Disability as a Social Construct

Disability as a Social Construct: Legislative Roots

CLAIRE H. LIACHOWITZ
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 152
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fj3f4
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  • Book Info
    Disability as a Social Construct
    Book Description:

    Wounded soldiers, injured workers, handicapped adults, and physically impaired children have all been affected by legislation that reduces their opportunities to live a functional life. In Disability as a Social Construct, Claire Liachowitz contends that disability is not merely a result of a handicap but can be imposed by society through devaluation and segregation of people who deviate from physical norms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0262-5
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Until recently, most writers on the social aspects of physical handicap have adhered to the orthodox medical view of disability as the direct result of personal physical disorder. Now, in contrast, an increasing number of sociological and psychological theorists regard disability as a complex of constraints that the ablebodied population imposes on the behavior of physically impaired people.

    This book looks at these limitations of function from a somewhat different perspective—not as the consequences of interpersonal relationships, but as the products of public, collective actions. Without a conception of disability as a social construct,¹ explanations of the results of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Disability and Human Capital: Wounded Soldiers
    (pp. 19-44)

    Analyzing military¹ pension laws demonstrates three ways that legislation conditions the abilities of physically impaired people to function. Laws disable physically handicapped individuals by prescribing their activities. Less directly, and perhaps more effectively, laws also construct disability by promoting particular expectations among the ablebodied segment of the population. And third, because knowledge of these expectations can shape the personality and behavior of handicapped individuals, laws can lead to an ostensibly “self-inflicted” disability.

    This chapter demonstrates these three methods by looking at two sets of laws: those of the colonial period and the Revolutionary War era and those of the Great...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Disability and Injury: Workmen’s Compensation
    (pp. 45-63)

    After looking at the ways in which a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt and several theories of social behavior are related to the construction of disability, this chapter will focus on the disabling effects of workmen’s compensation laws.¹ Specifying how these laws have led to the devaluation of people with physical handicaps bolsters the general argument that the disabling process in America is marked by a continuing interaction between society’s laws and its prevailing attitudes.

    We will see that a substantial part of the disability attendant upon compensation laws is related to their growth out of an earlier legal tradition....

  8. CHAPTER 4 Disability and Charity: Rehabilitation for Civilians
    (pp. 64-85)

    This chapter and the next will show that disabling social policies can in large part be traced to institutionalized practices of charity and segregation. In this chapter that process is demonstrated by presenting the legislative background of federally sponsored rehabilitation. Chapter 5 discusses the same method of constructing disability in the context of education.

    First, in order to specify antecedents of the belief that biological deficiency confers social deficiency, several colonial laws are examined. Then, after a discussion of Social Darwinism, the chapter will consider some disabling effects of the institution of charity.

    A final segment shows that the Vocational...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Disability and Education: Physically Handicapped Children
    (pp. 86-106)

    The thesis central to this book is that early public policies have created a disabling atmosphere that helps to translate physical defects into social defects. This chapter further illustrates that argument by showing that the truthfulness of Locke’s prophecy frequently depends not on physical inabilities but on inferences promoted by American education. Historical analysis suggests that educational institutions create this effect by transmitting beliefs that individuals with physical impairments belong to a category called “the handicapped.” This labeling process and its consequences in turn indicate that stereotypy and segregated education have become so interrelated that one set of practices both...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Conclusions: Policy Implications
    (pp. 107-113)

    This book has elaborated on the distinction between handicaps imposed by nature and handicaps conferred by social and political mechanisms. Except for acknowledging that remedying handicaps imposed by nature is in large part a matter of cultural variation, the subject of physical restoration has not been addressed. The major purpose of the concepts and empirical materials of this book has been to show that social policies help to create disability and social policies can help to erase it.

    The method of historical analysis has disclosed a progressive interaction between legislation and the beliefs and opinions of society. One can thus...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 114-132)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 133-139)