Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Square Talk: The Social Model


  1. That is perfect.

    And true.

    Good job! :)

  2. I really liked this.

    I've had some trouble explaining the social model of disability--it makes sense in my head, but the words always come out wrong. Posts like this help me organize my explanations more coherently.

  3. This is really good. Do you mind if I bring a copy of this to show to people at Disability Week events? (Obviously I would describe where I got it from.)

  4. Julia, expect attempts to explain the social model to be flawed, as the theory itself is flawed and isn't true. Try long winded word twisting explanations and propaganda which will be believed easily by those foolish enough.

  5. Geosaru,
    Yes, you are welcome to distribute anything I post here. Thanks for asking.


  6. Love this. I'm putting it on flyers to hand out at a neurodiversity event I'm helping out with.

  7. Yay, another Square Talk. Thanks, Bev.

  8. Disability Rights Awareness Week will be happening soon at my University.

    Is it ok if I suggest that people use this in some of the publicity?

  9. (I know you already said yes to Geosaru, but I just wanted to be 100% sure)

  10. Finally, a visual aid!

  11. Sanabituranima,

    Yes, you may use this anywhere you think it might be helpful. I am fine with anyone using any work posted here as long as it is credited to Asperger Square 8.



  12. Lets connect through ASD, view our video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj84FekP7G8 to get to know us better.

  13. I have just posted a link to this blog on the disability studies list, I am sure there are a lot of people who are going to appreciate this.

  14. lurker, the social model has stuck for one reason, it works. Of course all models of the world are a work in progress and there are legitimate criticisms to be made in academic circles which actually strengthen the model rather than weaken it, but that is where they belong, in academic circles not in the twisted self pitying philosophy you own to.

  15. Just ignore lurker.

    I've missed the circle/square cartoons!

  16. The author, it doesn't work. I don't even know what it's supposed to work at. It doesn't make sense. It's a misinterpretation of reality. It lacks common sense. It certainly shouldn't be acted on as it can't apply to actual society. The basics of disability shouldn't be the subject of an academic discourse. The people in academia who extended the social model to mental disabilities aren't in touch with what mental disability is like. I wonder what academic arguments dismiss natural disappointment at obviously unfortunate circumstances, as unacceptable self-pity that shouldn't be acted on.

  17. It would be so much funnier if it wasn't so true.

  18. Excellent comic as always.

    The Square on a Skateboard is very awesome.

  19. http://sanabituranima.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/ave-atque-vale-and-six-georgeous-blogs/

    A blog award for you.

  20. Can someone explain the skateboard to me?

  21. Hi ASpieboy,
    My thought was that squares can roll as well as cirlces if provided the proper support. A skateboard would be pretty easy to provide, analogous to maybe using headphones in the office to accommodate sensory sensitivities or communicating with an autistic coworker through email rather than the phone.

  22. I love it. And it seems it would apply to social models outside of disability as well. Bonus?

  23. I'm a square who squarely asks you and the rest of us squares: why should I expect my circular neighbors to buy me a skateboard? (let alone expect them to tax each other to do it?)

  24. Kate Gladstone,

    Do you also pay taxes? I do. Sometimes I don't see direct benefits from the taxes I pay, but someone else does. Sometimes I disagree with the way the funds are spent, too.

    But this isn't even about that necessarily. Sometimes it's just about being excluded by people who don't want the skateboard I made for myself in their offices or public spaces.

  25. Just discovered your blog. Great stuff. Thanks.

  26. ... or an unwillingness to accept that a skateboard is a "real", valid means of locomation at all.

  27. Bev --
    I pay taxes, and I oppose them.

  28. What happens when I make myself a skateboard, and my friends and neighbors who don't need skateboards find that my skateboard gets in the way of their own ability to roll?

  29. Sounds like they need to check their sense of entitlement to me. But then I don't believe that only certain people have the right to participate in society.

  30. As one of the squares (severe Asperger's and a bunch of other disabilities), I know exactly what you mean by a "sense of entitlement" -- which I've seen in as high a percentage of us squares as in the circular majority.

