PERSPECTIVES | The Concept of a Cure

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018
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As a society, we are often reluctant to embrace differences and can place undue value on conformity. In this environment, disability can be viewed as a difference that should be “cured”: the “social model” vs. the “medical model.” The medical model believes “the remedy for disability-related problems is cure or normalization of the individual,” whereas the social model believes “the remedy for disability-related problems are a change in the interaction between the individual and society.”

“[Nondisabled people] seem to assume that people with disabilities — which encompasses nearly one-fifth of the American population — are only concerned about finding a cure,” Yahoo! Lifestyle writer Rachel Hogue explained. “I had blamed them for being insensitive, for being unaware, but I should’ve understood all along: It’s our culture that demands perfection. It’s our culture that makes people believe disabilities have to be cured.”

From a parent perspective, the concept of a cure for children with disabilities isn’t simple. According to a poll in WonderBaby, 57% of parents said they would cure their children’s disabilities if given the chance, and 43% said they would not. “I love him dearly just as he is,” writer Amber Bobnar explained, “But I’d also do anything I could to make his life easier.”

Working towards a medical cure can sometimes be perceived as trying to “fix” a person’s disability, but it can also be a matter of survival. Today’s Richard Engel’s son has Rett’s syndrome which can be fatal. In his case, finding the cure is more about survival than quality of life.

Many disability rights activists today advocate for “advancements in science and technology...centered on improving the lives of disabled people, rather than completely trying to get rid of our community through cures or screening for genetic conditions,” Rooted in Rights’ Alaina Leary explained.

This concept has taken hold so strongly in the disability community that a leading nonprofit, Autism Speaks, altered its mission: “Autism Speaks was founded on the goal of curing autism as one of its objectives,” board member Stephen Mark Shore said. “However, similar to many experiences of parents of children with autism, the organization grew to believe that autism is something to be worked with for promoting fulfilling and productive lives of people on the spectrum.”

For those living with a disability, “For my own stability and peace of mind, it’s important that I not search for a cure,” Hogue said. “I hope others too will stop assuming that disability is something that needs to be fixed. And I hope our culture embraces disability for what it’s always been: Just another form of living.”