From the Disability Wisdom Community: Is There a Disability Culture or Cultures?

This post features another discussion we had on the Disability Wisdom Discussion GroupA group member asked whether or not there is a such thing as disability culture, or impairment subcultures such as “blind culture” and “autistic culture.” The question generated a variety of opinions which underscore the complexity of the issue:

  • I intuitively feel like there is a blindness culture, although I’ve never quite been able to pin down what that means. I’ll give this some more thought.
  • I feel like there’s a blindness culture, like,an appreciation of non visual techniques and beauty. I have a hard time connecting with it a lot of the time.
  • First time I’ve heard of it.
  • so… Wherever there is a group of people, there is a culture or subculture. Families have their own subcultures. Companies have their own cultures. Groups of people who get together to discuss books have their own subcultures.If there are groups of blind people, then of course there is blind culture.

    I think it may be less easy to tease apart what makes it distinct, because unlike deaf culture there are no super easy differences to point to, but that doesnt mean its not there.

  • culture or subculture is the unique experiences and understanding within any group of people, so yes, it may not be as defined, but it exists.
  • I was always led to believe that something could only be a culture if it had its own language/form of communication. Braille doesn’t count because it is simply a different representation of an existing language. Under hat definition no, there’s no blindness culture & the sense of community we feel is a sub culture.
    Personally I’d. Say language is not necessary to define culture & communities can have their own cultures.
  • I am more open talking about blindness concerns around other blind people but I don’t think it is a culture. I think there may have been more of a blindness culture when most blind people attended a school for the blind but that hasn’t been the case for many years.
  • So culture is defined as a group having its own language, customs and religion. Since disability alone does not include these, I argue that we do not have a seperate culture. We are a part of whatever culture we live in. However, there is the disability experience, such as dealing with discrimination, using alternative tools/methods, lack of accessibility, the psychology of being disabled, etc. These are things that able bodied people don’t have to think about or deal with, except maybe the discrimination part. So while we live in the same culture as those around us, our experience can be different because of disability.
  • There is definitely autistic culture. It includes mores such as, respecting everyone, only 1person talking at a time, asking pronouns, stimming openly, asking before touching anyone, asking what someone is feeling and not relying on their expressions, giving people lots of space, being patient as people communicate, and being really honest. Autistic people are not offended by honesty the way other people are. If I ask you if you like my shirt and you say well it’s the color of bile that’s good to know I hadn’t noticed. I really wanted your opinion. I don’t ask if I don’t want to know things.
  • Personally, I do think that blind people have their own customs, which falls under the scope of being a culture. Saying your name instead of raising her hand to speak, announcing yourself when you enter a room in some places, some stims, and using technology bye unabashedly having your voiceover off silent or earbuds not constantly in your ears to hide the sound are part of the culture. They dislike of being touched without warning or permission is something that I think we share in common with the greater disability culture. I was pointed to the same very narrow definition that [group member] discussed while I was in middle or high school, but I personally do not agree with it. I think that culture has evolved to mean something very different in today’s day and age, and that definition just doesn’t suffice anymore.
  • If there were epileptic colonies, separate schools we had a culture. I’ve often wondered what happened to the former ‘program’ of an elementary school I had attended. The program used some now dated language. But I often thought it was ‘appropriate’ the elementary had sea paintings on the walls of that program when I had hydrocephalus (water on the brain) as one of my conditions. It made me feel beautiful as a little girl.
  • I think people often confuse the word community and culture. There are many many different communities inside a single culture. Just look at the United States. However, if you narrow down by culture, the number gets exponentially smaller. Same with disability. There are many communities full of people with disabilities, including this one. Culture wise, I don’t think so. In order to have culture, you need to have language, social norms, traditions, and many other things that I am forgetting right now. We, as Blind individuals, don’t have a language. Braille is just a code. It can be applied to any language. We do have slang, but every community has some sort of slang. Just look at the corporate or educational community as an example. We may have a few social norms, like don’t grab a guy dog that’s not yours, but in general we live by the same social norms as the rest of the different cultures that we are part of. And finally, we don’t have a lot of traditions that we share amongst each other. We may have a summer convention, but not everybody participates in that.
  • so if language determines a culture, for those who do not know this, but persons who are DeafBlind might use “ASL” but there is TASL, which is the tactile version, is it different from ASL yes, does it have its own unique signs and ways of conveying information in a tactile version, yes. And PT protactile, is its only expression of language too. Yes, I realize that the question was targeted towards the blind community, but as a deafblind person, not only do I have one foot in the blind community, but in the deaf community and a third in the deafblind community. so in essence DeafBlind is a sub community of the blind and deaf community. Yes, we have our own customs, our own norms, and so on.

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