Disability, Deafness and Ideology in the late Twentieth and early Twenty-first Centuries

Patrick McDonnell About the author


Ideology constitutes an important site of struggle for disabled people and for Deaf communities. In recent decades two ideologies - normalisation and rights - have offered different answers to the question of what it means to be disabled or Deaf. Both ideologies emerged in the post World War II period; both challenged long-established institutional structures and professional practices; and both appealed to notions of human and civil rights. However, normalisation is fundamentally paternalistic where reform is seen to be a matter for professional expertise and to be negotiated in academic circles and in the domains of professional practice. In contrast, a rights ideology is based on a social model of disability and a socio-cultural model of deafness that oppose the exclusion of disabled and Deaf people from strategic and participative roles in defining the issues, in policy making, and in decision taking. Where normalisation seeks to eradicate or attenuate difference, a rights' perspective advocates recognition and respect for difference; where normalising ideology looks to expertise and organisational change for solutions, disability movements and Deaf communities argue that the most satisfactory answers are to be found in the fields of politics and power.

Deaf community; Disability; Ideology; Normalisation; Rights

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