    Re participating in society -- I entirely agree that anyone, anywhere (circular, square, with skateboard, or without one) has the right to seek such participation (or anything else s/he values). Having the right to seek something valuable, of course, can't guarantee that anyone, anywhere, will actually give it to you. (E.g., as a human being I have the right to seek friends, to seek a romantic partner, etc. -- but nobody anywhere has a duty to become my friend or to become my romantic partner.)

  31. "What happens when I make myself a skateboard, and my friends and neighbors who don't need skateboards find that my skateboard gets in the way of their own ability to roll?"

    I don't see how that could possibl happen, but if it did, the sensible thing would be to make a new skateboad that didn't get in the way, rather than deciding all skateboards are bad.

    I can't think of instances where disability accomadtions harm non-disabled folks. Maybe those instances exist, but if they do, the sensible thing is to adapt the accomodations so they cause nobody problems, rather than just decide that disabled people shouldn't participate.

    Lots of accomodations make things easier for non-disabled people, too, though. Examples from the university I've just started at:

    University lecturers make text of lecturesnotes availabl to students. This is good for students who are deaf/hard of hearng, have problems processing speech or have to miss many classes due to health issues. But it's also useful for a student who has to miss the occassional class because of minor illness or timetable clashes. It's also useful for those who speak English as a second language - if they need to work out wat a word means, they can do so without losing the thread of the information.

    The university,like most (at least in the UK) runs a nightline that people can call for confidential advice and support. This is very important for students with mental health conditions, but also to students with "regular" non-psych-lableable stress. The nightline has recently become available via typed instant messaging. This is good for students with speech/hearing/language processing impairments, but also for any "normal" stdent who has something embarrassing to talk about and doesn't want their voice recognised.

    The lifts in the library are essential for wheelchair users and others who struggle to cimb stairs, but they make life that bit easier for anyone who doesn't feel like climbing five flights of stairs.

    There are designated quiet roomsaroud the accomodation. Useful for people with anxiety problems and/or sesory issues, but also for anyone needing a peaceful space.

    There are many other things, but my point is that overall accessiility is far more likely to be benefical to the majority than to be detrimental.

    As far as I can see, the skateboard is a metaphor for a wheelchair and/or assistive technology in general. I don't see how a wheelchar could stop people who ca walk from moving.I don't see how someone using assistive technology harms anyone else.

  32. I agree with that last, long post. Why I asked the question: I know some otherwise ethical people who tell me, quite seriously, that they would have an "obvious natural right" to make/receive/use accommodations at the expense of others (e.g., accommodations that they couldn't have/use without causing physical/financial/other harm to one or more other people).
    This came up in the following situation:

    A very intelligent young man with Asperger's, dyslexia, and Central Auditory Processing Disorder, who needed to learn Spanish for his job (a profession he had always really wanted to get into) enrolled in a Spanish class given by the professional development program of the office where he worked as a college intern. (He had never before studied another language, but felt very excited to finally have the chance to do so -- and to get paid for it, too!)

    About halfway through the first lesson, he told the teacher that his Asperger's-related need for consistent routines & inputs (along with his dyslexia/CAPD issues) would require her to excuse him from learning and using Spanish word-order and Spanish pronunciation when speaking and writing Spanish (because Spanish word-order and pronunciation differ from English, and the fact of these differences annoyed him).
    He suggested -- demanded, actually -- that any classroom interactions involving him (also any occasion when he would use Spanish at work) would need to have the subject matter "adapted" in this way (as he put it) so that he would feel comfortable with his new language. When she rejected his suggestion that she should teach him "his" kind of Spanish while teaching the rest of the class *actual* Spanish, he made the counter-offer that she should "simply make the same adaptations for the whole class: why not just teach the whole class in the way that I need to be taught? Since I am a member of the class just like anyone else, the design of the course content needs to be universalized so that we can all -- including me -- succeed equally." (in other words, he asked to have the whole class learn dysfunctional Spanish because this would be easier for him and would not be harder for others.)

