Call for Papers: From Each According to Ability? Capitalism, Poverty, and Disability

Canadian Journal of Disability Studies published by the Canadian Disability Studies AssociationFrom Each According to Ability? Capitalism, Poverty, and Disability

Karl Marx (1875/1978) described the political economy of a just society as one organized around the ethos “from each according to … ability; to each according to … need!” (p. 531). The reality for people with disabilities, however, is persistent and disproportionate rates of poverty and unemployment worldwide (World Health Organization, 2011). How well do we understand the reasons for this? And more importantly, what can be done about it? Has disability studies produced an adequate theorization of the political economy of disability?

The Canadian Journal of Disability Studies invites contributions to specifically explore these questions, using a definition of “political economy” as “the study of the social relations, particularly the power relations that mutually constitute the production, distribution, and consumption of resources” (Mosco, 1996, p. 25).

The influential social model could be seen to situate current definitions and experiences of disability within capitalism (Oliver, 1999), and to identify “institutional discrimination” as the source of social inequality (Barnes, 1991). The theory and praxis of disability politics focuses on challenging the medicalization of disability, exploring and developing a positive disability identity and pride, opposing the demeaning practices and policies of welfare states, promoting disabled-led organizations and direct payments for services, advancing disability arts and culture, and most significantly pushing for anti-discrimination legislation and the implementation of human rights for persons with disabilities. Do these political responses follow from the original theoretical contention that the contemporary social construct of disability is rooted in capitalism?

More recently the social model has called for “a radical re-appraisal of the meaning of work for disabled people that goes beyond the rigid confines of paid employment…” and which organizes work around social necessity, obligation, and interdependence (Barnes & Roulstone, 2005). Furthermore, between the need for professional services and the development of self-directed attendant services, people with disabilities should be recognized as both creators and managers of employment (Barnes, 2003). Russell (1998), however, points out the dangers of this “commodification” of disability, in which people with disabilities are seen as a lucrative source of money for medical and institutional organizations. Albrecht (1992) also raises concerns about the implications of “the disability business”.

And what of those people with disabilities who are genuinely unable to work because the nature of their disabilities, rather than the lack of opportunity? Taylor (2004) argues for the “right not to work” and in favour of “cultivating a skeptical attitude regarding the significance of work”—at least as it constructed in a capitalist economy. How do we situate this argument in a political economy of disability?

We welcome article submissions on these and related questions. Other possible topics include, but are not limited to

  • Strategies to address capitalism’s recurring crises as they relate to disability
  • Theories, practices, and crises of the welfare state and disability
  • The intersections of human rights theory and practice and political economic theory and practice
  • Intersections and conflicts between feminism, race theory, queer theory, and crip theory and political economy approaches to understanding and theorizing disability
  • Marxism, neoliberalism, and other economic theories and disability
  • Notions of cross-disability solidarity versus class solidarity
  • The business(es) of disability such as vocational and medical rehabilitation, pharmaceutical and biotechnological interventions, personal support workers and “care” industries, new paradigms of disability employment, etc.
  • Political economy issues of disability in developing countries and across global contexts
  • Issues of identity and inclusion/exclusion within a capitalist political economy

The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2014. All manuscripts must be submitted electronically, in Microsoft Word format, directly via email to this issue’s guest editor Bonita Heath at bheath@yorku.ca.

Manuscript submissions must be no more than 6,000 words, excluding references, notes, and tables. Submissions should have no more than 40 references.  Keep tables, figures — including graphs, charts, diagrams — and other images to a minimum (no more than 10); all such material must be accompanied by a brief narrative description to ensure accessibility.

For further information please see “Author Guidelines” at http://cjds.uwaterloo.ca/index.php/cjds/about/submissions

References

Albrecht, Gary L. (1992). The disability business: rehabilitation in America. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.

Barnes, C. (2003). Disability. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press; Blackwell Publishers.

Barnes, C. (1991). Disabled people in Britain and discrimination: A case for anti-discrimination legislation. London, UK: Hurst & Co.; University of Calgary Press, in association with the British Council of Organizations of Disabled People.

