Seeing People Differently

Dear, S. Gaber, L. Takahashi, R. Wilton, “Seeing People Differently”, Society & Space, 15, 1997, 455-80.


In this paper the authors develop the concept of difference as it applies to people with disabilities. The production of difference is characterized as necessarily a social and a spatial process which allows the self to be partitioned from the Other. In the aggregate, such processes facilitate the stigmatization of whole classes of people and the institutionalization of rules for boundary maintenance between different groups. One important consequence among the population at large is a ‘hierarchy of acceptance’, that is, a structure of preferential ranking among various disability categories. A meta-analysis of 44 acceptance hierarchy studies since 1968 reveals both stability and change in community preference structures. The largest impetus for change derives from the appearance of new ‘disabilities* including most especially people with AIDS, and homeless people. Evidence also suggests that significant attitudinal variations occur through space as well as time and when dificrent facility types are considered and that actual behavior may differ from expressed attitudinal preferences. This paper concludes with remarks directed toward a more adequate sociospatial theory of disability.

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