How Does Wikipedia Feel About Your Physical Disability?

by dpreyde

Cerebral palsy


A doctor treating a happy disabled boy. That is, like, the complete opposite of the social model. It’s almost impressive.

This picture creates the impression that cerebral palsy is something that needs to be treated with doctors and medicine and, eventually, if God is on our side, fully cured. Contrary to that, a lot of disabled people don’t see their disability as a problem, or something that needs to be overcome.

There’s also the whole “every disabled person is prepubsescent”, which is a misconception that retards also have to deal with.

Muscular dystrophy


You know what’s worse than being infantilized?

Being boiled down to a medical image of disorganized muscle mass.

God, I don’t even know what to say about this. It’s so fucked up I can’t even be a smartass about it.

Spina Bifida


A sleeping (or possibly dead) infant. A tidy diagram. Spina bifida is something that exists to be analyzed and studied. The humanity of those who have it is not considered here. Their experience is boiled down to something anomalous on their lower back.

It must be so reassuring to see the world this way. That’s why medicalizing disabled people is so fucking persuasive. The real world and the real people living inside it are complicated, messy and contradictory.

If you substitute that reality for something clean, precise and clinical, everything becomes so much easier. But that easiness is, at best, an oversimplification. At worst, it’s a destructive lie.

Hearing Loss


Better yet, instead of a diagram, we could just reduce a vast and sophisticated culture to a symbol.

God, it’s not even a good symbol. I can barely make out what that’s supposed to be. It could be a slightly malformed thumb impaled on a pole.

I’m pretty sure it’s an ear that has been crossed out, which means what exactly? No ears allowed? Because I’m pretty sure that Deaf people have ears. They’re mostly decorative, but they’re still there.

You could have a photo of people having a conversation in sign, but that would be altogether too nuanced.



Another symbol completely separated from the people it supposedly represents. I swear to God, I took one look at this and then walked away from this blog entry for five days because I was too pissed off.

How much shit do physically disabled people have to put up with? Is there an upper limit we simply haven’t reached yet? After that, will there be free breadsticks?

Spinal cord injury


So you spend your life with functional legs. Other people see you as a person. Your humanity is recognized and taken for granted. Then something happens to you, your legs become decorative, and your identity is narrowed down to this diagram.

I cannot imagine- I cannot begin to imagine- how depressing that must be.

Based on this admittedly narrow survey of Wikipedia articles, folks with physical disabilities seem to be screwed over to a much greater degree than people with other disabilities. The plight of the psychiatrically disabled is hopelessly romanticized, and the cognitively disabled are infantilized, but at least both are treated like human beings. Physically disabled people are stripped of their humanity, boiled down to abstractions and diagrams; anything at all to provide distance from the sight of the impaired body.

I’m not physically disabled, so I don’t know what it would feel like to live in a society that is utterly repulsed by my presence. I imagine it would cut deep.