Barnes, C., & Roulstone, A. (2005). Work is a four-letter word. In A. Roulstone, & C. Barnes (Eds.),Working futures? Disabled people, policy and social inclusion (pp. 315–327). Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.

Marx, K. (1875). Critique of the Gotha Program. In R. Tucker, (1978) The Marx-Engels reader (pp. 525–541). New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company.

Mosco, V. (1996). The political economy of communication: rethinking and renewal. London, UK: Sage.

Oliver, M. (1999). Capitalism, disability and ideology: A materialist critique of the normalization principle. In R. Flynn J., & R. Lemay A. (Eds.), A quarter-century of normalization and social role valorization: Evolution and impact (pp. 1–16). Leeds, UK: University of Leeds, Centre for Disability Studies.

Russell, M. (1998). Beyond ramps: Disability at the end of the social contract. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.

Taylor, S. (2004). The right not to work: Power and disability. Monthly Review55(10), 30–44.

World Health Organization, World Bank. (2011). World report on disability. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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DREAM Researchers Participate in Round-table Discussion on Human Rights and Disability

""DREAM researchers, Ieva Eskyte, Anthony Giannoumis and Magdi Birtha participated in a round-table discussion titled Human Rights and Disability: between choice and control at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas Lithuania on 21st October. The event aimed to facilitate  discussion and raise awareness on the importance of disability studies and disability rights.

The round-table addressed the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stating,

Since the key message of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) is that disabled people have to exercise all human rights and fundamental freedoms equally with non-disabled citizens, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss disability and human rights issues in different contexts. For instance, different models of disability will be discussed from Scandinavian, British and Lithuanian perspectives. In addition, the relation between accessibility, disability movement and private markets will be analysed. Special attention will be paid to disability research, ethics and methods.

Practitioners, scholars and graduate students from a variety of disciplines presented their professional and academic experiences in the field of disability and human rights.

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The full program included,

  • Welcome &  Some Thoughts about Social Sensitivity, Reciprocity & Dialogue. Dean prof. Jonas Ruškus of Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Vytautas Magnus University, People with Disabilities and the Right to Reveal Potential. Ieva Danilevičienė, Vytautas Magnus University
  • The impact of family and friends social support on accepting mobility impairments. Laura Alčiauskaitė, dr. Liuda Šinkariova, Vytautas Magnus University
  • A comparative case study of e-accessibility policy implementation in the United Kingdom, Norway and the United States. G. Anthony Giannoumis, The Norwegian Social Research Institute
  • Information provision in the mainstream private market: business practices and disabled customers’ realities. Ieva Eskytė, University of Leeds, Centre for Disability Studies, UK
  • Participation of persons with disabilities in policy and decision-making processes. Magdi Birtha, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway

DREAM would like to warmly thank the conveners at Vytautas Magnus University for the opportunity to work together in realizing the rights of persons with disabilities.

Disability issues within the workplace

The following is a guest post from Simon Barnett. Simon Barnett writes for Disability Sanctuary, an online community for disabled people and their carers. He examines a number of issues and looks to add to the wider debate.

Entering the workplace environment can sometimes seem daunting, but an increasing number of employers are becoming more aware of disability issues and are keen to take positive action. There’s undoubtedly been a realisation that a failure to recruit those with disabilities means that businesses can miss out on vital resources.

It’s still fair to say, however, that experiences do vary. Some employers seem unable to grasp what real equality means and there’s often a lack of awareness about their legal obligations. This can undoubtedly cause some difficulties, given that few individuals want to be put in the position of pointing out such obligations at an early stage in the employment process. On the other hand, by being afraid to speak out, there’s the very real risk that you won’t be dealing with a level playing field.

Good employment practices

The onus is certainly on the employer to understand how they are required to act. In many cases, of course, this simply involves a certain amount of common sense. You may find that you spend some time educating your work colleagues at the outset, with the aim of making relationships considerably easier in the long run.

With this in mind, it’s useful to understand exactly what it’s reasonable for you to expect from an employer. Looking at UK law, there’s very clear guidance:

“It is discrimination to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability (eg a tendency to make spelling mistakes arising from dyslexia). This type of discrimination is unlawful where the employer or other person acting for the employer knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, that the person has a disability.”

