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South Asia and Disability Studies

Redefining Boundaries and Extending Horizons


Shridevi Rao and Maya Kalyanpur

Incorporating scholarship that addresses the social, economic, cultural, and historical facets of the experience of disability in South Asia, this book presents the reader with a comprehensive, cogent, and nuanced view of the constructions of disability in this region. In doing so, it focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities and their families, analyzing such disabling barriers as poverty, caste, and other inequities that limit their access to education, employment, equity, and empowerment. It addresses the interpretations of disability within different South Asian contexts including policy, family, educational systems, films, and literary narratives. Situated in an interdisciplinary perspective that spans areas such as cultural studies, law, disability studies in education, sociology, and historiography, South Asia and Disability Studies presents a rich and complex understanding of the disability experience in South Asia. The organization of topics parallels the discourse in areas within disability studies such as identity construction, language, historical constructions of disability, and cultural representations of disability.
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Chapter 8: Colloquial Language and Disability: Local Contexts and Implications for Inclusion


Interpretations and understandings of disability have evolved significantly over the last few decades. Essentialist understandings of disability originating from the dominant medical model have been subject to intense scrutiny and critique, particularly in the North (Biklen & Kliewer, 2006; Linton, 2010; Wendell, 1996). Disrupting traditional understandings of disability that focus on disability as a deficit within the person, current discourse in the field of disability studies emanating from the social model on disability has called for recognition of oppressive conditions, lack of accommodations, and the pervasive presence of pejorative attitudes toward disability that frame the experience of disability (Barnes, Oliver, & Barton, 2008; Shakespeare, 2013). Central to the evolving discourse on disability has been a focus on language and terminology typically used to describe disability. While the discourse on language and the lens it offers to understand potential constructions of disability have received much attention in the field of disability studies, relatively little is known about local terms that are used to describe disability in South Asia. What do these terms denote and what is their significance? What are the meanings imputed to disability as visible through these terms? What kinds of insights do they provide with regard to local, cultural, contextual, and indigenous interpretations of disability? In what ways do they diverge from the interpretations of seemingly similar terms in the West? What are the implications for the use of such terms?

This chapter draws on the findings of a qualitative study that focused on the perspectives...

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