Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Disabled Dinosaurs

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to explain the social model of disability, I have come to tell you that the resource you need is:

T-Rex Failing At Life.

The social model of disability states that individuals are not disabled by their bodies' defective nature (ie. T-Rex's arm being too short to reach his mouth) but by society's refusal to make appliances, buildings, furniture, streets (and so on ad infinitum) that can be used by people with all sorts of bodies. In this instance, there's a nice simple solution: longer lollipop sticks. Or for a more widely applicable solution, something akin to those grabber devices favoured by litter pickers and old ladies who don't bend as much as they used to.

Going back to humans for a minute, the social model says that someone who uses a wheelchair to move around is disabled not by the fact that they can't walk, or by the illness or accident that caused this inability. They are disabled by the fact that so many doorways are not wide enough to let wheelchairs through. By the fact that so many buildings have steps up to the entrance. By the fact that so few tube stations have lifts, let alone full step-free access from street to platform. By the fact that the vast majority of cash machines are set at eye-level for a person who's standing up. It is the decisions made by the people who design our built environment - the priorities of society as a whole - that rob wheelchair users of their ability to participate fully in society, not the fact that they can't walk.

T-Rex trying to turn off a ceiling fan, use a buffet with sneeze guard, or use a water fountain all illustrate this same principle. His arms are not the problem: the design of the equipment is the problem.

And just for kicks, this series also shows how we automatically assume that a creature is male unless we're told otherwise: women are constructed as Other, different, a variation on the norm. Note how all of the T-Rexes are simply labelled 'T-Rex' - except this one:

Male T-Rex = normal; the 'male' is implicitly assumed by the creator of the image and by us, its viewers
Female T-Rex = Other.

Also in my mind all T-Rexes are French. "All Ah want to do ees brush ma teeef, Ahm so peessed oeuf weez zees tiny toofbrush. Wanquere!"