Our common purpose for new policies and laws: biology is the gradient that unifies us

Author: Cheryl J. Widman and Emily L. Casanova


This post was originally published by the Evidence & Policy blog on 14th July, 2021.


We have re-issued the article that has already been published by the Evidence & Policy blog. We would like to express gratitude to the kind offer of the editorial board of the Evidence & Policy blog.

Original article URL:https://bit.ly/3Ad1EUx



Cheryl J. Widman and Emily L. Casanova


This blog post is part of a series linked to the Evidence & Policy Special Issue (Volume 17, Issue 2): The many faces of disability in evidence for policy and practice. Guest Edited by Carol Rivas, Ikuko Tomomatsu and David Gough. This post is based on the Special Issue article, ‘A sociological treatment exploring the medical model in relation to the neurodiversity movement with reference to policy and practice‘.


A couple of years ago my (Widman’s) son – who is autistic – was going to Sweden to visit family. My nephew, who is deaf, rejected getting together with my son because, after all, my son is not fluent in sign language. My nephew felt that he and my son would not have much in common nor a way to communicate – although as young kids, they were close and found a way to communicate anyway. This caused me to think about what has been going on within the disability community, or more correctly, ‘communities’, and how it got to be so siloed.


Nowhere is disability more dichotomised than within the autistic community. We have folks who celebrate neurodiversity while others eschew it. Some insist on identity-first language while others insist upon person-first. There are those who are hoping for a cure (medical model) while others embrace their autism (cultural model). Autistic culture has become less unifying than factional. If we can’t agree on how to refer to ourselves (‘autistic’ or ‘with autism’), how can we agree on anything else? The feuding is often caustic.


What we need to begin to do is think less about what separates us than what unifies us. A lot of us have felt that the various models of disability lack commonality that appeals to each group of differing abilities, whether visible or invisible. Perhaps the original bifurcation sin resides with the