The social construction of disabling identities severely visually impaired children in Lebanon
Damaj, Maha Ghazi ; (2008) The social construction of disabling identities severely visually impaired children in Lebanon. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. DOI: 10.17037/PUBS.01300447
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The purpose of this study is to investigate the current Lebanese social policy and practices concerning disabled children in general and visually impaired children in particular on the social construction of disabling identities. This is relevant to current national and global disability rights movements, which infrequently take children and their specific issues into consideration. It is particularly pertinent to Lebanon which passed its first rights-based disability law in 2000 and continues to struggle with its implementation. This study was conducted through an organisational ethnography of a residential institution for children with severe visual impairments and was supplemented by interviews with the children, some members of their families, teachers, staff and alumni from the institution, as well as participant observation sessions at integrative settings, and interviews with parents and activists pursuing inclusion. The analysis focused on investigating the inclusionary versus exclusionary nature of policy and practice; the availability of mechanisms allowing for children's participation in these contexts; and the impact of these practices on the self-identities of disabled children. Theoretically, the analysis built on current literature in disability studies and the sociology of childhood, as well as drawing on Foucauldian ideas of power, control and surveillance and applying Goffman's concepts of stigma and the concept of a total institution. The findings show that rights based legislation cannot on its own result in inclusive changes of policy and practice. In the absence of implementation mechanisms, practices remain predominantly exclusionary, with no effective mechanisms for the meaningful participation of parents or children, eventually socialising the children into disabled identities. Children 8 - 12 years of age were not exhibiting any noticeable resistance to the systems of control, and had adopted the discriminatory values relating to disability exhibited around them.
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