, Corrigan and Gelb (2006) argue that the welfare of the mentally incapacitated individuals can be improved through the mass approaches that target employers and the society in general through specific group targets.
Throughout the body of research that has been carried out in the past it is evident that a number of interventions techniques are common for all the authors in the studies. These intervention techniques have been proposed to influence attitude formation in the society and they include direct contact with the members of the society with disabilities and those that do not have disabilities (Connors, 2005, Hannon, 2010 and Blessing et al, 1999).
The study by Blessing et al (1999) specifically mentions legislation and providing support for the participation of the people who have disabilities and they should be encouraged and supported to participate in all spheres of the society. Besides this support, another intervention technique is to ensure that the society is void of any structures of segregation and discrimination against disability or individuals with disabilities. Encouraging increased political organization and extensive debate and discussion in academic and public realms focusing on disability issues. Since each of the interventions proposed by the studies is targeted to play a particular and vital role in generating positive attitudes to disability in the society, every effort must be made to translate research evidence into actual practice.
All reasonable advances to attaining the full participation of individuals with disabilities incorporate doing away with all the socially constructed obstacles to achieving human potential. These obstacles may take various settings that include environmental, political or psychological constructions. They may also be educational in nature, institutional and social.
Doing away with these barriers provides the people with disabilities with access to the fundamental conditions needed to operate as independent and responsible people. These essential conditions include education, housing, working conditions, impartial and fair remuneration for work, justice, impartiality and the chance to be involved in civic and other socio-cultural aspects in day-to-day life. This has been documented as a proper way of ensuring socio-economic security and social inclusion of the individuals with disabilities.
Social integration is an important aspect of the human development and this can be facilitated through participation of the individuals with disabilities in physical activities and sports. According to Hannon (2010) social integration of the disabled members of the society through such events as sports and physical activities also helps in bridging the cultural boundaries that create barriers in human interaction and bolsters efforts that aim at overcoming prejudice or discrimination in the society against that have diverse characters. It is through these social interaction opportunities that the individuals (whether those who have or who don’t have disabilities) can learn social issues such as fair play and teamwork and gain more knowledge on solidarity as a strength. In addition Rosenbaum (2009) while looking at childhood disability and social policies argues that social interactions that involve many members of society coming together help the members of the society to understand and appreciate the needs of the other. These perspectives echo those taken by O’Toole (2006), who argues that socio-cultural and civic participation are more profound to the aspect of human development than most individuals may just think of culture as a part of going or not going to the movie theater. O’Toole supports the idea of these interactions being important in supporting human development by arguing that sport is essential in improving education while paving the way for more integration between and among members of the society and cultures.
The disabled members of the society may be faced with situations that seem to create a social barrier that hinders them from achieving an objective that would help them in fulfilling their fundamental needs in the society (Swain et al 2004). Studies have showed that social barriers have a very restricting aspect and need to be identified to a particular setting of the external social world such as in the employment environment, in educational setting (institutions of learning), transport and housing among other settings. In their study, Connors and Stalker (2003) focused on the barriers that are restricted to learning institutions environment and came up with four barriers they considered significant in impacting the lives of the disabled students negatively. The researchers noted that lack of access to recreational facilities and clubs is a major barrier more so for teenagers. Another factor that plays a major role as a barrier is the transport difficulties. Scarcity of after-school activities that the disabled in learners can creatively engage in is also a major barrier in the learning environment. Communication being a major element in human interactions, it also becomes a barrier the disabled individuals do not get the support they need to communicate effectively and this further affects ability to interact hence limiting extent of human social development. Apart from the learning institutions, barriers can also be seen in the employment environment or the workplace (Swain et al 2004).
While the government or the society may come up with social policies to address the plight of people with disabilities and their rights, the society is not stagnant but a constantly changing and dynamic that the relevance of a policy may have to be revised from time to time to incorporate some of the realities that come up as these changes in the society are embraced. The practical application of effective disability policy is impeded by a number of hurdles. Some of these hurdles relates to the working of the social policies while some challenges lie in the implementation. Coming up with a consistent policy goal has been an obstacle to the effectiveness of the social policy programs that address the rights of the individuals with disabilities.
Prior to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it was commonly believed and held as wisdom that working-age people who have disabilities were not able to work and therefore not expected to work. The Act however challenged this notion based on a key input from proponents who contended that the chief barrier to employment was the unequal access to jobs and not a worker’s impairment as was commonly construed. These proponents felt that to say a worker is disabled was to fail o accommodate particular citizens in the society by constructing a social barrier that had multifaceted impact on the society. The impact could be economic, unequal wealth distribution, unequal access to employment that creates huge disparities in income among other factors. According to the proponents of the ADA, social policies addressing the rights of the disabled in the society had a practical application if everyone is provided equal rights in all spheres of the society because the disability-transfer population would be zero. However, an important and equally disturbing question is whether the disabled members of the society should categorically be expected to work and this question concerns the rights and responsibilities of the disabled people who are of the working-age.
