22.01.2018 in Book Report
Claiming Disability

Simi Linton is an American scholar who is known for her great work in championing for the rights of people with disabilities. She is also the founding father and the head of Disability/Arts group. Their work as an organization is to increase the number of participation of people with disability in the arts and the engagement of disabled artists in their work. This is done in collaboration with the artist and other cultural groups. As an activist of the rights of people with disability, Simi Linton wrote a book entitled “Claiming Disability.” Linton’s main aim of writing the book was to develop a curriculum which fully and exclusively incorporates disability studies (Linton, 1998). According to Linton, this was going to explain the shortfalls of the current social problems facing people with disabilities. Furthermore, it is going to create a disciplinary formation and vocabularies which would further enlighten perception towards the understanding of people with disabilities within America and even other parts of the world.

In the beginning chapter of the book entitled “Reassigning Meaning”, the author tries to investigate how certain linguistic rules construct social impression among people within the society.  Linton illustrates this idea by saying that even the slight difference that exists between the phrases “people with disabilities” and “disabled people” is enough to cause a greater social impression among people in a society (Linton, 1998). Linton argues that the slight difference between the two phrases can make people to either maintain disability as derived characteristic or make disabled… a marker of the character being described by that individual or group (Linton, 1998). Another aspect that Linton put into consideration is the dominant narratives relating to disability. In his approach to this, the author explains that following the upset dominant tales concerning disability,Europe and America have highly benefited at the expense of other nationals by changing their perception and even ignoring certain variation such as race and sex among populations with disabilities.

Linton in the later chapters of the book examines wholly the current education system in the U.S. according to Linton, the idea of combining both children with minimal disabilities and those with non-disabilities in the same classroom is unnecessary. Linton highly condemns both the process of “mainstreaming” and special education where students who do not have disabilities are separated from their colleagues who are challenged by disabilities.Linton expands this idea by saying that even the college curricula has further promoted this act categorizing disability studies under medical or applied fields (Linton,1998). In this view, social sciences and humanities have failed to reconfigure disability in the syllabus despite greater efforts to promote multiculturalism, an aspect which Linton seriously criticizes. Linton further supports this idea by outlining that Disability Studies shares a lot in common with multiculturalism and highly contributes to its practice, thus, should not be ignored at any single time. For instance, Linton explains this idea by saying that, “whichever shape these new domains take, it is an affront that disability studies is dismissed out of hand” (Linton, 1998).

Linton’s discrimination of the current punitive and social alignments is revealed by the kind of annoyance that is revealed by her writing. However, in trying to avoid showing this annoyance, she pragmatically state and explains the necessity of including disability studies more effectively into the curricula of higher learning institutions as opposed to the negative attitude reinforced by the current college curricula which banish disability studies to the helping profession. Linton argues that the only way to readdress this omission is to bring all issues relating to disability to a round-table discussion where multinational epistemology of inclusion is developed (Linton, 1998). As Linton ends her writing work, she concludes with a section that she entitle “Applications”. In this section, the author tries to explain the various types of clashes that may emerge in relation to disability in a number of fields, the insufficient education faced by students in such fields and how inclusion of disability studies in the college curricula can help improve the understanding and the perception of college students.

However, Linton remains hesitant on the role that should be played by people with non-disabilities in this reconfiguration effort. In addition, Linton in her studies remains unclear on how much people acknowledges the broader importance of disability studies among them and the challenges which emphasize on why there are still impossibilities in understanding the challenges facing people with disabilities within the current society. Linton illustrates that even theorists concerned with disability studies are also relaxed to discuss the soreness and restrictions associated with “the issue of impairment itself as talked about by us ourselves,” may be sometimes very difficult to comprehend by a outsiders(Linton, 1998). Linton concludes her writing by acknowledging the fact that despite the society clue on the importance of disability studies, it is still an area that requires more participation especially from those with disabilities who occasionally get subject to prejudice and social marginality.                                          


