2019, Rhetoric + Argumentation

A Bad Attitude Is Not a Disability: An Analysis of the Definition of Disability

MAYESHA AWAL

Today, many social media posts consist of inspirational quotes that convey uplifting messages. Even the most inspirational quotes may seem positive at first, yet once we examine the latent meaning of these quotes, they can hold nuances that may be subject to dispute. The esteemed American figure skater Scott Hamilton once said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” This statement is problematic in that it limits disability to a bad attitude, which is very damaging.
Hamilton’s understanding of a bad attitude contradicts Campbell and Stromondo’s definition of disabilities that they are, for the most part, are intrinsically neutral. However, a bad attitude is not intrinsically neutral, it is intrinsically, and in other ways, bad—it reduces the experience of individuals with a disability and that is harmful. In fact, Hamilton’s claim that the only disability in life is a bad attitude is incorrect. Through the analysis of the definition of disability and a bad attitude, I will argue that his quote is not a good way to look at disability because his definition of a bad attitude as a disability is false, reductionist to disability, and ultimately harmful. Hamilton’s quote should prompt us to be more cautious when defining disabilities because, if taken seriously, such a misunderstanding of the comparison between disability and a bad attitude is harmful.

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