    As he saw it, he had an "obvious natural right" to require other people to provide the money, labor, and other resources to get this done for him at no expense to himself. ("Other people" in this situation would have meant, not just the other people at work, but also the public: -- since the money and other resources for the internship came from a fund which received money collected by taxes, as well as money from private donations).
    So, when his teacher, his fellow Spanish students, and the administration rejected his proposal and told him he'd have to either learn the same Spanish as the rest of the class, change internship tracks, or accept dismissal -- as he saw it, their "bigoted rejection of my needs" (his phrase) meant that he now "had an obvious and necessary right" to receive praises and high grades on all classwork anyway. He regarded this as his teacher's and employer's "equally obvious duty -- the other side of my obvious right" (his phraseology, not mine) as a form of compensation for "their refusal to adapt to disability-related needs."
    As he saw it, this "obvious right" and "obvious duty" made it not only unnecessary but -- in his view -- "immoral to even suggest considering another solution, since it is others' attitudes that resulted in this rejection" of this employee's proposed changes to the course.

    This strikes me as a clear example of someone creating (and asking to use) a "skateboard" that operates at others' expense.

  33. This was the story of a single individual who either misunderstood his rights or tried to take advantage of a system. It demonstrates that autistic people are subject to the same failings as other humans, nothing more.
    It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not reasonable accommodations should be provided or allowed.

    This (providing a single extreme example) is a tactic often used to derail discussions around legitimate requests for supports.

  34. What makes it "reasonable" for any accommodation whatsoever (even an inexpensive one) to be provided at the expense of folks who don't need it?

    Let's consider typewritten notes. When I need these to pass a course or to do well at work, and when I can require that *you* must prepare/provide these notes for me, entirely or partly at your own expense (expense paid either directly or through taxes), morally it doesn't matter how much or how little money my needs removed involuntarily from your wallet.

    To me -- who definitely could have benefited from typewritten notes all through school and afterwards, too -- it doesn't matter whether the notes also help other people (who, for whatever reason, did not provide themselves or others with that help until somebody else came along, stated a need, and demanded that others take the responsibility of meeting that need "for free." I put "free" in quotes because "free" isn't free: somebody, somewhere put in money/time/ labor to make the "free" note-taking happen.)

    Imagine three neighbors: Tom, Dick, and Harry.
    Tom is kind. He wants to provide all people with everything that they need and deserve. He sees Dick struggling mightily against serious, unfair disadvantages (Let's say that Dick is an Aspie & also needs a wheelchair. He owns no wheelchair,: neither does he have any help meeting his other, "invisible disability" needs.)
    So Tom sets out to help Dick. Dick needs & deserves a wheelchair, typewritten notes, and a social-skills coach; Tom wants Dick to have all that can possibly help Dick flourish. Unfortunately: Tom has no money & no possessions of his own. Whenever Tom has ever needed something (right down to the price of a cup of coffee), Tom has neither made it nor bought it nor traded for it ... instead, Tom has always persuaded other people to give things to Tom. So ... Tom asks his other neighbor (Harry) to please volunteer money/time/resources to help out Dick. Harry refuses to help willingly -- so Tom resolves to make Harry help UNwillingly.
    Tom tells Harry: "Since you won't provide Dick with a wheelchair, a typist, and a social-skills coach, I'll get the money from you by threat of force. Write me or Dick a check, or tomorrow I come back with a gun & I'll make you write the check anyway. Oh, and keep in mind that this is actually good for you, too, because we could each use a typist: so, when I get your check, I'll make sure that you and I share the services of the typist you're unwillingly hiring for Dick."

    Has Tom acted morally?

    Tom (like a government agency) owns only what is produced (and given) by others: by tose who actually produce the goods and services that Tom takes & redistributes.
    Tom (like a government agency) has -- and uses -- the power to impose force when others won't do what Tom wants done.
    If it's wrong for Tom to harm (or threaten harming) Harry into helping Dick -- even if Tom offers to sweeten the deal by letting Harry share the typist's services-- what makes it right for an organization of "Toms" (a government agency) to do so?

