The Social Construction Of A Disability

By: Luis A. Torres

Subjected to Subjectivity
The idea of an objectively defined state of "disabled(ness)" exists only within the framework of dominant norms and rules within our society. Sociologists have long argued that "disability notions are not objectively determined but socially constructed" and these constructions serve as powerful ideas that shape educational "reform" and can within themselves produce institutional failure.

Much to do with the formation of a perceived disability, are the exisitng social norms, rules, and symbols that are operative within any given society. These symbols can take the form of infrastructure or the way we form our discourse about normal and deviant activity or behavior. As the article mentions,

Despite the objective reality, what becomes a disability is determined by the
social meanings individuals attach to particular physical and mental impairments.
Certain disabilities become defined as social problems through the successful
efforts of powerful groups to market their own self interests. Consequently the
so-called 'objective' criteria of disability reflects the biases, self-interests, and
moral evaluations of those in a position to influence policy. (Albrecht and Levy,
1981, p. 14)

Understanding the social construction of disability is central to understanding the fundamental way in which policy is created to address the "disability problem." Needs are now problems and social ills rather than educational goals to be addressed. Consequently, disability is not only symbols and ideas but more so, created by the public policy that socially affirms and enforces it's respective "symptoms" as parts of an example of social ill or deviant behavior.

The University of Leeds, United Kingdom
The Social Construction of the Disability Problem