Should we conserve disability?

Nature Open-SourceToday, I am on the road to New Orleans for a wedding this weekend. But on the flight back from the ASHG conference in Boston, I read an article that made me think differently about disability. It made “The Case for Conserving Disability.”

By “conserving disability,” the author, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is arguing not just for including or empowering the disabled. She is arguing that disability is a resource that contributes culturally and materially to the world. This is pretty much the polar opposite of what the conventional wisdom is about disability. The very name, “disability,” emphasizes what cannot be done. Garland-Thomson is turning that on its head and arguing that because of disability, not in spite of it, the disabled make contributions to our world and therefore should be conserved.

This is an article published in an academic journal and can be tough sledding to make it through it. I admit that I fell asleep half-way through on my initial flight. But I was glad I finished it on my connecting flight. The full article is available by subscription only, but those who have academic (or other free) access to PubMed should go read it now.

Once my traveling is over, I will blog further on some key points made in The Case for Conserving Disability.

What contributions do you know of that disability has made which support the case for conserving disability?


  1. Many of the world’s brilliant minds also experience mental illness, are on the spectrum, or are otherwise touched by difference in ability. Sometimes you just need someone who sees things a different way.


  1. […] But, when siblings are asked, they overwhelmingly say they think they are better people because of, not in spite of, their brother or sister with Down […]

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