17.47: The Linguistics of Disability

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler 

This is the “talking about how to talk about” talk. We begin by reviewing the difference between the medical model and the social model of disability.

Liner Notes: This TikTok provides a nice explanation of the medical and social models of disability. There’s also this essay, “The Linguistics of Disability” over at Fireside Fiction.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Being Seen, by Elsa Sjunneson

4 thoughts on “17.47: The Linguistics of Disability”

  1. This week, Mary Robinette, Chelsea, Fran, and Howard talked about how we talk about disability. There’s the medical model, where disability needs to be fixed, repaired, or corrected. Then there’s the social model, where the problem is society and the environment. Do we fix the individual, or change the way we build things? Imagine yourself in a world where everyone else is Superman! Do you have sympathy or empathy? Plenty of discussion and examples that you can read in the transcript available now in the archives.

  2. This was helpful! Medical fixes in the real world, thanks to modern medicine, can be AMAZING. As a mom whose been pregnant and given birth to get my children, I’ve been so grateful for stitches and pt and even surgery to fix problems I’ve developed from motherhood. Without these, I’d have lingering disabilities (which are gone or much reduced). THAT SAID, I’ve had the good version of the experience. I’ve had friends and doctors say, “What can I do for you? What do you want to try?” And then I’ve had a choice. I’d be upset if they’d picked for me. I understand the benefit of framing situations in fiction where a character who has a disability has agency, too. Or, if they don’t get it, they get to have thoughts and feelings on not getting to control their situation.

    Maybe that’s why in The Flash or X-Men, when a metahuman/x-men cure is found, the effected people get to choose. Then some of them want it, and some don’t, but they have agency. It parallels people with disabilities choosing their treatments (or lack thereof) and accommodations.

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