Functionality, Functional Variation and Ableism

‘Functionality’ describes historical, social, cultural, and material aspects of our bodies and their functions. Just like the concept of gender, functionality describes something that is made rather than what a person has or is. The extent to which one’s body is considered ‘functional’ largely depends on how society is designed and what norms exist regarding what a body should be able to do.Functional variation highlights that all people have functional differences: some are blind, some others are deaf, some have problems sitting still, and some are depressed.

However, there is a difference between typical, or norm-creating, functional variations on the one hand and atypical, or norm-violating, functional variations on the other. In order to understand and analyse the differences between the two, how it structures/arranges people’s lives and creates differences in power, a power perspective is of central importance. Who benefit and who do not by designing society in a certain way – a way in which some functionality types are cibsudered as the norm and others are made deviant? Ableism refers to the specific form of discrimination and oppression that people with atypical functional variations face.


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