The Scarcity Model of Disability Services

In Florida, parents are forced to call their disabled children “limited” or they risk losing effective healthcare in order to fund GOP donors. It’s a nasty story, but it’s part of a big parent where parents, teachers, and therapists are forced to emphasize deficits in order to preserve access to needed supports. I wrote:

I can only imagine what a person-centered or other positive approach might have been like for us in those earlier years. We should never have had to justify services by listening to others denigrate our son. The tears around my dining room table were, in the long scheme of things, a minor setback on our road to understanding him and learning to advocate for him effectively. Still, I remember the sting. It shapes how I enter every meeting since, always on my guard.

The corruption in Florida, meanwhile, is much more serious. The specific alleged conduct is vile and potentially life-threatening. Anyone involved should be fired, sued, voted out of office, or prosecuted to the extent the law allows. That none of these things will likely happen points both to the routine acceptance of harms done to disabled children and to the specific collapse of decency in Florida’s state government. Still, it’s a system that forces us to emphasize faults that makes such corruption possible.

All humans have needs. A scarcity model based on support only for those with “special” needs is not the only way to organize society. Demanding proof of deficits demeans people with disabilities and opens the door to corruption and abuse.


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