The social construction of the disability : social inequality in Hong Kong

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The social construction of the disability : social inequality in Hong Kong


Author: Tam, Tat-sing
Title: The social construction of the disability : social inequality in Hong Kong
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2004
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
People with disabilities -- China -- Hong Kong
Barrier-free design -- China -- Hong Kong
Equality -- China -- Hong Kong
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: 213 leaves ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: The objectives of this study are to examine how disability is socially constructed in Hong Kong and to explore the extent to which people with impairments are able to resist social restrictions upon their living. By following the materialist social model of disability, we focused on the prevailing forms and patterns of social restrictions upon the people with impairments and tried to see how disability is created. Data are mainly collected from in-depth interviews. Twenty people, who are wheelchair-users but with different kinds of impairments, were interviewed within the period from September 2001 to August 2002. I divide our analysis into three parts. The first part is about the social restrictions that are constituted through spatial arrangement, the form of provision of social services and medical practices have been examined. It was found that disability was created because of people's concern with risk. The related parties, like security guards, policemen and family members of the people with impairments, restricted the scope of geographical mobility of the people with impairments because of their concerns for the safety of the impaired people and themselves. Their subjective interpretations of risk prevented them from offering assistance to the impaired people and therefore people with impairment were thus 'disabled'. Based on the examination of the social restrictions upon impairments, I turned to study the psycho-emotional dimensions of disability. We found that owing to their experiences of disability, people with impairments felt anxious, dismayed and frustrated. Disability, understood as the outcome of social restrictions upon impairments - the sense of doing, affected the sense of being of the people with impairments. However, we found that people with impairments reacted against social restrictions with their own strategies and knowledge. In reaction to the dominance of bio-medical knowledge, people with impairments, on the basis of their personal experience and knowledge, formulated their own ways of living. Informed by the materialist social modellists like Carol Thomas, we further examined the significance of impairments to the personal life of people with impairments. Contrary to the social model of disability, which suggests the idea that impairments are not essential in the study of disability, we found that impairment effect is of great significance. Impairments also affected the psycho-emotional state of people with disability. Despite of this, when people with impairments found medical practitioners helpless, they were able to empower themselves through the formation of optimistic world outlook and practicing their own ways of healing. In this respect, we discovered covert struggles between the impaired people and the professionals. In short, with the concept of psycho-emotional dimensions of disability, we examined the lived and embodied experiences of the impaired and pinpointed the aspects of what people with impairments are doing and the aspects of how they act/react in facing disabling restrictions. Moreover, facing the bio-medical dominance, the interviewees of this study made use of their embodied and lived experiences to counter this imposition. It shows that people with impairments act as an active person against social construction of disability rather than being a passive victim. This is the first study in Hong Kong showing the impacts of disability and impairments on the psycho-emotional dimensions on the people with impairments. However, we were only concerned with one form of impairments (i.e. wheelchair users). More research is needed to examine the link between other forms of impairments and the rise of disability.

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