When one looks at the word “disability”, it immediately conjures up an idea of what someone cannot do, or something physically wrong with an individual, that prevents them from doing something as the majority of society can do. When society looks at a person with a disability, society relates or compares them to what is considered “normal”. It is that comparison to the majority, or normality which causes society to view a disability as a negative. Disabilities can limit someone or on the other hand, they can give an advantage. In this paper, I will discuss whether Talcott Parson’s sick role applies to disabled individuals. As well, I will look at Michel Foucault and how his theories such as the clinical gaze and classification play into disabled sports. Additionally, I will look at how technological advancements or enhancements change the playing field for disabled athletes such as Oscar Pistorius.
When looking at disabilities, if one was to examine disabled sports and approach it from a bio-medical point of view, we would use comparisons to normality, benchmarks to what is normal and what it means to be healthy. In a sociological approach to health, one looks at the body as a whole, on more than just the physical level. Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts;” but, what if one part was missing, or unresponsive? The sporting world views disabled athletes in a different regard than able bodied athletes. This view becomes even more distorted when body enhancements such as prosthetics are added to the mix. Society looks at the term disabled as less than normal, as individuals who are weaker, or at times unhealthy, even when health has nothing to do with their disability.
It seems that it is human to categorize each other; whether one is tall, or short, male or female, able-bodied or disabled. Society is always looking to compare who fits their normal image, or the ideal body and who does not. Many disabled athletes and individuals outside of the sporting world, point to the issue with the word “disablility”. The word itself conjures up negative ideas and stereotypes. The able-bodied athlete is thought of as a pillar of strength, of someone who is admired, who has the ideal body. We live in a society where our sports stars are treated as heroes. If we look at hockey arenas, players are cheered and given standing ovations simply for entering the ice. A disabled athlete is looked upon as weak, small, or infirm. They are not held up high as heroes to their society, in fact if one was to compare the coverage of a Paralympic event with that of an able-bodied event, one would see a great injustice to the disabled athlete. In fact, there is a good chance one wouldn’t be able to find coverage of most disabled sports. The Paralympics are seen as secondary to the Olympics, in fact many fans of the Olympics are not even aware that the Paralympics usually follow the Olympics shortly after the closing ceremonies.