Disability as a Social Construct: Legislative Roots

By Claire H. Liachowitz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Conclusions: Policy Implications

This book has elaborated on the distinction between handicaps imposed by nature and handicaps conferred by social and political mechanisms. Except for acknowledging that remedying handicaps imposed by nature is in large part a matter of cultural variation, the subject of physical restoration has not been addressed. The major purpose of the concepts and empirical materials of this book has been to show that social policies help to create disability and social policies can help to erase it.

The method of historical analysis has disclosed a progressive interaction between legislation and the beliefs and opinions of society. One can thus see how particular legislative language can disable, how the disabling practices of segregation and sterotypy promote each other, and how charitable and educational institutions both transmit and generate disability. One can look at the growth of specific issues that continue to disable: measurement of human value by economic productivity, "medicalization," labeling of physically handicapped people as "special," and rejection of public responsibility.

Although the diverse materials of the book have been presented in separate chapters, each chapter has contributed to or drawn from a number of arguments. Such a fusion of materials and ideas characterized the focus on military pensions in Chapter 2. That chapter showed the legislative beginnings of the link between disability and the ethic of individualism, and of that between disability and poverty. It also provided some background for understanding how society has come to look upon disability as an intra-individual attribute, and how segregation and physical handicap have become so firmly associated.

Chapter 3 presented the case of injured workers. Their financial compensation, like that of wounded soldiers, depended on prior wage and degree of injury. Unlike soldiers, however, members of the "industrial

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