Gendering Disability to Enable Disability Rights Law
49 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2016 Last revised: 27 Jun 2017
Date Written: February 27, 2016
This Article expands the social model of disability by analyzing the interaction between disability and gender. The modern disability rights movement is built upon the social model, which understands disability not as an inherent personal deficiency but as the product of the environment with which an impairment interacts. The social model is reflected in the accommodation mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), which holds employers responsible for the limiting aspects of their workplace design. This Article shows that the limitations imposed upon impairments result not only from physical aspects of a workplace but also from other identity-based stereotypes, biases, and oppressions, which affect how disability is both experienced and perceived.
This Article advances the social model's aspirations by specifically challenging the existing gender-neutral view of the causes and consequences of disability. This analysis reveals how ignoring gender has enabled masculine norms to become embedded into the ADA's substantive and procedural approaches to defining and remedying disability discrimination in the workplace. This inattention to gender has not only imposed serious social and economic consequences on women with disabilities, but it has also rendered legally invisible many non-prototypic members of the disabled community. This analysis illustrates how attending to other social identities may advance the social model, deepen our understanding of disability discrimination, and empower disability rights law to serve a broader group of individuals within the disabled community.
Keywords: gender, social identity, disability, disability rights, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, discrimination, social model of disability, workplace design, definition of disability, major life activity, masculine norms
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