People call me codependent. If you combined and then divided me and my partner in half, you might believe we are two normal bodies. But we’re not. When I can’t take my own insulin, his hand holding the needle to my thigh is my new limb and the pen is my pancreas. When he can’t find his glasses, I am his eyes. He helps me walk over ice and I drive him to get his blood pressure medication, or get our blood drawn together. He carries juice for me if I get hypoglycemic. We share the work of surviving.

For those of us who are new here (like me), there are some competing theoretical models of how we understand disability. A model in which the emphasis is put on an individual’s physical and measurable bodily dysfunction is called the medical model. Theorists often refer to this model as outdated simply because of the fact that an individual is not responsible for all the ways in which they have become disabled or were born disabled or will be disabled. But if it’s not the individual who causes or is the source of disability then there has to be a different model. The social model of disability argues that it isn’t individuals who are disabled, it is society that is disabling.

Disability communities include people who live in close proximity to disability as well. Paid caregivers are almost always marginalized women of colour, from long-term care attendants, janitorial staff, mobility and care workers, all the way up to nurses and physician’s associates. But at home, these same women are also caregivers for their family. Oftentimes, these individuals who are intimately familiar with the disabled space and disabled embodiment are not considered part of the disability community when it comes to legal rights and benefits. Helping with daily hygiene tasks or feeding and cleaning, women in these jobs are considered Iow-skill labour. Societal conferral of expertise and gratitude are not granted toward them as marks of respect for meaningful work, but as thanks for doing a job that no one else wants to do. Disability care work in this way becomes yet another facet of neoliberal capitalism’s fixation on assigning value to life through discriminating worthiness. Even the people who take care of disabled people, like special education teachers and personal aides, are underpaid and the first to be cut when budgets get tight.

The value of the disabled body is rooted in the context of value added for other people. There’s this myth in Western societies that we value every body, a dream of immigration for many, but even fourth-generation white settlers grapple with the reality of this untruth. If we closely examine populist anti-choice movements today, we can see that both discriminating against women’s bodies and children’s bodies follow ableist values, too.

Read more in Guts.

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