After reading this book, one thing which automatically comes to my mind is the exposed realities relating to persons with disabilities and even their societal relations as an individual. As pointed out by Linton, I came to realize that even the phrases that we frequently use to describe people with disabilities greatly impact their personality in the society and even how they relates with other people who are having non-disabilities. According to my perception of the author’s opinion, unless acceptance of self feeling towards those with disabilities by the members of the society is achieved, discrimination against these people may not come to a halt in the society. In addition, if those involved do not divert their perception of seeing disability as a kind of punishment to them by God, they will always have the consternation such as why did God decide give me such a kind of “punishment?” Whether faced with disabilities or not, we still remains to be very important to the building of the society. Therefore, in order to unfold this reality, incorporating disability studies in the current education curricula is very important as it act as an informing media to the society members on the need for self acceptance. This acceptance of one’s self in the society may not change his or her physical image in the society but may cause a major internal meaning to the person.

 Even when we are seriously committed to conforming to a particular pattern or fashion within the society, it is normal that just as our physical and outer look question concerning our personality, so does the inner feelings behaves. For example, it is usual that when one shouts or despise a normal person, he or she will be irritated. This therefore leaves us in dilemma on some of the abnormalities within this society. A number of minority groups especially people with disabilities should realize the need to stop discrimination posed against them and see the need for self identity. This will allow them to incorporate themselves within the normal groups. However, as these people with disabilities are being assisted by the normal ones to overcome the challenges facing them, they should not sit back in waiting but dance with the music of this normal people. That is, they should cooperate actively in this bid to help them overcome these challenges. According to Linton, despite people with disabilities being subjected to lots of stigmatization, the normal people within the society still expects these people to do their best in order to attain the status of normalcy, something that would be best described as a difficult dichotomy.

As I conclude, Linton argue that although people with disabilities have certain characters which may look “inferior” or “not good” in the perception of a normal person thus making the normal person to stigmatized the person with disabilities, the “normal” usually tends to standardize this situation by omitting the stigmatization process. Hence, he or she will always try to treat the person with disabilities as a “normal” person, an aspect that I see to be confusing to the society since it tries to ignore the deficiencies or variations which exist within the society. This therefore poses a problem especially where the “normals” fail to recognize all individuals irrespective of their disabilities. In addition, even in our young age, there are already some sort of stigmatization and feelings which are embedded within us. Therefore, it is of greater importance that we carefully think and take a firm action towards disbanding such stigmatization and changing our perception towards ourselves and others. Thus, as unified society, we should adopt acceptance among ourselves and even be ready to change our actions towards people with disabilities especially when confronted with social situations in our daily living. It is therefore, a great pleasure to say that “Claiming Disability” by Simi Linton is worthy and relevant in providing solutions to the problems facing humanity in our daily living.      

In comparing the two books, both try to explain how social and self personality interferes with one’s perception in trying to adapt certain types of behavioral patterns. At the same time, it tries to outline how might get stigmatized as he or she try to interact with persons with non-disabilities in various social contexts. By studying the various aspects of stigmatization, self uniqueness and the reaction of a person towards his or her own self and his or her reaction, Goffman explains the main cause of discrimination faced by people with unique characters such as disabilities and the threats of social and personal identity. He further argues that stigmatization or discrimination of such people may occur due to a past incident and their interactions with the “normal’s” (Goffman, 1963). According to Goffman, once this is adopted, the person’s thoughts get polluted and instead get conditioned by that particular internal perception within him or her thereby creating the true uniqueness seen in him or her (Goffman, 1963). In the same way, Simi Linton argue that certain phrases that we use in our daily speech such as “disabled people”, can lead to stigmatization among people especially those with disabilities since they can cause negative social impression of these people thereby making them feel excluded in the society. Linton argues that the phrase is able to create a permanent scar on the character being described by the individual or group.

