Disability Discourse in South Asia and Global Disability Governance
Disability studies, although an emerging discipline, has already advanced in the Global North compared to the Global South in that the discourse around disability has shifted its focus from mere survival debates of the persons with disabilities to subtler and more nuanced forms and manifestations of disability existence. Even at the policy level, the “medical model” of disability has been substituted by different versions of the “social model.” The main idea of the “social model” of disability is that human beings are extremely diverse in terms of mental and bodily faculties, functions and structures, and disability indeed results from the “disabling” infrastructures and environment that society has created without taking this human diversity into account. Some versions of the “social model” go so far as to glorify the bodily and mental disabilities, deeming them merely as manifestations of human variation or diversity that offers a unique experience to be valued and celebrated (Roush & Sharby, 2011). Disability in any form is merely a variation of humanity, but the disadvantages this diversity creates are the lived-realities that should not and cannot be left unattended. What I find even more problematic is the idea of glorifying and romanticizing disability. Such a glorified notion of disability, I argue, becomes yet another means to oppressing the persons with disabilities. The “medical model” that some disability studies scholars in the Global North have discarded can prove still relevant to the Global South, and particularly to South Asia. If disability activists and civil society organizations relish only in the rhetoric of disability as a “human rights” issue, and not pay ample attention to the physical and mental realities of the persons with disabilities, the “rights-based” discourse could ultimately be counterproductive.
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