Until recently, people with disabilities in the Arab world have lived largely in the shadows, a silent sector lacking the opportunity to express their demands or discuss their needs. There are no medical, social, economic, legal, or political mechanisms in the region for discussing how disability is defined, or effectively explaining who disabled individuals are; this ambiguity in standards, which allows people to be divided into healthy and unhealthy categories, act as a mechanism of veiled oppression.
Disability Studies is a relatively new and rapidly expanding field that offers radical challenges to conventional thinking about disabled people. Studying the standards by which the disability label is defined is a first step towards establishing social justice that includes all citizens, without exception. This research seeks to propose ideas that may help in the revolution against the oppressive standards that impose barriers between different sectors of the same society. In studying existing definitions, the social experiences of those labelled “disabled,” and the question of personal autonomy vs. dependency, the research proposed three new definitions of disability, persons with disability, and the act of defining disability itself.
This research was conducted thanks to a grant from the Arab Reform Initiative within the framework of the Arab Research Support Program. The work of the team benefitted from their continuous support and supervision. In addition to this policy paper, the full results of this research will be available in a forthcoming publication from the Center for Arab Unity Studies.