The above may seem to many of us to be little more than an expression of common decency. If an employer is unable to behave in line with the above, then it’s likely that there will be significant issues within the workplace for any employee, including those with disabilities.

But the law also goes much further. Employers are instructed to make reasonable adjustments to both jobs and workplace environments, in order to make life easier for those workers with disabilities. This most obviously involves ensuring that a disabled worker is given time off, where such time is required for specific medical treatment, or for appointments relating to assessments.

As might be expected, provision is also made for ensuring that equipment is suitably modified. If you’re working within an office environment, for example, then it’s reasonable to expect that suitable desks and chairs should be provided. In addition, you might also expect to be provided with additional aids, if those are required to ensure that you can do your job efficiently and safely.

Why it’s important to understand your rights

By understanding your rights, you are in a much better position to outline your expectations and to discuss potential problems, before they arise. It’s understandable, however, that there may be a level of concern about disclosing details of a personal nature to a senior member of staff.

I think that there are two elements to consider here: firstly, an employer cannot reasonably be expected to make allowances, without having a full understanding of your disability. If there are areas where you have some limitations, then you’ll need to declare these to your employer.

That may, of course, seem incredibly daunting. Fortunately, the law is on your side here: the second point that I would make in this area is that the employer has a legal obligation to keep any details of your disability confidential, unless you suggest otherwise.

Conclusions

In practical terms, I would suggest that this should mean that you can speak openly about your requirements, safe in the knowledge that you are having a confidential conversation. You may be happy for your employer to discuss some elements of your conversation with other members of staff, but that’s very much your choice.

Many issues can be resolved before they become significant problems. My own experience suggests that the key is to have good two-way communications between the employer and the employee. This limits the room that’s available for misunderstandings and ensures that there’s clarity within the working relationship.

About the Author

Simon Barnett works on the Disability Sanctuary website, providing insights on a range of issues to those with disabilities, carers, friends and relatives. He aims to provide practical advice, helping to ensure that individuals are receiving the assistance that they are entitled too. He’s particularly concerned about the complexities of the current disability benefits system. Having previously worked as the editor of a finance website in the UK, he’s keen to offer clarity in such areas.

Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities in International and EU Law Workshop Comments

European University InstituteSome of the  DREAMers (Anna, Dimitrios, Emilja, and myself) went to the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities in International and EU Law Workshop of the EUI Human Rights Working Group and the Academy of European Law in Florence, Italy last Friday, April 27, 2012. The workshop took place in one of EUI’s villa conference rooms.

European University Institute Sign

The speakers at this conference were Martin Sheinin, a professor of Public International Law at EUI who was a member of the UN Committee on Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection of Human Rights While Coutnering Terrorism, Jukka Kumpuvuori, a lawyer and disability rights activist, Ambassador Juan José Gómez Camacho, a diplomat from Mexico who is the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN and other International Organizations, Masa Anisic an EUI researcher, Christian Courtis, a professor and acting head of the Economic and Social Issues Section with the UN Office of the High Commissioner, Theresia Degener, a professor of law and disability studies and a member of the UN CRPD Committee, Delia Ferri, an Honorary Fellow at the University of Verona, Philippe Reyniers, a PhD Researcher in Law at EUI, Claire Kirkpatrick, a professor of International and European Labour and Social Law at EUI, Danai Angeli, a PhD Candidate at EUI, Andrea Dabizzi, a Human Rights Adviser for the Security and Cooperation in Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stefan Trömel, the Executive Director of the Secretariat of the International Disability Alliance, and Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, a PhD Researcher in Law at EUI.

The speakers provided the participants with engaging topics ranging from the history of the UNCRPD,  challenges and level of compliance of the UN CRPD, the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities through the core UN bodies, constitutionalization of discrimination rights in the EU, to the role of DPOs in the rights of persons with disabilities. The speakers were very informative and brought up much fruitful discussion between all of the participants.

Before during and after the workshop, participants were able to mingle and make connections in the beautiful villa conference room, surrounded by gorgeous Florentine gardens.

All-in-all the workshop was a true success and really showed many differing perspectives and ideas about how the UN CRPD can best assist persons with disabilities in accessing human rights.

Thank you EUI for hosting and inviting us!