Week 3 Blog
For GSPE 503 Chapter 5 and 6 readings and other assignments
Difference or Deviance?
- Biomedical Model of disability;
- feelings of vulnerability and existential questioning aroused in PWODs; and
- widespread myth that disability is a private, family concern.
In my practice, I had a patient in his early 20's who was paralyzed from the neck down after a sledding accident when he was young. Every time I saw the family members, I sensed that they were alone in managing their son's day-to-day affairs. They struggled with his integration into society (he never completed high school), keeping of friends (he only seemed to befriend caretakers versus people unrelated to his care - Smart calls this "coerced" and "unnatural" contact), and accessibility to various events (p. 252). I sensed all of that, but now after the reading I have clear thoughts on how and why prejudice and discrimination exists for PWDs.
The examples provided in Chapter 5 regarding the failure of the dental profession to treat PWDs, abortion of disabled fetuses, PWDs being targeted for crimes, the prohibition for flying solo prior to 1986, etc. was very disheartening. While I knew most of what she listed, the dental profession statistics were new to me. I wonder if this holds true for other professions and if this is currently an issue that is raised in dental schools.
The Degree of Visibility of the Disability
Social Construction & Deconstruction of the Disability
Of course, once you describe a problem, you try to think of ways to mitigate the issue. One that is currently being applied in some workplaces is incorporation of exercise (walking, yoga, etc.) into the work day. Sometimes, this is done incentive-wise with pedometers. The "stop" and "walk" or other activity has employees stop the hectic pace of their day and focus on their own health and well being. The pedometer also makes them aware of what their activity level is throughout the day, instead of only focusing on work tasks. Of course, on the other hand, this can also be stressful for the person with mobility impairments, whose definition of exercise might not change the dial on the pedometer (and, they end up not getting the same health plan benefits as their able bodied coworkers). They also may feel ostracized from participating in activities that their coworkers can.
A way to help the brain not to respond as much to cognitive load is to "train" it as it has been in previous decades. For example, recalling 7 serial numbers is thought to be important for sequencing (patterning) recognition and short-term memory. An easy thing to do would be to refrain from using "speed" dial and voice calling to challenge this action of the brain. Then, overall short-term memory may be improved for other tasks.
Impression Management and Simulation Exercises
Smart makes a definitive statement that simulation exercises are useless and actually increase prejudice and discrimination. This has not been my experience. For example, I have used for a high school Science Day for inner city kids the "Operation" game to demonstrate that all of us have physiological tremors (normal finding), but they usually have a small enough amplitude and fast enough rate that it goes unnoticed. We talk about how we can have an "enhanced" physiological tremor (a diagnosis) and what factors cause it. I felt as if it deepened their understanding and did not see any stigma applied. If it is done correctly, I think it can be a powerful kinesthetic approach to education. I don't think anyone goes as far as thinking a temporary simulation can substitute for living with a disability day in and day out, as Smart suggests.
Experiencing Prejudice and Discrimination
The area that I am going to comment on is the "hypervisibility and overobservation", as it is something that I thought about today. I was in church and the pastor was introducing the seniors who were graduating in 2015 (and went to our church). The first senior to talk was an individual with gait and speech disabilities. Most likely, he has cerebral palsy. It was great that he was standing up there talking about his future just like all the (presumably) able-bodied seniors. The pastor and seniors on the stage seemed to listen to him just like all the others. However, I couldn't help but stare at him as he walked off the stage and to watch as his (presumed) mother helped him to his seat. I noted how fast and smooth or irregular he walked, how his posture was and what his facial expression was. In part, this is due to my medical training. I try to "diagnose" individuals and learn about all the differences. I feel as if it is innocent on my part, but I wonder how it would feel to be the object of stares. I'm sure we've all experienced being in public and not wanting to "mess up". I wonder if he feels this all the time when he is out in public. Nonetheless, I don't know how to change not looking. If anyone has suggestions, I would be open to it!