Fix Cracks Not Crips
I sometimes feel like I’m a broken record, repeating over and over that just because a body is disabled, it does not mean it needs to be fixed.
To be fair, this is a complex and deeply held belief that has been engrained in to the social consciousness of society. Me saying the contrary, or even screaming it, is not going to change how engrained this idea is. However, I believe it’s worth evaluating on our own terms and in our own lives.
In Zoltan Istvan’s recent article, “In the Transhumanist Age, We Should be Repairing Disabilities, Not Sidewalks,” Istvan argues just that- instead of spending money toward repairing sidewalks that might be problematic for people using mobility devices, we should, instead, spend that money on fixing the person with the disability. He continues by stating, “In short, let the sidewalks remain in disrepair. Instead… let’s work to repair physically disabled human beings, and make them mobile and able-bodied again.”
However, the problem with this idea is that it rests on one of two possibilities: either that the disabled folks actually want to be “repaired” or society assumes that they should want to be “repaired.” No mention was made in his article of if he had ever asked said community if they would rather have the sidewalks fixed or their bodies. If he had asked this question, he would have found that there’s a large number of people within this community that love the body they live in and are not looking for repairs.
But even looking at this statistically can be a bit problematic. Due to the fact that disability is mostly seen from a medical- model perspective, when a disabled person goes to a doctor and asks for a symptom of their disability to be relieved, it is seen as wanting the disability itself to be fixed. In writing this, I searched for a statistic of those within the disability community that would like or are looking for a cure and was not able to find any such statistic. However, in my opinion, due to the above bias, any results that might be found would be at risk of being skewed. The line between treating a symptom and curing a disability can be so thin that it would likely be nearly imperceptible.
Of course, there are plenty of people with disabilities that do want to be cured and/or repaired. There is a reason that this is big business with big profits that pharmaceutical companies have their eyes on pursuing. So if Istvan is, in fact, correct with his reasoning that money would be much better utilized if spent towards fixing people instead of sidewalks, then let’s think of how we can fully execute this idea
First, we would need to increase the number of scientists and medical professionals that are able to handle a broad spectrum of disabilities. Once their knowledge is up to par on how such disabled bodies could be fixed, we would then need to ramp up a large marketing campaign to let all of these poor crips know of their bright future. So disabled folks far and wide hear the good news of their upcoming ‘repair’ and make the appropriate appointments.
Once the day arrives, they begin to make their way when, low and behold, they can’t get there because the sidewalks are torn up and their wheelchairs can’t make it across the curbs that have not been cut. But, wait; we can surely resolve this with paratransit services, right?! If you are lucky enough to live within the service area, you are more than welcome to use the paratransit service, but you will first need a doctor’s note stating that you are, in fact, a certified crip. And suddenly we are back at those cursed sidewalks. How can we get these disabled people to these doctors, when they cannot access the sidewalks? So we change the policy on paratransit so that a simple email from a doctor would suffice and thus would eliminate the need for the person to become a certified disabled person.
They should then schedule the ride, one week ahead of time, with a one-hour window for paratransit’s convenience, of course. If all goes according to plan and the stars align correctly, paratransit will show up at your designated point-of- pick up. But all of this was assuming you had accessible housing to begin with, not to mention housing with accessible sidewalks to enter and exit.
This is so weird. This sounds very much like where we are today. So I’m not sure Istvan came up with anything so revolutionary and groundbreaking, but, rather, just stated where our priorities are already. We have very much committed to fixing people instead of sidewalks. I’ve got a better idea: let’s switch it and fix sidewalks and then let the disabled people decide for themselves if they want to be fixed next or not. This way, they’ll be able to, at least, arrive to the appointment.
Leah Smith is a writer, communications professional and disability advocate. Leah holds a Bachelor’s in Public Relations and a Masters in Public Administration and Policy. She has focused her career on creating access and equality for all. Leah currently resides in Philadelphia with her partner and two dogs.