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Disability in the Neo-liberal Era

Excluded in Rehabilitation

The experience of disability is explored within the growing impact of neo-liberal globalisation utilising an ethnographic approach. Findings indicate how its implicit “commodifying” impact on persons with disabilities aggravates their physical and psychological wounds by amplifying their identity as the “unproductive” or “less productive” other. A need for dialogical partnership, where the marginalised voices are acknowledged and listened to, is accentuated for meaningful participatory rehabilitation. 

The disability experience for most persons with disabilities (PWDs) is that of being perceived as the “deficient,” “economically unproductive or less productive,” and “dependent or needy” other. They often internalise these perceptions. Such perceptions have been sustained by the discourse of the medical model of health (where the standards of a healthy body or “ableism” makes bodily impairment a “deficiency”) and cultural discourses comprising norms or stereo- types about having an impairment. With poverty aggravating the condition of impairment, and PWDs frequently denied income-generation opportunities, especially in the global South, they find them- selves trapped in this vicious cycle of poverty and disability (Dalal 2010; Ghai 2001). Neo-liberal globalisation is a doctrine of radical marketisation that insists on expanding the market logic and principles (for example, self-interest, calculability, competition, efficiency and profit) to all areas of life (Mladenov 2015). It embodies the recommodification of labour by focus- ing on market participation as essential for an individual to meet their needs and be considered as a citizen (Mladenov 2015; Owen and Harris 2012). Thus, neo- liberal globalisation that is founded on this implicit “economic model” may fur- ther deepen their physical and psychological wounds of being unproductive or less productive. James I Charlton (1998), in his book Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment, had hopes for a more participatory reha- bilitation process of PWDs as he envis- aged that their voice and dignity could be better cared for through their direct involvement in the planning and implementation of rehabilitation programmes.

In this article, we will explore the extent to which government institutions as well as disability rights organisations have been graphic study conducted by the first author in Kanpur and New Delhi.

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Updated On : 23rd Jun, 2020

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