To better understand disability, we can shift the perspective from the physical deviations of what’s ‘normal’ to the bio-psycho-social model of disability. It is an interdisciplinary model that points at the correlation between biology, psychology, and socio- environmental factors. The model is the foundation for the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) which is a classification published by the World Health Organization (WHO). The interconnections between the different factors or domains are shown in the following diagram.
So disability is more than just physical, cognitive or mental impairment. It includes the social dynamics that create the disability in the first place. The term “disabled” means that someone is actively made unable to do something.
Examples: A person in a wheelchair would not be disabled in accessing offices if all buildings had wheelchair ramps. A blind person would not be disabled in accessing public spaces if they included braille signs and voice-enhanced crosswalks. A person with a learning disability would not be disabled in understanding a political speech if the politician used simple language.
Additionally, there is a schema called the ‘cultural model of disability that sees disability as a socially formed phenomena because of society’s definition of what is ‘normal’. Our perception of a disabled body is always linked to aesthetic, moral-normative, social and medical beliefs or perceptions that are formed throughout history and carved into our cultural life, explained Dederich (2007), a German education researcher and pedagogue.
Today, we should be more aware of terms still being used to refer to disabled people. Shockingly, I still hear people in my hometown in Lebanon use the word “Mongole” to describe a person with Down-Syndrome or use words like “مجنون / أخوت ” to describe people who struggle with mental health issues as “crazy”, “psycho” or ” العصفوريه” to talk about psychiatry in a degrading way. I encourage everyone to think about the power of words to represent our mental world and our perception of human beings. Being mindful of this will influence how we treat and speak with other people.
Moreover, we should be more inclusive in our beliefs in today’s highly competitive and performance-driven society. Sadly, this meritocracy is unfair to disabled people because they’re seen as unable to perform well or economically contribute to society. The disabled are seen as unequal.
In college, we analyzed how the Quran describes those with disabilities and we found that they were rightfully seen as equal and holy human beings. It is said that disabled family members must be well cared for because they are a blessing in life.
I recently read a relevant article, The Soul’s Journey in Reincarnation, by Loujein Amaneddine on Druze Times. Loujein describes perfectly how reincarnation is a form of justice, because we are being given infinite chances to relive, re-act, re-think, re-make, re-believe, and re-correct. This is the ultimate definition of justice. We are being tested to work harder and be better versions of ourselves.
I asked my brother in law if he could ask a local Druze Sheikh about this topic. The response I received is “in our faith, we must see disabled people as equal beings and as a blessing”. The disabled and the people in their lives are being tested by God. This advice suggests that we can do more to educate people and spread awareness. The way we think about and treat others says a lot about us.
We should rethink our beliefs and perceptions, and find ways to be more supportive of disabled people. Instead of focusing on flaws or imperfections, we can help people with disabilities by showing compassion and patience. We can also strive for greater awareness and self-reflection which is a core principle in our faith. It all begins with educating our community to be more accepting.
Dederich, M. (2007). Körper, Kultur und Behinderung. Eine Einführung in die Disability Studies. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.
Amaneddine, L. (2019). The Soul’s Journey in Reincarnation. Retrieved from: https://druzetimes.com/culture/2019/08/17/the-souls-journey-in-reincarnation/