How to change the society's perspective on differences

I started this project with the question „how can i help by giving someone the opportunity to help themselves?“

Everyone wants to be independent in a way. We want to be understood as a person of freedom and to be able to act out of this freedom. The freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons is a human right.

I thought of a scenario, if someone has specific or non-specific difficulties with something or in certain situations, I would design a tool, which can then be used from an individual or a group alone. The goal at first was to provide a product, service, etc., that is actually really needed. Whatever „it“ is going to be, it is designed for a need, which I have to find out.

It should not result in a situation of one helper and one taker. My thought was to help someone in a functional way, and not take their voice away. I want to contribute, so that people can fulfill theirselves, in the way they want to.

So I started to think/ look for someone who would have difficulties with something or maybe even a difficulty that the person itself is not aware of.

I thought of children, who still develop their motor skills/ movement skills, elderly people in which the body in various factors weakens and people with a disability.

I dug deeper into the term disability. What is disability?

I asked and still ask myself, where does disability start? Is it the disability itself, that disables people? Or is it the attitude and perception of the society and a non-barrier-free environment which actually disables?

A lot of people and especially the media are using phrases as „tied to the wheelchair“, „suffers from …“ „despite the disability“. Thus, a more negative image of disabilities and diseases is shaped.

Why don’t we use phrases as „lives in a wheelchair“ or „has a disease“ ? This way one does not classify anything. How can a outside observer judge, if a person suffers from a disease and not lives with a disease? Why do we only see the things, that someone can not do? Why do we only see the deficit? Why do we reduce people with a disability to their deficits?

Does my original challenge lead me into a new one; how can we change the society’s perspective on differences?

The public image of people with a disability restricts rather on sufferers, victims or heroes. Other aspects of life take a back seat. At the end of the day, there is not and never will be one human being on this earth, who can do anything. Aren’t we all disabled in a way? Having a disability can change someones values and goals. Therefore it can not only mean  fate, but a win too.

Why do we think that living a happy, fulfilled and satisfied life is easier without disabilities?

Why do we think the nonplus ultra is a complete and functioning body? And if so, why being content with e.g. two functioning arms, but only writing with one? Why do we only use our feet for standing or walking? Why not writing, eating or doing other things with our feet instead?

We limit ourselves without noticing, and at the same time assume that others are limited.

Playing with naming

Well language is powerful, it carries and enforces assumptions even without someone intending to. It seems like there are few words we have as society to express care for those assumed to need it more than others - disability/ handicap/ disease.

Maybe they don’t need more care than others, as we are all disabled in a way. We all fall under categories of the state anyway and at some point need “special” considerations -for example student discounts carry the same type of distinction: you are a student, therefore you have less money, therefore you need extra help to access some services. Yet we call it “discount for students” not discount for poor students.

Will keep thinking about this, and good luck with your design @Moriel.

A gradient

Disability is a gradient. Some humans can run marathons in under three hours. Me? No. Does it mean I am disabled? No. But if you could run a marathon in under three hours, and then for some reason (age, lack of training) you lost that ability, you would feel diminished.

Moreover, disability is multidimensional. Is Stephen Hawking disabled? Yes, in a way. His body is weaker than mine. But if you look at brains, fame, achievements…  who’s the disabled guy here?

Yet another example of when labels do not make sense.


Exellent posts @Moriel@Alberto, @Noemi. I just want to mind you of the ongoing work of international classification of function, a framework where all these things are being redefined. My personal opinion is that it’s both good and bad. The bad part is that it devides people so we speak different languages. The good part is that it tries to teach us all to speak a common language. Within OpenCare it woudl be good to have some consensus about that.

@Moriel what do you think about ? Would you be interested?