Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Process of Becoming an Active Disabled Person -the Psycho-Social Mechanisms of Sport's Influence on Physically Disabled Individuals

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Process of Becoming an Active Disabled Person -the Psycho-Social Mechanisms of Sport's Influence on Physically Disabled Individuals

Article excerpt


The problems of disability, both in the scientific discourse and social perception, form a notion which is still being broadly discussed and thoroughly analyzed (Ostrowska 1994, Kryfiska 2013, G^ciarz and Rudnicki 2014). As a result, it has led to the formation of various perspectives and ways to understand it (Barnes and Mercer 2004, Ostrowska 2015). Two of them, regarding their contrary character, are especially interesting: the social and the individual models of disability (Finkelstein 1993, Balcerzak-Paradowska 2002). The latter was based on the assumption that disability is a personal tragedy. In this model, the problem of disability is "located" in the individual himself, and its reason is sought in the functional limitations or psychological defects which arise from disability (Oliver 1983). On the other hand, there is an opinion within the social model of disability that disability results-to a significant extent-from the barriers experienced by the disabled, and resulting from the "disabling" society (Finkelsterin 1980, Oliver 1983, Abberley 1987, Balcerzak-Paradowska 2002). Therefore, the factors that "create" disability are not individual limitations, but rather it is society not providing proper services or fulfilling the needs of the disabled. In this model, reasons of disability are not sought inside an individual, but in the environment and various social, economic and physical barriers (Barnes et al. 1999, Oliver 1990, Swain et al. 1993).

Thus, disability is treated as a phenomenon which strikes particular people, and is caused by adverse, often even negative attitudes of their environment (Finkelstein 1993a).

The notion of ableism was coined to specify such a social attitude, where disability is perceived as something that should be treated, repaired or eliminated. In other words, it is a set of beliefs and behaviors which aim at the unequal and varied treatment of a person regarding their factual or expected disability (Williams and Marvin 2012). Ableism understood in such a manner means a belief that disabled individuals are worse, standing lower in a hierarchy of values than able-bodied individuals. Therefore, this is an attitude demonstrated by the majority of society, tinged negatively on the basis of discriminating stereotypes (see Czykwin 2007).

At the same time, those negative attitudes towards the disabled may exert a negative influence on the behavior of the latter towards themselves and towards the fully able (Zola 1993, Ostrowska 2015). This happens because they hinder the adjustment and acceptance of their disability, they discourage making even the slightest effort, they trigger the feeling of contempt towards themselves and their disability, they weaken the mechanisms of integration and destroy the effects of conducted medical, educational and rehabilitation procedures (Thomas 1999).

The disabled also receive more harsh feedback much more frequently than healthy individuals, which may push them to form a negative identity (Goffman 1963). In extreme cases it leads to an understated self-esteem, the feeling of guilt and a weakening or lack of identification with others and their reification (Barnes and Mercer 2004). According to Roman Ossowski, the situation of the disabled is especially influenced by the following factors: qualities of the social environment, visibility of the disability and the material status of the disabled (Ossowski 1999: 284-286). Existing in a disadvantageous social situation, the disabled, according to Ryszard Szarfenberg (2008: 4) may have simultaneous problems with recognition, freedom of choice, equality and positive social image.

Hence, in the contemporary approach, a significant role in sociological analyses of disability is played by the "new sociology of disability," where the center of attention is disablism (Thomas 2004, 2007, 2012). Disability is perceived as being rooted in unequal social relationships, and its consequences may be reflected as physical, social and emotional barriers, which limit lives of the disabled and their families. …

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