Working Alongside People with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities

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Today notions of ‘disability’ are on shifting sands and there are contested
positions constantly emerging between individuals, groups and academics who are writing to claim ‘truth’. An emerging theory is the social construction of intellectual disability and post structural analysis of intellectual disability. These theories look at how language makes people up. By this I mean that they examine the way that being given a disability label constructs you experience. The focus on language examines how we make meaning of our lives in language. Language underpins what systems are created and what ideas are shared about how society will respond to individuals. These are complex debate emerging with disability studies and universities and evolving into being taken up by wider social circles.

Read more here > A Final Word
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Barnes, C, 1997, A Legacy of Oppression: A History of Disability in Western Culture, In 'Disability Studies: Past Present and Future' edited by Len Barton and Mike Oliver Leeds: The Disability Press, pp. 3 – 24).

Black, E. 2003. War Against The Weak: Eugenics and Americas Campaign to Create a Master Race, Four Walls Eight Windows, New York.

Butler. J. 2004. Precarious Life: The Power of Morning and violence, Verso, USA.

Carlson. E. A. 2001. The Unfit: A history of a bad idea, Cold Springs Harbour Laboratory Press. USA>

Danaher, G; Schirato, T and Webb. J. 2000. Understanding Foucault, Allen and Unwin. Australia.

Garland Thomson, R. 1995. Ann Petry's Mrs. Hedges and the Evil, One-Eyed Girl: A Feminist Exploration of the Physically Disabled Female Subject." Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 24 (September 1995): 599-614.

Goffman, I. 1963. Stigma: notes on management of a spoilt identity, Simon and Schuster Inc, New York

Goodey, C.F., 2004, "Foolishness" in Early Modern Medicine and the Concept of Intellectual Disability" Medical History Volume 48. No. 3. Pg 289-310

Gould. S. J. 1981. The Mismeasure of Man. W. W. Norton & Company Inc, USA.

Grosz. E. 1994. Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporal Feminism, Indiana University Press, USA.

Hacking, I. 2006. Making up people, LRB, Vol 28 (16)

Oliver M and Campbell, J.1990. The Politics of Disablement, Macmillan Press Ltd, Hampshire.

Oliver, M. 1990, The individual and social models of disability, in PhD reader in Disability Studies, Thames Polytechnic.

Osburn, J. (1998). An Overview of Social Role Valorization Theory. The International Social Role Valorization Journal/La revue internationale de la Valorisation des roles sociaux, 3(1), 7-12.

Plato in Blatt and Kaplan, 1974. Christmas in Purgatory: A Photographic essay on Mental Retardation , Human Policy Press, New York.

Payne, C. 2008. Asylum, Inside the closed world of state mental hospitals. Barnes and Noble, USA.

Race. D. 2005. Intellectual Disability: Social Approaches, Open University Press, University of Salford.

Rapley, M. 2005. The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, Cambridge University Press. UK.

Nirje 1992 in Cocks and Stehlik 1996: 19, in Annison Jenkinson Sparrow and Bethune Disability: a guide for Health Professionals, Nelson ITP, Melbourne

Siebers, T., 2008, "Disability Theory", University of Michigan Press, USA.

Stiker. J. H. 2000. A History of Disability, University of Michigan Press, USA.

Stojadinovic, Seymour and Norris. In Press. The intersection of Family Law and Child Protection for Parents with an Intellectual Disability, WWILD, Brisbane

Tankard. M. 2006. Defiant Birth. book/defiant-birth1/

Westcott, R. 2003. Lives Unrealised: clienthood and the disability industry. Australian Institute on Intellectual Disability, Canberra.

Wills, D. 2000. Parent Education workshop, Independent Advocacy, Adelaide Wills, D., & Jackson, R. (2000). Report Card on Inclusive Education in Australia. Interaction, 14(2&3), 5-12.

Wills, D., & Jackson, R. (2000). Inclusive education in Western Australia: The UNESCO Education for all 2000 assessment. Interaction, 14(2&3), 24-29.

Download Disablity Theory PDF

The final way of understanding disability we will touch on here is the notion of ‘disability’ as a human rights issue. The positioning of this claim is that people with disabilities as human beings are entitled to the same rights as other human beings. The rights claimed are based on the International Convention of Human Rights and the associated conventions for people with a disability. In Australia much of the advocacy that has used this framework has come from legal disability advocacy centre’s.

The critique of this model is that while Australia doesn’t have a bill of human rights it has a constitution this is an in effective tool in achieving justice. While Australia doesn’t have a bill of human rights we are signatories to the Convention of Rights for People with a Disability (including the optional protocols) and have a Disability Discrimination Act (1992) these are both important pieces of legislations.

These are important legal changes but we have not seen to a great extent how the convention will lead to better lives for people with intellectual disabitlies. On reading the legislation Australian government and non government agencies have much work ahead of them in complying to the convention. People with intellectual disability have over the time frame of the DDA not seen any significant improving in their lives (clear, 2000). Specifically for people with intellectual difference logging a rights case is complex and complicated as it always is often in legal cases. It is not unusual that they are deemed as not having capacity to lodge a case, and so no complaint is made. The limitation of rights based arguments for people with intellectual disabilities are embedded in how they are constructed socially. Firstly you need to be seen as fully human to demand a human right and we have not broken down the stigma and stereotypes that construct intellectual disabitlies. Secondly that a right needs to be broken before you can claim a right. This means for people that they need to be abused mistreated and denied human rights before society will make a move to ensuring their human rights are met. Lastly that you need to have agency and freedom in your live to ask for a right to be met, where you are seen as non human there is no need to afford someone rights. This is difficult for people with intellectual disability for numerous and complex reasons. Some of the barriers are their poverty, communication skills and a concrete understanding of the world. Others are that their lives are controlled by others parents careers and services and therefore they are unable to lead a life of autonomy and agency.

In 2009 the Rudd government funded a public inquiry into establishing a Bill of Rights. You can find this consultation at To read more about disability and human right look at the United Nations

Read more here > Emerging Theory
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WWILD Sexual Violence Prevention Program is funded by the Department of Communities, QLD. & the WWILD Victims of Crime Disability Training Program is funded by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, QLD

WWILD Phone: (07) 3262 9877 Email: Address: 211 Hudson Road, WOOLOOWIN QLD 4030 Contact hours: Monday to Friday 8.30am - 4.30pm