On Disability Culture

From the Syracuse University Disability Cultural Center:


What is disability culture?

"Disability culture" and "disability cultural pride" are terms referring to a wide variety of movements and subcultures that promote the idea that disability can be part of one's identity, as are race, class, gender and gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, national origin, linguistic background, religious/philosophical beliefs, etc.  To many people who have never thought of disability from this perspective before, it can be tempting to wonder, "Why would someone be proud of having a disability?"  Indeed, disability cultural pride is complex.  As a general rule, people who adopt disability as part of their identities do so as a way to express happiness and pride in who they are, and to talk back against societal norms that often tell them that they are "broken," or need to be "cured."  This does not mean that having a disability is always a pleasant experience, or that the only people asserting disabled identities are those who consider themselves merely to be "different."

Rather, it's about seeing your disability(ies)--both the positive and challenging aspects--as part of what makes you unique, and choosing to define yourself on your terms.  (Similarly, who's to say that life without a disability is always a piece of cake?)  It's also important to remember that "disability" is not always something physical or obvious.  Anyone, whether they identify as quadriplegic, deaf, autistic, blind, emotionally variant, as someone with an intellectual/developmental disability--or any other identity, including nondisabled/able-bodied--is welcome to join the DCC in engaging with the idea of disability as culture, pride, and identity.

Certain disability cultural subgroups will deliberately capitalize the first letter of the label they use to identify themselves.  This is done to show a sense of connection to the larger community of people who identify in this way, rather than just describing a "condition."  The American Deaf community is one group that is known widely for doing this; other examples include some people identifying with the Autistic and Blind communities.  Similarly, some people with disabilities may identify themselves using terms that some might consider to be offensive, such as "crip," "gimp," and "mad."  This is often done as a way to show pride in one's identity, and to "reclaim" words that have traditionally been used to demean people whose minds or bodies varied from the "norm."  This is similar to how some individuals have reclaimed the word "queer."  However, these terms can, at times, still have derogatory meanings, especially if used by people outside of an "in-group" of those who choose to identify themselves in these ways.

Source:

http://sudcc.syr.edu/FAQ/index.html

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