Both the books also examines how these stigmatized persons tries to overcome the problem facing them as they try to socialize with other members of the society. As he investigates the various stages that these disgraced people undergo as they socialize in their attempt to “fill the vacuum” Goffman realize that these people still face serious stigmatization which greatly impact their real perception and spirit a standard identity. He also investigates the social pressure originating from the various social groups and their impacts on a person’s effort to obtain self uniqueness. Goffman even go to an extent of thinking if it can be possible to have an implicit relationship between the normalcy and the disgraced persons. However, he finds himself in a dilemma as to whether the deviated person can still be able to maintain an attachment to the situation while knowing very well that their social identity is going to be revealed or will they be lowered for the outcomes of their findings. In this view, these people with disabilities who face stigma tend to shy off by accepting the reality that they are unique from the rest of the people.Hence, these people with disabilities sometimes go to even an extent of thinking that they are a burden to their societies.

Another aspect that the two authors try to outlines to us is the idea that despite people with non-disabilities stigmatizing those with disabilities, it is also clear that even the “normals” are not fully perfect since they also experience their own disgrace or stigmatization. This might be in terms of ethnicity, race, religion and culture. Both the authors argue that in order for both the stigmatized and the “normals” to live in a mixed society, there must be the sharing of opinions between the two conflicting groups. This will allow these two groups to understand one another thereby enabling them to regain their lost personality.

The two authors argue that in our daily speeches as we interact with others, we occasionally use stigmatized language in order to describe our colleagues with disabilities. For instance, Linton gives an example of the phrase “disabled people” which most of us often use to describe people with disabilities within our society but fails to fails reflect their actual context. As we use these words in our daily speeches, we try cord these disabilities together such that they tend to portray imperfection in the person. This imperfection that originates from this context is then used to gain some extra-ordinary powers i.e. the power to sense an object by a blind person. According to the two authors’ view perception, the society also tends to certain unusual responses of the stigmatized persons as an implication of what we view as their shortcomings. Using these shortcomings or defects, people then begin to refer to these defects as the outcomes of something bad that person committed, the parents did, or his/her ancestors or tribe did.

According to the Linton and Goffman, these assumptions are then used by “normal” people to justify their actions in treating the stigmatized persons. Therefore, the notion of stigmatization normally makes the stigmatized persons to face the problem of unfulfilled expectations especially where it they are expected to realize, conduct and live in a standardized behavior. According to Goffman description, he said that one may realize how other perceive him or her and then begin to develop self doubt in him or her and as a result failure may emerge. He say that when is confronted of having failed in a particular are or field, even if the person is and insists to continue, he or she will eventually divert his or her mind to side being where she/he is being told to be the right one. Same happens during stigmatization where shame dominates any possibility of self attribute. Furthermore, in the two scenarios, both Linton and Goffman argue that it is the society that is responsible for establishing a way in which persons and harmonized traits depicted as being common and normal to all the members of these categories are grouped. For example when a stranger comes among our midst, the first look of him or her is enough to categorize him or her and give him or her social identity. 

As the story “Stigma and Social Identity” end, Goffman tries to explain the main causes of stigma among persons with disabilities and the threats of social and personal individuality. He further identify that stigmatization among individuals may result due to the outcome actions before and after the encounter between the stigmatized and the normal person which made them to behave in such a way, an aspect that Simi Linton remains very dormant about. However, as Goffman proceeds, he realizes that following the already stigmatized mind, a true identity has been conditioned and created. In addition, both the books, it is evident that in spite of cooperation between people with non-disabilities and people with disabilities including a broader range of situational exchanges, the field was still narrowed only to matters relating personality management between those with disabilities and the normals.

In this perspective, causes and effects of stigma must be properly tackled by both the parties so as to enhance accuracy and transparency of the subtleties at work.  In summary, it is depicted in the two stories that disabilities that exist within a person, has an arm of interfering with social status of a person in the society. However, Goffman tries to put more focus on the actions of the disgraced person instead of dealing with the individual’s unique capabilities unlike Linton who put more emphasis on the need to understand the personality that exist among people with disabilities in our society. Therefore, as a society, it is of great importance that people recognize and move towards acceptance of the existence disabilities within our communities. This may force us to change our attitudes in relation to our actions towards people with different personalities from that of ours, whenever confronted with a social situation. 

Related essays