Bioethics Blogs

Making Disability Count: Demography, Futurity, and the Making of Disability Publics by Faye Ginsburg

If one considers people who now have disabilities, people who are likely to develop disabilities in the future, and people who are or who will be affected by the disabilities of those close to them, then disability affects today or will affect tomorrow the lives of most Americans. The future of disability in America is not a minority issue. (Institute of Medicine 2007, p. 16)

Disability is an ambiguous demographic, but one that is unambiguously increasing. (Fujiura 2001, p. 1)

Disabled people have more than a dream of accessible futures: we continue to define and demand our place in political discourses, political visions, and political practice, even as we challenge those very questions and demands. More accessible futures depend on it. (Kafer 2013, p. 169)

How are we as a society to successfully incorporate and support the increasing numbers of Americans with disabilities, a future that ultimately includes all of us? What kinds of cultural innovations are expanding our frameworks of inclusion to create “inhabitable worlds”? This question has been fundamental to our research project entitled Disability, Personhood and the “New Normal” in 21st Century America. As the quotations above indicate, the number of people with disabilities has been growing dramatically over the last decades. As disability scholar/activist Alison Kafer persuasively argues, the political and existential stakes for the recognition of disability are high, especially in imagining and creating what she calls “accessible futures”. Is it possible to bring the knowledge being produced both by demography and disability studies into conversation, to better understand the relationship between “counting disability” and “making disability count”?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.