Classifying Impairment in Western Societies

Research output: Other contribution


In my previous two blogs I criticised the notion that there is a single identity of impairment. In my second blog in particular I argued that there are commonly two ways to consider the identity of an impaired person: the subjective and objective aspects of impairment. Subjective impairments are those that logically affect the life of a person given a particular circumstance; i.e. I find it hard to hear people on my mobile / cell phone in all but the most acoustically sophisticated and quiet surroundings, but I have no problem texting people. Thus my subjective hearing impairment only affects limited elements of my life and the environments that I work in. Objective impairments, on the other hand, are those that are defined by, and often imposed on the identity of a person by, the greater society. For instance, in my book God, Money and Politics (Hayhoe 2008a) I argued that asylums and schools for the blind were founded on the notion that “being blind” became a student’s identity, and one that had to be controlled morally, economically and even politically within the confines of their institution in order to control the society beyond its walls. In this blog I look at this objective aspect of impairment in particular, and the core qualities which (despite national and cultural differences) the greater Western society, or westernised societies classifies people as impaired.
Original languageEnglish
TypeDiscussion Paper
Media of outputBlog Post on The Bubble Chamber Website
PublisherThe Bubble Chamber
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2011


  • ontology
  • impairment
  • disability
  • deafness
  • blindness
  • philosophy


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