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Disability and Institutional Change: A Human Variation Perspective on Overcoming Oppression

by Kay Schriner, University of Arkansas, and Richard K. Scotch, University of TexasDallas

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For at least three decades, disability rights activists have challenged exclusionary and stigmatizing social processes that constrain people with disabilities, an effort highlighted by the 1990 enactment Of the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, all environmental barriers to participation by people with disabilities may not be eliminated by a policy strategy that focuses on discrimination and fails to address many forms of oppression that do not fall under legal definitions of discrimination. The human variation model of disability defines disability as the systematic mismatch between physical and men­tal attributes of individuals and the present (but not the potential) ability of social institutions to accommodate those attributes. Although rights-based approaches remain necessary to overcome the barriers facing many Americans with disabilities' a policy strategy that builds on a human variation approach may further efforts to eliminate disability oppression.

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