Disability—a Complicated Issue

Disability is at best a complicated issue. People affected by disability often have questions about their disability, as do those who love them. Why am I disabled? What is the greater good to my impairment? How am I viewed by society?  

People with disabilities themselves will sometimes state that the most difficult aspect of having a disability is not necessarily the impairment itself, but the way one who has such an impairment is treated. This idea, at least in part, informed the articles which are offered here in the 2016 spring issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, “Disability in China.”

We begin with Katie Venzke who asks the seemingly obvious question: “What is disability?” She has found it is not quite as apparent as one might think. Disability is actually quite complex—much more than simply a characteristic of an individual.

Jeff McNair takes our understanding of disability and evaluates Western human services through the work of Wolf Wolfensberger and elucidates the potential benefits of faith groups being involved in the delivery of human supports.

We learn about the exciting growth and change in cultural understanding of persons with disabilities and the resulting programs which have been developing in China in the form of a “brief glimpse” provided by Y-Wang.

The rich variety of Chinese cultural perspectives, including Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, is discussed briefly by Kevin Avery. Understanding is the starting point that he recommends which will lead to better dialogue to the benefit of all.

Finally, I take a brief look at the experience of parenting a child with a disability. Because my son has autism, I use that as the frame of reference for my discussion. There has been significant growth in the numbers of children born with autism and there has also been much development in the types of supports and educational services available—this is true in China as well as elsewhere. Both of these are considered.

This issue of ChinaSource Quarterly in no way provides a comprehensive treatment of the topic of disability in China. However, a good starting point might be one that tries to define what disability is, how services might be developed, the provision of encouragement through a description of growth, and the cultural heritage which informs ideas. Personal experience, like that of a parent, is also always relevant in attempting to understand the experience of people who are affected by disability.

We hope we have provided just such a starting point.

Image credit: Journal Entry (Joel Montes de Oca) by Chris Lott, on Flickr.