Questions to ponder on (dis)(ability)

  1. Who are you and are you enabled to (fully) be your “self”?
  2. Generally, there two models of disability: a “medical model” that stresses the physical limitations inherent to disability, taking as its norm a self-sufficient, non-disabled body and a “social difference model” that defines disability primarily as a social condition resulting from society’s failure to accommodate physical differences of the disabled. Is there one we ought to prioritize over the other? Which and why?
  3. Where should we place the emphasis when thinking about dis/abilities?
  4. Given the ever-increasing capability to prenatally screen unborn children, should conditions that would “disable” a child be looked for (by parents, by physicians)? If found, what, if anything, should be done about such conditions?
  5. In some recent popular culture representations, autism (spectrum disorder) has been portrayed as advantageous, quite possibly “the next stage in human evolution”. How should this be viewed? Is this a misrepresentation of a developmental disorder? A glorification of human variety? Exploitation of the disabled? Awareness building?
  6. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 “jobless rates for persons with a disability were higher than those for persons without a disability” with “[p]ersons who are neither employed nor unemployed […] with a disability [equal to] about 8 in 10.” Given those facts, should more people with disabilities be encouraged to enter the workforce? How could this be accomplished in practice?
  7. Introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Representative F. James Sensenbrenner in the House the “Disability Integration Act of 2019” (S. 117 and H.R. 555) is one of 10,071 bills before the 116th Congress. Of the total, 949 bills currently standing before Congress address disability in some way. Do you believe the lives of the disabled will be improved by the federal government in the foreseeable future? Why or why not? What could be done to improve their lives.
  8. Analyzing incidents of people killed by police (from 2013 to 2015), the Ruderman Family Foundation found that “[d]isabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers.” While media coverage often focuses on issues of race in police brutality, this can obscure how disability also factors into police interactions. Why do marginalized groups suffer more at the hands of police? What can be done to prevent such adverse interactions?
  9. Since about the late 1970s, psychologists have identified individuals with “apotemnophilia” – a condition characterized by an intense, long-standing desire for amputation of a (specific) limb. Such individuals can be thought of as challenging stigmas of disability by literally wishing to embody alternative conceptions of “bodily integrity”. They may also be thought of as experiencing a type of body dismorphic disorder in which (physical) self-identity is pathologically warped. Should an individual be allowed to remove a body part for non-medical reasons? Can we lop off a nose, pluck out an eye, hack off a limb for no clear medical benefit?
  10. Is the University of Michigan a sufficiently accessible place for all?
  11. “The last mile” – the distance between an individual’s residence and their transit – can be particularly long for people with disabilities. In what ways can we shorten it?