  35. KateGladstone,

    It is clear that you oppose taxes; you have already said so. I do not agree with you. We have very different ideas about who is deserving of what and why. No amount of arguing is going to change that and I am not going to spend any more time on this. I will leave your comments up in case anyone else cares to engage in this discussion.

  36. Thanks for leaving my comments up. I didn't expect to change your views, but to have people see and consider an opposing viewpoint (irrespctive of whether they found themselves agreeing, or not).

  37. Mmm? I do not see Kate's viewpoint as opposing, but irrelevant.

    What has saying that nobody ought to be taxed for anything got to do with the cartoon?

    It seems to me that the cartoon is more about a situation where everybody is 'taxed' (or otherwise invested in society) but the services provided as a return on that investment are only usable by those with 'normal' needs. The squares are getting ripped off. If the squares are simply excused from paying it is only marginally more fair, because they are still effectively being denied participation. (And while autism means I'm lousy at it, it doesn't change the fact that I'm the kind of ape that needs to be a member of a society to experience well-being.)

    Micro-scale: I'm supposed to put a couple bucks in to some stupid office-kitty to buy cookies. I do not eat cookies. My requests that we sometimes buy oranges, nuts or figs are ignored. I pay a share for everybody else's cookies, and bring my own oranges (etc), and share them, because I know from experience that I will have even more social difficulties than I already do if I don't join in.

    Macro-scale: 19th century New York.

  38. To Grafton --
    I'll think of what you said.
    Re your "mini"-problem:
    Quit the office kitty.
    Tell them why.
    Stand their disdain and disapproval.
    Spend those dollars (that they previously "guilted" you into spending on everyone else's cookies) on your own interests and needs (your own oranges and nuts).

    To others (namely, to those, here or elsewhere, who ask me to suppose that *all* bad effects of a disability come from others' responses to it) --

    A person with no arms (for example) has serious difficulties even if s/he lives all alone and has never seen -- has never even heard of -- a person with arms.

  39. I think of it as a sort of insurance. Just like free health care (I live in Canada), accommodations coming out of taxes benefits everyone. Anyone of us could have a car accident and rack up expensive medical bills. Instead of being broke, we don't owe anyone anything. In the same way, that car accident could leave you needing a 'skateboard'.

  40. Sorry, this comment is completely off point from both the blog post (great cartoon) and the subsequent debate about accommodations

    For anyone who shares an interest in understanding, analyzing, discussing, or criticizing "theory of mind" research among autistic children ... it might be of interest to check out what's happening with theory of mind research among deaf children because there might be some interesting parallels as well as results that could maybe be used to support arguments for why at least some (most?) theory of mind research among autistic children has been flawed. Check out this on-line video:

    Schick Language and Theory of Mind in Deaf Children
    Speaker shares results of research on Theory of Mind among Deaf children. Past research among deaf children has typically shown very large delays in developing theory of mind which the researcher attributes in part to flawed testing methods that fail to adequately account for linguistic differences in communication among deaf children. Her research study, in which signing deaf children are tested by deaf native signing testers, still shows a delay but a smaller one than in past research. Researcher discusses implication of delayed theory of mind for developing social and academic skills (eg, children who are better able to guess what the teacher wants may do better in school). The researcher recommends that parents and teachers receive more support in learning how to talk about theory of mind concepts with deaf children as a way of promoting this skill (for example, talking more extensively about past events, thoughts, feelings, emotions, why people do certain things, etc.) 83-minute video. Requires Windows Media Player. The one-hour lecture and also all the questions and answers at the end are in American Sign Language. Spoken translation is provided for hearing non-signers. Unfortunately no captions are available for deaf non-signers or for hearing non-signers with auditory processing disorders.

  41. Quit the office kitty.
    Tell them why.
    Stand their disdain and disapproval.

    No. As I said, doing so creates social trouble for me. Disdain and disapproval are not the significant bits. I'm very likely to fail to even notice that. I do not pay for other people's cookies in response to a pressure of guilt. "Extortion" would be the proper word.

