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disability culture

Disability Culture

People with disabilities have forged a group identity. We share a common history of oppression and a common bond of resilience. We generate art, music, literature, and other expressions of our lives and our culture, infused from our experience of disability. Most importantly, we are proud of ourselves as people with disabilities. We claim our disabilities with pride as part of our identity.

We are who we are: we are people with disabilities.

Steven E. Brown, PhDCo-Founder, Institute on Disability Culture

what is a disability
What is a disability?
  • Physical, sensory, cognitive, psychiatric (invisible), and health-related
  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • ADA prohibits discrimination in 4 main areas:


State and local government services and public transportation

Public accommodations Telecommunications

additional protective laws
Additional Protective Laws
  • Fair Housing Act – This law makes it illegal to deny housing to a renter or buyer because of a disability. Owners must also make reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. For instance, a person with a visual impairment renting a property should be allowed to keep a guide dog, even if the owner does not allow animals on the property.
  • The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – This law requires that a free public education be made available to children and youth with disabilities. Special education provided by IDEA is tailored to meet the unique educational needs of children with all types of disabilities, including autism, deafness, emotional disturbances, intellectual disability, and learning disabilities. The No Child Left Behind Act also protects the educational needs of children with disabilities. This law holds schools accountable for the academic success of all children, including children with disabilities.
  • The Rehabilitation Act – The purpose of this law is to help people with disabilities become employed and independent. Among other things, the law established Centers for Independent Living.
  • The 2000 U.S. Census shows us that 49.7 million people in the U. S. age 5 and over have a disability -- nearly 1 in 5 U.S. residents.
  • 5.2 million were between the ages of 5 and 20.
  • 30.6 million were between the ages of 21 and 64. 57% of them were employed.
  • 14.0 million were 65 and over. Those with disabilities comprised 42%of people in this age group. CDC.gov
  • Poverty
  • Low socioeconomic accommodation Availability of appointmentsLow paying jobs or inflexible work hours
  • Education
  • Unmet health needs
  • Unreliable care attendants/support systems
  • Lack of reliable transportation: Hard to use, no/limited public transportation No car
  • Communication
barriers of assumption
Barriers of Assumption
  • Do not assume that the disability exclusively defines the patient’s health care needs“Health is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” -WHO Definition of Health
  • That he/she cannot make medical decisions
  • That a woman with physical or intellectual disabilities cannot give informed consent or parent a child
  • That a hearing impaired woman understands ASL
  • That a woman with diminished sight can read Braille
health issues
Health Issues

People with disabilities are experiencing:

  • Preventable secondary conditions, e.g. fractures, amputation, pressure sores in nursing homes
  • High rates of emergency room visits and hospital stays for the primary disabling condition
  • Early deaths from the primary disabling conditions, e.g. asthma
  • Early deaths from co-morbidities, e.g. diabetes-related cardiovascular disease
  • Low rates of formal patient education
  • Low rates of treatment for mental illness From CDC.gov
health issues1
Health Issues

Compared with people without disabilities, people with disabilities have:

  • Less health insurance coverage and use of the health-care system
  • Higher rates of chronic conditions, e.g. diabetes, depression and sadness, elevated blood pressure and blood cholesterol, obesity, tooth loss, etc.
  • Lower rates of social participation, e.g. regular education classrooms, high school completion, employment
  • Lower rates of recommended health behaviors, e.g. no cigarette smoking
hot topics
Hot Topics
  • Reproduction and sexuality
  • Eugenics
  • Veterans


  • Housing


cheryl marie wade
Cheryl Marie Wade

I am not one of the physically challenged-I’m a sock in the eye with gnarled fistI’m a French kiss with cleft tongueI’m orthopedic shoes sewn on a last of your fearsI am not one of the differently abled-I’m an epitaph for a million imperfect babies left untreatedI’m an ikon carved from bones in a mass grave at Tiergarten, GermanyI’m withered legs hidden with a blanketI am not one of the able disabled-I’m a black panther with green eyes and scars like a picket fenceI’m pink lace panties teasing a stub of milk white thighI’m the evil eyeI’m the first cell dividedI’m mud that talksI’m Eve I’m KaliI’m The Mountain That Never MovesI’ve been forever I’ll be here foreverI’m the GimpI’m the CrippleI’m the Crazy LadyI’m The Woman With Juice

Award-winning playwright, poet, performer, film-maker and disability rights activist.