What is normal?

I think there’s a socially constructed normal way to live, but I don’t think it’s something to aim for.  Who really wants to have average as a goal?

— Alyssa

Normal @ Disquake

In some cultures, and specifically dominant culture in the United States, the impaired body is seen as a deviation from what is normal. The impaired body represents pathology, deficiency, and defect from culturally constructed normal ways of being. This perception of impaired bodies is situated in medicine, but isn’t exclusive to medicine. Nor is this perception the only cultural conceptualization of impaired bodies.

We took a closer look at various theoretical models of disability and surveyed disabled individuals about their ideas of normal. Our survey studied how people look at normality, in particular Autistic people and people with impairments and/or experience with disability.

Excerpts from the survey are included on this website, along with theoretical models of disability and impairment. By placing them together, we are asking: What value do these models have for understanding disability? What opportunities exist? And where do the models fall short?

Sociocultural Model

This project borrows heavily from the Sociocultural Model of Impairment-Disability developed by Devva Kasnitz and Russell Shuttleworth. Citations to their work are as follows:

  • Kasnitz, D., Shuttleworth, R. (2004, modified by Kasnitz in 2015). A Cross-Cultural Sociocultural Model of Impairment-Disability, in Disability and Human Rights, Organized by Lenore Manderson, International Human Rights, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Kasnitz, D. (2001). Life Event Histories in the US Independent Living Movement, in M. Priestly, editor, Disability and the Life Course. Pages 67-79. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Image credit: Sanket K. Available online: The Telegraph UK.