impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions
A disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person's lifetime.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives federal civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.
- Q: Are people with HIV or AIDS protected by the ADA?
- A: Yes. An individual is considered to have a "disability" if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Persons with HIV disease, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, have physical impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities and are, therefore, protected by the law.
- Q: What employers are covered by the ADA?
- A: The ADA prohibits discrimination by all private employers with 15 or more employees. In addition, the ADA prohibits all public entities, regardless of the size of their work force, from discriminating in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities.
- Q: What employment practices are covered by the ADA?
- A: The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices. This includes not only hiring and firing, but job application procedures (including the job interview), job assignment, training, and promotions. It also includes wages, benefits (including health insurance), leave, and all other employment-related activities.
- Pamela Anderson has more prosthetics in her body than I do; nobody calls her disabled.
- He just wrote a really cogent, beautiful response online. Didn’t fight with anybody, didn’t call anybody anything, didn’t judge anybody. And he completely opened my eyes to a perspective I never thought of. He said, “I understand what an actor is. I, too, am an actor. But I’m an actor in a wheelchair, and I never see parts that are leading roles for a person in a wheelchair. And so the one time I see a role where there’s a person in a wheelchair, I think, wow, this could be it. This could be the moment where I have all of the tools necessary to play this part. Do I get a shot at playing it?” And he was like, “Because when you think of it on the flip side, they never call people with wheelchairs in to play able-bodied people, and they’ll get able-bodied people to play people in wheelchairs.”
I never thought of it like that. My perspective, obviously, as someone who is not in a wheelchair—I just never thought of it that way. And I sat there and I was like, it’s powerful because you don’t think about representation, you don’t think about how important it is for people to see themselves onscreen in a real way. And at the same time, I don’t think Bryan Cranston did anything wrong. I don’t think everything has to be a fight. It’s just, like, a moment to be like, hey, maybe next time people in Hollywood can look at that and go, maybe you can get a relatively unknown actor to play that role and then put an A-lister opposite them and maybe this becomes their breakout. Maybe this becomes the thing that blows them up.
And that’s where you realize how powerful representation is, because if you’re a person in a wheelchair, how many movies come along where the lead character is in a wheelchair? There’s virtually none. And even myself, I was like, oh man, I have to try and understand that a little bit more. It was eye-opening.
- Trevor Noah, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, "Let's Talk This Out", (1/10/2019); as quoted in "Trevor Noah’s Remarks About Disability Representation Only Scratch the Surface, but They’re a Good Start" as quoted by Marissa Martinelli, Slate, (Jan 14, 2019).
- The origin myths of many superheroes lie in life-altering accidents or bodily mutations. Fans of the genre emphasize that disability, largely unrepresented in other forms of fiction, is part of these characters’ stories. But those stories then go on to wish disability away, via bionic implants and armored suits. “ ‘Disabled’ superheroes aren’t disabled at all,” says Chris Gavaler, author of “On the Origin of Superheroes.”
- The absence of characters living with permanent disabilities affects the way viewers and readers see themselves, argues Rachel Kolb, an Emory University graduate student who is deaf and writes widely about disability in literature. “If we don’t see ourselves within the cultural representations that surround us,” she says in an interview, “it becomes more difficult to imagine ourselves in various kinds of situations, various ways of exercising agency and justice and power and goodness. And all the other themes that tend to be a part of superhero movies.”
- ACCORDING TO LAWRENCE Carter-Long, spokesman for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund , about 20 percent of Americans identify as disabled, while only about 2 percent of characters on television and in film have disabilities.
- Advocates are also wary of plots that go out of their way to portray disabilities as inconsequential, in a way that minimizes the genuine challenges they pose. When Netflix launched a show based on Marvel’s Daredevil character, a New York Times reviewer wrote that the central superhero “is sightless but not blind to crime.” In fact, he doesn’t seem blind to much of anything, including women or agile villains.
- Fundamentally, what Carter-Long and others want are more complex representations of people with disabilities — and not just in superhero blockbusters. “If there are few disabled characters being created or shown for disabled people to identify with, we then have fewer opportunities to be a meaningful part of what a huge number of non-disabled people simply take for granted,” Carter-Long said.
- Pasquale Toscano, "Where are all the superheroes with disabilities?", Boston Globe, (06/01/2018).
- Of course, the idea that disability begets preternatural abilities is nothing new. The Greek seer Tiresias’ blindness gave him access to the spiritual sphere in Sophocles’ “Oedipus Cycle.” (As students of literature, we associate a similar capability with the blind poet Homer.) And so it goes for our modern mythologies: In “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the blindness of Chirrut Îmwe, played by Donnie Yen, seems to connect him with the Force; Sofia Boutella’s character, Gazelle, likewise wears prosthetics that double as lethal blades in the spy thriller “Kingsman.”
But I don’t feel like some “super-crip” — a supernaturally endowed disabled character — on nights when I can’t focus because of muscle spasms, on afternoons when I can’t spend time with friends because they’re playing disc golf, and on mornings when I remember how the nurses would catheterize me six times daily during that month I spent in the hospital, until they taught me to do it myself.
- It is probably safe to say that people like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (polio), Harriet Tubman (narcolepsy) or even the Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin (deafness) succeeded both despite and because of their impairments. Do I think that disability made an impact on these figures, that it offered up a unique brand of understanding and metamorphosed into a kind of Muse for them? Of course.
But most people with disabilities will not be remembered by history. They are usually living challenging lives with little to show for it: Unemployment rates are disturbingly high, health care costs are often debilitating, and the emotional toll of living with an “aberration” can rend families apart. The only thing that a fidelity to positive stereotypes accomplishes, then, is to absolve society of maintaining commitments to the disabled, like making places more accessible, since it would be ridiculous to aid people who already have a leg up with added perks.
- And yet it is not a “perk” to take the elevator when your friends walk up the stairs or to park in one of the handicapped spaces or to use a capacious bathroom stall or to be wheeled to the gate when you fly. It’s not just convenient either. It’s essential. This is the challenging, needy underbelly of living with an impairment that positive stereotyping can obscure. Accommodations serve the invaluable purpose of ensuring the human dignity of people with disabilities — our ability to participate in society as completely as possible without being de facto quarantined for “defects” in a world that prizes fitness and forgets that disability is the most fluid identity category of all.
- Pasquale S. Toscano, "The Myth of Disability ‘Sob Stories’", New York Times, (June 14, 2017).
- [Bioethics] is "a phony branch of elite philosophy whose principle purpose seems to be to justify allowing badly ill or disabled people to die."
- Larry Thornberry, "The Dean of Suspense", The American Spectator, (2009-07-08).
- Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, ‘normal,’ and sane….If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place.
- Susan Wendell, in The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability.
- Disability is not a brave struggle or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.
- Storm Marcus, Storm Reading, 1993, quoted in Making an entrance: theory and practice for disabled and non-disabled dancers, by Adam Benjamin, p. 23.
- If there was a country called disabled,
I would be from there.
I live disabled culture, eat disabled food,
make disabled love, cry disabled tears,
climb disabled mountains and tell disabled stories…
- “Disabled Country,” Neil Marcus per UC Berkeley Bancroft Library Oral History project
- Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.
- Martina Navratilova, quoted in p 15, Grand Ideas from Within By Janice M. Mcdermott & Joan Stewart