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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Neurodiversity and the Social Model of Disability

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the neurodiversity movement. 

Jacquiline den Houting has an article at Autism titled "Neurodiversity: An Insider’s Perspective."
[A] common criticism is the claim that the neurodiversity paradigm frames autism as a difference and a cultural identity, but not a disability (e.g., Jaarsma and Welin, 2012). This is seen by critics as a weakness of neurodiversity, as they assert that (for at least some autistic people), autism is clearly a disability. Critics may be pleasantly surprised to learn that I agree with them – autistic people are, very often, disabled. This statement, though, is not inconsistent with the assumptions of the neurodiversity paradigm. Within the neurodiversity movement, autism is conceptualised using the social model of disability. Under this model, disability is seen as resulting from a poor fit between the (physical, cognitive or emotional) characteristics of a given individual and the characteristics of their social context. A person is disabled not by their impairment, but by the failure of their environment to accommodate their needs (Oliver, 1996). In other words, disability results not from autism itself but instead from living in a society which tends to be physically, socially and emotionally inhospitable towards autistic people.