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time for a new dictionary? was...

From: Karen Lewellen <klewellen@shellworld.net>
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2012 17:16:52 -0400 (EDT)
To: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.BSF.4.64.1207271704240.89342@server1.shellworld.net>
Actually a couple of different threads.
I intended  sending this after a post linking to ideas related to access 
and culture.  Then the discussion about the access dictionary came up via 
the exchange on wcag 2.0 and jaws.
So I am sending this one separately as I finish my answer to Patrick.
the wisdom here is something all should weigh in my view.

Time to Rethink Our Own Declarations of Independence

By William Loughborough

For the first few years of our lives, all of us are totally dependent
on others for survival. Then, after discovering that we can survive
without a full-time personal attendant -- usually "Mommy" -- we think
that we are fully independent.

There used to be a widespread notion of an individual's absolute
independence from everyone and everything. It was -- sometimes
grudgingly -- acknowledged that we were dependent on others for many
things, but there was still the feeling that we were somehow
independent of being beholden to everybody else for essentially
No one seriously considers him or herself, in that sense,
any longer. Every time there is a need for help, our mutual
is emphasized, whether it is because we need someone to keep the
grid running or to turn us over in bed to avoid pressure sores.
Somehow, the latter sort of assistance is regarded widely as a
accommodation" because, after all, the overwhelming majority of us
can turn over by ourselves.

The truth is, we never get over needing special accommodation.
it is because of others growing our food or keeping our air and water
safe or teaching us how to stay alive, we are all highly
interdependent. We are all in this together and, luckily, we are
dependent on one another.

In point of fact, the entire global electrical distribution system is
a special accommodation for those individuals who, unlike blind people,
cannot read in the dark and thus have a "special need" for manmade
illumination. But blind people are taxed with furnishing this special
accommodation that they have no special need for. Similarly, there
are billions of chairs, mostly seldom used, wherever people gather in
groups, but people who bring their own rolling chairs are taxed to
provide this seating service for those who failed to furnish their
own chairs.

Of course, most of society sees it the other way around, but the fact
is that if everybody learned to read Braille and used wheelchairs it
would be a huge savings for society. Because we have for so long
considered "difference" as a sort of punishable inferiority, we think
those who fit certain categories (for example, the lame, halt or
are being given undeserved entitlements while those who makes the
are considered automatically eligible for their own ease and comfort.
Lighting is "affordable," but environmental accessibility for certain
functionally diverse people is not. We never ask how we can afford
aircraft carriers but always question housing vouchers for poor
who must sleep in doorways.

For a long time, people with different levels of functionality have
been labeled as having special needs that create a burden on society.
They are put into labeled groups and often discriminated against --
sometimes very substantially -- just for being different, despite the
fact that their functional diversity is what makes it possible for
humanity to survive and evolve.

Diversity is essential to the selection process necessary to prevent
our species from going the way of all the others that became too
specialized to survive in an ever-changing world.

So rather than think of individuals as "independent," we should
consider ourselves "interdependent" and, most important, not be put
into some arbitrary category and relegated to the fringes of society.
It is not popular to say "we are all disabled," but there can be no
argument that each of us has his own particular talents and
shortcomings. This diversity should be celebrated rather than

A policy of "separate but equal" doesn't just affect those who are
into some "disability box," but also the society that puts them there
to suffer often terrible consequences. There is no longer any
that accessibility to what is offered by our culture is a basic human
right, equal to any others.

By continuing to accept mainstream views of disability, we deny the
undeniable: Compared to whoever is the best in a certain field, we
all disabled, unless we can compose as well as Mozart did at age 10,
putt as accurately as Tiger Woods, for example.

A speech impediment caused by cerebral palsy is not a reason to be
denied the essentials of education or, worse, to be incarcerated in a
setting that has been shown to lead to abuse, neglect or even death.
person who has no means of using the mouse on a computer should not
denied access to the World Wide Web.

Another downside to continuing to speak of ourselves as disabled is
that it puts us in the position of essentially "playing the pity
to reach our goals. What we're saying is that, if not for our
disability, we are just like everyone else. Why draw attention to our

The way in which each of us is like everyone else is that we are
different. That is important for the survival of the species. The
needs, for example, biographical-, neurological- and mobility-diverse
people to help our species evolve.

So, how are we to assert our independence? Probably by realizing just
how dependent we are - and how closely related. Accessibility should
for everyone, everywhere, always.

The "diversity model" must replace the "medical model" and the
model." What should be "fixed" is not our differences, but society's
reluctance to recognize our importance to cultural evolution. It's
the wheelchair that disables us, it's the stairs.

William Loughborough has come to the above conclusions because of his
association with Javier Roma?ach of Madrid, Spain, from whose book
(in Spanish) "El Modelo de la Diversidad" this article is derived. A
more "academic" distillation can be found at

Received on Friday, 27 July 2012 21:17:15 UTC

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