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Disability as a Social Construct

Legislative Roots

By Claire H. Liachowitz

Publication Year: 1988

Wounded soldiers, injured workers, handicapped adults, and physically impaired children have all been affected by legislation that reduces their opportunities to live a functional life. In Disability as a Social Construct, Claire Liachowitz contends that disability is not merely a result of a handicap but can be imposed by society through devaluation and segregation of people who deviate from physical norms.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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Title Page

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p. ix

An earlier version of this book was written as a doctoral dissertation at Bryn Mawr College. I thank Dean Phyllis Bober, Dean Barbara Kreutz, my faculty committee, and especially Professor Marc Howard Ross, for their long years of patience, encouragement and direction. I cannot come close to thanking adequately the remarkable people who staff the college ...

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pp. xi-xii

At the time that Benjamin Franklin was chosen to represent Pennsylvania in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he was almost immobilized by gouty arthritis, and Philadelphia's officials arranged to have him carried into the sessions in a sedan chair.' His physically defective body thus did not impede his ability to function as a statesman; although the impairment that prevented his walking remained, he was not disabled. ...

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-18

Until recently, most writers on the social aspects of physical handicap have adhered to the orthodox medical view of disability as the direct result of personal physical disorder. Now, in contrast, an increasing number of sociological and psychological theorists regard disability as a complex of constraints that the ablebodied population imposes on the behavior of physically impaired people. ...

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2 Disability and Human Capital: Wounded Soldiers

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pp. 19-44

Analyzing military1 pension laws demonstrates three ways that legislation conditions the abilities of physically impaired people to function. Laws disable physically handicapped individuals by prescribing their activities. Less directly, and perhaps more effectively, laws also construct disability by promoting particular expectations among the ablebodied segment of the population. And third, because knowledge of these expectations can ...

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3 Disability and Injury: Workmen's Compensation

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pp. 45-63

After looking at the ways in which a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt and several theories of social behavior are related to the construction of disability, this chapter will focus on the disabling effects of workmen's compensation laws.' Specifying how these laws have led to the devaluation of people with physical handicaps bolsters the general argument that the ...

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4 Disability and Charity: Rehabilitation for Civilians

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pp. 64-85

This chapter and the next will show that disabling social policies can in large part be traced to institutionalized practices of charity and segregation. In this chapter that process is demonstrated by presenting the legislative background of federally sponsored rehabilitation. Chapter 5 discusses the same method of constructing disability in the context of education. ...

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5 Disability and Education: Physically Handicapped Children

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pp. 86-106

The thesis central to this book is that early public policies have created a disabling atmosphere that helps to translate physical defects into social defects. This chapter further illustrates that argument by showing that the truthfulness of Locke's prophecy frequently depends not on physical inabilities but on inferences promoted by American education. Historical ...

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6 Conclusions: Policy Implications

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pp. 107-113

This book has elaborated on the distinction between handicaps imposed by nature and handicaps conferred by social and political mechanisms. Except for acknowledging that remedying handicaps imposed by nature is in large part a matter of cultural variation, the subject of physical restoration has not been addressed. The major purpose of the concepts and empirical materials of this book has been to show that social policies ...


Books and Articles

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pp. 114-124

Public Documents

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pp. 125-127


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pp. 128-130

Case List

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p. 131


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pp. 133-139

E-ISBN-13: 9780812202625
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812281347

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 1988

OCLC Number: 44965948
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Disability as a Social Construct

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Subject Headings

  • People with disabilities -- United States -- History.
  • People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States -- History.
  • Sociological jurisprudence.
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