Assignment: disability social construct

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Assignment: disability social construct

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Assignment: analysis of disability as a social construct


Respond to at least two colleagues by supporting or refuting your colleagues’ analysis of disability as a social construct or your colleagues’ analysis of the intersectionalities in the Parker case and how they marginalize and impact Stephanie. Please use at least one reference per colleague to support your answer.

Colleague 1: Y

There are a range of views on disability, from diagnostic models which have internal focuses for disability, to social construct models that focus on the external environment as well.

This internal focus results in an interpretation of the disabled individual as defective with reference to normative physical, behavioral, psychological, cognitive, or sensory being. The interactive, person-in-environment lens, on the other hand, looks at the interaction of internal and external factors in an individual’s life that creates a disabling condition (Gilson & DePoy, 2002, p. 154).

Therefore, viewing disability through a diagnostic model “others” disabled individuals by saying they are inherently non-functional and deviant, whereas viewing disability through a person-in-environment/social construction model examines the ways in which external forces create or contribute to a person’s inability to function in society (Gilson & DePoy, 2002). Leaning on the disability as socially constructed models, Gilson and DePoy (2002), define disability as “the inter-play of diverse human conditions with environmental barriers to full community inclusion” (p. 153); this definition acknowledges both the realities of limiting physical and mental conditions as well as the environmental and social conditions that can exacerbate them.  As Susan Wendell (2013) explains, the world is built and structured around a young, energetic male archetype; thus, what is considered “normal” actually excludes large numbers of people. In addition, the world’s pace is increasing, and those who cannot keep up with that pace, or who need assistance to do so, are considered disabled, whereas previously they would not have been (Wendell, 2013).

In this week’s video, Stephanie Parker is talking with her worker about the guilt she feels surrounding wanting to take care of her mother but also wanting to live her on her own, clutter and argument-free (Laureate, 2013). Here, Stephanie’s disability, bipolar disorder, is being made much worse by her environment, and her identities as a single woman who is coping with bipolar disorder conflict with her identity as a caring daughter.  The stress of her environment has led Stephanie to be hospitalized several times, a situation which can further marginalize her by interfering with employment or making her endure the stereotypes and fears of others who are uninformed about mental illness should they find out.  In addition to the potential isolation mental illness can cause, Stephanie also stands to be marginalized and isolated from peers her age due to her role as caretaker for her mother.  So while Stephanie may have a disability, her environment is not only making her disability worse, it is disabling in itself. Feeling guilty about the conflict caused by the intersection of her identities is causing Stephanie to have trouble making decisions about what she should do and determining what she really wants and needs.  However, in order to be an active participant in her life and determine its course, she will need to do both those things.


Gilson, S. F., & DePoy, E. (2002). Theoretical approaches to disability content in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 38(1), 153–165.
Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2013).  [Video file]. In Sessions. Retrieved from 

Wendell, S. (2013).  The Social Construction of Disability.  In M. Adams, W. J. Blumenfeld, C. Castaneda, H. W. Hackman, M. L. Peters, & X. Zuniga (Eds.), Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (3rd ed., pp. 26-34). New York, NY: Routledge.




Colleague 2: D

Susan Wendell mentions many constructs of disability including the availability and distribution of basic resources, the pace of life including architectural planning, and failure to give people the amount and kind of help needed to fully and effectively contribute to society. She brings up valuable points that most people, unless affected by a disability would not notice. For example, she states multiple times that we do not tend to hear about these issues unless someone is affected so much so that it results in a death. We do not hear about these issues that lead up to debilitating diseases or conditions. One such construct includes resources such as clean water, nutritious food, appropriate clothing, and shelter. Without clean water and nutritious food, people are subjected to parasites and other diseases and malnutrition that can cause life-long issues or even death. A particularly interesting construct Wendell points out is how the pace of life can affect those that are disabled. If someone with varying disabilities, whether physical or mental, cannot keep up with the regular pace of society, they will be left behind. This includes school, work, and even every day or social settings. Wendell gives an example of someone who is dizzy or incontinent and needing a place to sit or lie down in a supermarket. She points out that there is nowhere for someone to do this. This architectural construct can hinder people’s ability to go out and interact with the rest of the world causing isolation. Finally, the type of help disabled people may need is automatically considered as being socially dependent even though these problems were often created by society. Without taking in to consideration the needs of the disabled, it can lead to “inadequate rehabilitation, unemployment, poverty, inadequate personal and medical care, poor communication services, inadequate training and education, poor protection from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, minimal opportunities for social learning and interactions, and others…” (Wendell, 2013).