The society is highly dynamic and the first step in having a social policy for disability is the creation of a common understanding of the terms and related terms. By having legal definitions of disability and other terms such as impairment, it creates a common point of reference since the society understands disability very differently from the way the policy documents would put. Therefore, social policy programs have their definitions of disability and these definitions provide boundaries of who is covered under the program. For instance, Americans with Disabilities Act and Disability Insurance policy both have definitions of disability that allows them to cover a given set of individuals with disabilities. The society’s understanding is different and that is why special efforts must be put into action to ensure negative attitudes to disability are dispelled. For this reason, the government must, from time to time to ascertain that there are measures guaranteeing the social and economic welfare of the disabled members of the society. Since the advent of the pragmatic social policy and particularly between 1989 and mid 1990 several changes were made that actually showed how disability policy is a changing and dynamic aspect of the society. The government issued three key documents and made other far-reaching proposals targeting the economic welfare of the disabled in the society and their social welfare as well. Nevertheless, the disabled people have not had homogenous reactions to the social policy changes made in past. For instance, in the United Kingdom, some changes were made in 1990 which aimed at extending the benefits to the disabled people in the UK by proposing to take care of the extra costs of disability and provide other supplementary allowances to the disabled people who work in low-paid work (Hannon 2010). In the same country, there was the caring for peoplepolicy document, which focused on procedures for evaluating “the social care needs of disabled people and the development of care packages set against the background of local authorities’ limited resources” (Hannon 2010).
In the United States, the rights of the disabled people in the society are protected by the American with Disabilities Act- ADA of 1990. This Act extended civil rights protection for the disabled people against being discriminated against at the place of work and in employment. The passage of the ADA-1990 characterized a clear effort to transform the spotlight of US disability policy further than income transfers for individuals with disabilities who stayed out of the labor market(Oliver 1999). The focus was rather put on the employment support for people with disabilities who faced disability-related barriers at their places of work that impeded employment. The point underlying this change in focus was that by eliminating disability- related obstacles to employment, people with disabilities would have increased freedom to opt for work over the benefits receipt that disability attracted. In spite of these efforts, the biggest influence of federal government social policy on individuals with disabilities is still being felt through the Disability Insurance (DI policy) and through Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While the DI is a social insurance plan that targets the regularly employed members of the society who might experience a disability that could entirely prevent them from working and SSI is a categorical welfare plan that offers benefits to those who are completely prevented from working by their disability; both programs were founded under the Social Security Act (1935) even though SSI was created under Title XVI while DI under Title II of the Act.
Despite the good intention of the social policy programs in addressing the issues that affect the disabled people with respect to employment, there have been some arguments that some evidence indicate that these programs have not had considerable impact on improving the employment opportunities of the individuals living with disabilities (e.g. Burkhauser & Daly 2002). The authors have argued using the 1990s data, which shows that employment rate among people of the working-age, plunged while the benefits rolls and expenditures went up. The authors call this circumstantial evidence nevertheless.
Social policy that targets disability in the US incorporates two main components one of which is the employment protection. The other component comprises transfers. The federal disability transfers are limited only to those individuals who have disabilities that prevent them from functioning in a substantially gainful way. However, ADA (1990) provides a much broader employment protection for those with disabilities and also targets a broader group of individuals with disabilities. It includes even individuals who have the capacity and ability to work in the labor market. The following analysis looks at the social policy in terms of the transfers and employment protection on the basis of the available social policy programs.
These two policies trace their origins to the 1935 Social Security Act of 1935. The two social policy programs are managed by the Social Security Administration that provides qualifications for eligibility. According to the SSA, “the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity, by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or last at least 12 months” (Social Security Administration, 2000). Therefore, to qualify for eligibility, an applicant must be impaired such that they cannot in any area that is recognized within the economy and for which hold qualifications with respect to their age, education and experience in the area of work. In addition, the programs only start issuing benefits after a mandatory five–month waiting period. Upon request for application for disability consideration, the officials and the applicant gather sufficient information and then the applicant feels the appropriate form after which the application is passed over to state agency for determination verification of the disability. The criterion for determining eligibility for disability benefits is homogenous across all the states while the results of the process vary from one state to another. The two programs have different goals even though they share same administration center and eligibility criteria. The object of the Disability Insurance is to offer qualified members with “earnings replacement insurance” when they exit the labor market due to disability. The benefits of this program are provided through a special tax on the payroll and contributed by the employer and the employee.
This Act provides a broader definition of disability hence covers a broader set of individuals with disabilities. According to the Act, disability is considered to be any physical or mental impairment that significantly limits an individual or individuals key life activity, a verification of such an impairment, or being considered as having such an impairment. To this effect, Title I of the Act obliges employers to make reasonable considerations to employees with disabilities except where such accommodations would cause unwarranted hardship on the normal operation of business.
The results of this research shows that the reaction of the society towards disabilities and individuals with disabilities plays a major role in determining the success in elimination of the social barriers that are constructed by the same society and which impede the achievement of equity within the workplace, political environment, learning environment, civic and social arena. The research further established that the effective practical application of the social policies and other social initiatives established by non-governmental institutions depends on the seriousness with which the policies are passed and implemented. For the students and learners with disabilities, most of policy changes that need to be made are explored within the literature with reference to the various studies that have focused on the improvement of the welfare of the students and learners with disabilities. The changes include making accommodations within the curriculum and teaching techniques.
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