In over 6 years of disability engineering research, I have witnessed the blatantly unethical and irresponsible manner in which the scientific community has been describing Disabled people. In way too many cases it is obvious that the authors don’t have any idea of what disability is (I sure didn’t either but still managed to write a few ‘scientific’ papers about them). We do one thing very effectively though: describe Disabled people as needy so we can justify our work. I mean, some of us have children, and they sure are expensive! So we will do anything for a research grant, and a couple of publications to go with it, because as Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”. Here are some examples so you don’t think I am just making it up:
Consider a learner with motor difficulties who chooses to refrain from eating independently using an adapted plate and utensils. This learner’s lack of independence may be a result of the physical effort required to use the AT (e.g., if the motor demands associated with using the utensils are too great, the learner may choose not to use them). Johnston, S. S. & Evans, J. Considering Response Efficiency as a Strategy to Prevent Assistive Technology Abandonment. Journal of Special Education Technology, 20(3):45–50, 2005.
This is just beautiful: How can someone choose lack of independence? Don’t they just mean the utensils suck? How come this turns into lack of independence? I mean, if you return something you just bought because it doesn’t do what you expected, nobody blames you, they blame the designer, as it should be. But these ‘scientists’ manage to turn a design flaw into some kind of user deficit just because they can: Clearly, the learner is disabled, so he/she must be doing something wrong. This is another classical one:
The disabled generally have difficulty in communicating with other people effectively. In order to improve their communication, auxiliary equipment must be designed or developed. Luo, C. & Shih, C. Adaptive Morse-coded single-switch communication system for the disabled. International Journal of Bio-Medical Computing, 41(2):99–106, 1996.
You have to love how oblivious these people are to generalizations. It must be great being them and not have to worry about being completely wrong. I mean, they didn’t even bother to specify which type of disability they were referring to. But who cares? Certainly, the Journal of Bio-Medical Computing doesn’t. And they don’t stop there:
…the disabled cannot maintain a stable knocking speed to follow the restrict rule set by the Morse code (i.e. the duration required for transmitting ‘dash’ (‘-‘) is three times of that required for ‘dot’ (‘.’)). Luo, C. & Shih, C. Adaptive Morse-coded single-switch communication system for the disabled. International Journal of Bio-Medical Computing, 41(2):99–106, 1996.
What kind of statement is that? Morse code must be learned anyway, weather you are disabled or not. It is just ridiculous to believe that no Disabled person can learn Morse. You can’t even say this is the case for a majority of them! But it is the reviewers and publishers, not the authors, who bare the full responsibility for letting these lousy papers be published. Way to go Elsevier!