With the words Stephanie uses as well as her body language, it is apparent she struggles with self-esteem issues like feeling she is not worthy of life itself. Because of her bipolar disorder, she is constantly struggling with depression on and off and has throughout the years turned to her family for validation and support, which she never received. For example, after her suicide attempt, her family acted as if nothing had happened, which was clearly life altering for Stephanie (Laureate Education, 2013). Now, she struggles to be a good daughter and take care of her elderly mother but is sacrificing herself in the process. Her anxiety and depression is heightened with the constant fighting and she does not feel she can decompress and breathe (Laureate Education, 2013). Stephanie’s view on life is very dark and with societies stigma of those with disabilities including mental illnesses, this can only make her feel more isolated and alone. Without the acceptance of her family and the help of society, she will likely never gain true self-confidence and be a fully functioning member of society. While her medications are helping her, there are many side effects and other hassles that come with taking so many daily medications.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2013).  [Video file]. In

Sessions. Retrieved from 

Wendell, S. (2013).  The Social Construction of Disability.  In M. Adams, W. J.

Blumenfeld, C. Castaneda, H. W. Hackman, M. L. Peters, & X. Zuniga (Eds.), Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (3rd ed., pp. 26-34). New York, NY: Routledge.




Respond to a colleague’s post by explaining possible psychological effects one may experience as a result of being a bystander to an occurring or potential act of sexual violence.  Please use at least one reference to support your answer.

Colleague: L

Bystander intervention would have been applied to the behavior of those in the video by Talia’s friend to speaking out about Talia being intoxicated.  She should have verbalized the fact that Talia was not in the correct mindset to go into a bedroom.  Talia’s friend should have insisted on Talia leaving the party when she realized that Talia was overly intoxicated.  Talia’s friend should have taken the opportunity right there on the spot to speak out about sexual abuse, and to make it clear that Talia being intoxicated means that she is not in the correct mindset to consent to sexual intercourse.

Focus must be placed on communication, education and creation of new cultural norms as it relates to sexual abuse.  Communicating openly about the specifics of sexual abuse, and having open discussions with friends, family and co-workers about sexual boundaries is imperative.  We must become so comfortable with the reality of sexual abuse in our society to the point it becomes easier for a bystander to address, or either seek help in addressing, a witnessed inappropriate sexual abuse event.  Implementation of bystander educational programs is imperative in providing applicable knowledge for bystanders to utilize. McMahon & Banyard, (2010) states “More recently, prevention has begun to focus on bystanders—third party witnesses to situations where there is high risk of sexual violence and who by their presence have the ability to do nothing, to make the situation worse by supporting or ignoring perpetrator behavior, or to make the situation better by intervening in prosocial ways” (McMahon & Banyard, 2010 p.3).  Society needs for bystanders to become educated on how to react in various situation.   No longer can we secretly observe, or quietly stand by and not take responsibility for our actions as bystanders with regard to sexual abuse.

The bystander could have influenced the outcome of the scenario in the video by simply speaking up and confronting the potential perpetrator on the inappropriate behavior and letting the potential perpetrator know that the behavior is unacceptable and will be reported.  Also, a bystander should follow through with reporting the behavior to appropriate resources.  If there is a fear in addressing the perpetrator head on, then the bystander should speak with someone else in the vicinity for assistance or seek help from proper authorities.

During the public engagement event video they talk about something very informative, which is the need for the creation of an environment and social norms that make it unsafe for the abuser, such as putting in place policies that make it uncomfortable and unsafe for abusers to abuse (Sexual Abuse Prevention & Bystander Intervention, 2014).  When people are empowered to speak up, and know what to do, it makes it much easier to intervene as a bystander.  According to McMahon & Banyard, (2011) “Burn (2009) suggests that in many college settings, bystanders are often present during the ‘‘pre-assault phase,’’ where risk markers appear, and if equipped with the correct skills, bystanders can intervene to interrupt these situations” (McMahon & Banyard, 2011, p7).  Our social norms need to be changed and new norms created in which communication about sexual abuse is open and accepted.  As social workers it is our ethical duty to become active participants in advocating for the creation of environments that make it either very difficult and ultimately impossible for the abuser to abuse (NASW, 2008).


Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (2008). Retrieved from:

McMahon, S., & Banyard, V. L. (2011). When can I help? A conceptual framework for the prevention of sexual violence through bystander intervention. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 13(1), 3–14. doi:10.1177/1524838011426015.  Retrieved from:  

Sexual Abuse Prevention & Bystander Intervention, 2014.  Retrieved from:  

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