    What has happened is stuff like me being in the first wave of lay-offs in spite of having top productivity figures. As I clear out to leave, I inquired of my manager why these two seemingly inconsistent facts should both be true. She replied, "You don't make this a fun place to work. You're not a team player." (The latter statement puzzled me: the work itself was solitary.) Or I'll find that I can't get co-workers to assist me when I come up against a task that physically requires two people, or requires the cooperation of somebody in another position to complete. My ability to do the job is damaged. Ask co-workers why, I'll get a reply something like, "Well, you snub all of us, so of course we're going to snub you."

    The answer to this is not for me to ignore that pressure, end up jobless and crawl off to die in a cardboard box. What's required is for these people to clue in to what the square in the cartoon is saying, and respond appropriately.

    (Actually, considering how this kind of shabby crap has made it very hard for me to make a living in spite of my history of excellent job performance by all measurable productivity standards, it strikes me as spot-on fair to tax them and use that money to pay me a living wage to do nothing. It is not I who have decided to value irrelevant contributions like cookie-kitties and making-this-a-fun-place-to-work over the job's actual tasks. There is no factor other than intolerance that renders me so hard to keep employed. I really rather fancy that people ought to pay for the privilege of casually trying to kill me by shunning. But I won't argue if you disagree with the above bit of nasty vitriol.)

  42. Re:
    "The answer to this is not for me to ignore that pressure, end up jobless and crawl off to die in a cardboard box. What's required is for these people to clue in to what the square in the cartoon is saying, and respond appropriately."

    Sure -- so how do you cause them to do that?
    As your examples so powerfully and eloquently demonstrate, all the anti-discrimination laws ever written (and all the personnel ever hired to enforce them, all the taxes ever collected to pay for the enforcement, etc.) haven't ended the discrimination that you (and I) daily experience. (I had to leave one job because of such things as "inability to inspire a cubicle-mate to participate in the task of moving a file cabinet" which required two people to move. Although my cubicle-mate's evaluation report for that period gave her a black X for her own failure to "participate in the task," she still got a perfect evaluation for that period although perfect evaluations theoretically went only to those who had perfect records, entirely free of black X's.)

  43. A person with no arms (for example) has serious difficulties even if s/he lives all alone and has never seen -- has never even heard of -- a person with arms.

    Well. Yes. All animals have things they cannot do. Is it a disability that I can't pick things up with the tail that I don't have?


    1: I drug you and toss you on my space ship, sending you on a one-way trip to the Planet of the Squirrel People. The Squirrel People are giant squirrels. They don't have stairs or ladders because, being squirrels, they can simply run up vertical surfaces, holding on by their fingernails. On this planet you are severely physically disabled, though your body is exactly the same and perfectly undamaged.

    2: I drug Todd and ship him off to the planet of the Pearl-Wheel People. The Pearl-Wheel People have wheel-sockets and grow pearl-like balls in them and roll about on those. Everything is built to suit people who are rolling around, so Todd's need to use a wheelchair is no longer a significant disability, though it was a spinal injury that made him need the chair.

  44. Sure -- so how do you cause them to do that?

    Via the social change that Bev is advocating through the cartoon, and that other disability activists advocate in their assorted fashions. (There are some people willing to help move this metaphorical file cabinet.) Law is not necessarily part of that.

  45. Hi there! I don't think I've ever commented on your blog before -- I'm sort of a lurker. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to practice my commenting skills:

    A while back, I printed out a copy of your social model comic and your blog logo and taped it on my office wall, right next to some of my anti-Autism Speaks flyers, hoping that it might be a conversation-starter. (I'm a grad student and I teach college writing.) I share an office with 15 other grad students, all of whom also teach, and last week someone else's student came up to me and recognized the comic from your blog. I was *so* excited to actually meet another fellow autistic person at my university, someone who follows your blog and other Autism Hub blogs. It was pretty neat. It made me feel less lonely.

    Anyway... thought I'd share!

  46. Melanie, that was me. I'm glad that our interaction made you feel less lonely. It made me feel supported, like there are people outside of the internet who understand this stuff. I don't usually comment either. I'll probably post on your blog since you probably wouldn't see this old thread otherwise.


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