From charity to social citizenship: disability policies and the Disabled People's Movement in Portugal
School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds Centre for Disability Studies Farsley, United Kingdom
In the Western world, disability has been historically construed as unwanted, impure, sinful and tragic. Accordingly, disabled bodies have been narrated as social threats which are predominantly acknowledged as sources of pity, charity and, more recently, medical intervention. Social policies have not been immune to this imagery. Based on my PhD research about social citizenship and the Disabled People?s Movement in Portugal, this paper explores emergent data related to disability policies put forward in Portugal since 1974, after the re-establishment of democracy.
I begin by examining the disability policies in a time span perspective, highlighting major tendencies, changes and driving forces. This will be followed by an analysis of the disability imagery in the Portuguese law. More specifically, I will examine how disability and disabled people have been portrayed by and addressed in the legal documents which guide disability policies. This analysis will allow me to identify the models of disability that have been mainly used by the Portuguese state.
In the last part of the paper I will consider the social context in which disability policies are implemented in Portugal. In order to do so, I offer a characterisation of the Portuguese Disabled People?s Movement (DPM), situating this movement in light of the theoretical debates in Disability Studies. I conclude by assessing the role of the DPM in politicising the concept of disability and challenging dominant and disabling understandings of disability.