SocialParadigms and the Paraplegics
The increasing cases of violence and accidents have swelled thenumber of patients suffering from disabilities. A quadriplegic formof disability is one of the most severe and it involves the paralysisof all the limbs in an individual. It is also among the most commonneurological ailments. According to Quadriplegic, Paraplegic &Caregiver Resources, incomplete quadriplegia accounts for 31.2% ofall disabilities while the complete paraplegia is suffered by 28.2%of the spinal injured patients. On the other hand, completequadriplegia accounts for 17.5 of spinal disabilities. Quadriplegicpatients are affected by the social paradigms of structuralfunctionalism, social conflict, symbolic and interactionismtendencies.
Structural functionalism is built on the premise that the society isa complex unit that has different parts working together to promotesolidarity and stability. According to Herbert Spencer, whopopularized the theory, the society is like a body with differentorgans that perform various roles (Nadel 12). Emile Durkheim, anotherproponent of the theory, indicated that the modern society is complexand individuals perform specialized tasks that result ininterdependence among the members (Nadel 12). Besides, these createstrong bonds in the community.
In the current society, this theory has different impacts on thewelfare of the quadriplegic patients. After paralysis, most of thepatients become dependents and their capacity to produce in highlylacerated. The structural functionalism theory is based on the ideathat individuals are mutually connected through their roles. Also,the institutions in a community play specific roles with the aim ofimproving the lives of the members. For example, schools, hospitals,churches among other institutions. The adaptation of the familymembers to caring for the paralyzed patients does not happeninstantly. It takes the effectiveness of the other social amenitiesto improve the lives of the quadriplegic patients and their fittingin the society. For example, in the United States, individualsappreciate the role of behavioral and emotional counseling. However,the quality and access of the services are dependent on the level ofincome.
Also, the cost of the services plays a significant role in helpingthe quadriplegic patients to cope with their new conditions.According to Quadriplegic, Paraplegic and Caregiver Resources, about37% of the cases taken up by the Spinal Cord Injury System arrive inthe hospitals within a day. This means that about 63% of the patientsdo not access the services within 24 hours and this only serves toincrease their agony. This also boils down to the effectiveness ofsocial structures and facilities as outlined in the functionalstructuralism. The SCI also indicates that less than 15% of thepatients are admitted to the NIDRR system (Quadriplegic, Paraplegicand Caregiver Resources). The rest find services in other specializedand non-specialized institutions. These aspects offer a glimpse ofhow the structural functionalism affects the quadriplegic patients inAmerica.
Another major paradigm that has direct effects on the paraplegicpatients is the social conflict theory. The theory focuses on thedifferent interests of the disabled members of the society and howtheir needs are viewed to be in conflict with the want of othergroups. The basis of the realization is that the theory putsdisability as an element founded in a system with divergent interestsand that they usually experience discrimination and unmet needs. Inthe United States, most of the paraplegic patients cannot performproductive functions in the society. More importantly, their lifespan is reduced. Therefore, they become consumers and dependents onothers who can work actively in various occupations. The socialconflict theory illustrates that a community lives by competinginterests rather than mutuality. Therefore, the needs of theparaplegic individuals are seen as a conduit to use public resourcesthat could have been used for other developmental functions. Onaverage, the daily needs of a paraplegic individual exceed those ofanother living without any form of disability.
It is an agreed fact that the United States is founded on thefactions of capitalism. In their book, The New Politics ofDisablement, Olive and Barnes outline that disability must belinked to the functioning of capitalism. However, in a capitalisticsociety, those who cannot work productively do not receive muchattention and the liberties that they enjoy are mostly limited to theconfines of the constitution and other auxiliary laws. This hasenabled a change of pattern from the ancient killing and imprisonmentof the disabled who cannot contribute to the growth of the economy.
In the United States, the plight of the disabled is observed underthe conflict theory through the services that they receive. Afterhospitalization, there is an immense need for rehabilitation andcounseling as the victims seek to adapt to the new life processes.About 92% of the patients who suffer this form of disability go backto their residences while only 8% are contained in health facilitiesand nursing homes (Quadriplegic, Paraplegic and Caregiver Resources).In addition, 61% of the quadriplegic patients remain unemployed, andthis has a significant effect on their economic status andconsequently on their access to other services. Although thegovernment has made significant efforts to enroll them into variousinsurance schemes, the coverage is still low since majority of themcannot be able to contribute towards the same. For example, only 25%and 5% are enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare respectively(Quadriplegic, Paraplegic and Caregiver Resources). Their interestsseem to be in friction with the needs of larger population.
The interactionism theory is also one of the social paradigmsaffecting the paraplegic patients in the United States. The theoryexamines the processes through which meanings are constructed in thesociety. Erving Goffman, a renowned sociologist, has been vocal inthe forms of stigma being perpetrated against individuals who havevarious forms of disabilities (Pescosolido 274). According to theprofessional, stigmas disintegrate and interfere with people’snormal routines. Therefore, individuals who suffer from paraplegicfind it as a threat to their social lives.
More importantly, the quadriplegic individuals are more disadvantagedthan those with sight and hearing abilities because the latter canperform various physical activities. In addition, their beingconfined to their wheel chairs and beds results in a significantlevel of social stigma. The problem execrates when do not haverelatives or family members to take care of their financial needs.They cannot also interact freely with other members of the communitydue to their restricted movement. The failure to participate activelyin the societal matters may result in withdrawal.
The symbolic interactionism paradigm also has a significantimplication on the quality of life led by the paraplegic persons WhenHerbert Blunner developed the theory, he conceived the idea thatindividuals act towards situations and objects based on the meaningattached to them by the society (Blumer 14). The various values andcapabilities attached to persons, situations and objects in a givencommunity are socially constructed, and they are modified through alocalized interpretation. The theory therefore has variousimplications on how the disabled and non-disabled react towards eachother.
As mentioned, the United States is a capitalist society thatconcentrates on the capacity of an individual to contribute to thegrowth of the economy. Autonomy and aggressiveness in differentoccupations is therefore highly valued. Paraplegic individuals havetheir capacities reduced, particularly in complete cases. It meansthat they cannot occupy the same positions they used to before thetraumatic experiences. The gravity of the matter is even intensebecause the various actions that result in the disability areunprecedented and they occur with an unfortunate surprise. Forexample, vehicle accidents have been recovered as the highestcontributors to paraplegic disabilities. After the ordeals, theidentity of the victim change in the eyes of their colleagues andrelatives.
According to the symbolic theory, people’s reaction towards a givensituation is influenced by the attitude of the community towards them(Siebers 279). Paraplegic individuals are regarded as physically weakand unable to carry out a myriad of activities that require movement.Therefore, they tend to be left out during such activities. Whilethis may be understandable due to their reduced performance, itsometimes results to stigma. Additionally, paraplegic victims areconsidered as recipients of assistance. Therefore, people becomesympathetic to them to the point of demeaning or disregarding thevarious capacities that they have.
In conclusion, paraplegic individuals face various challenges in theAmerican community. Their experiences are well explained through thevarious social theories including, the social interactionism,symbolic interactionism, social conflict and structuralfunctionalism. Paraplegic individuals experience interference withtheir usual routines as a result of their lacerated physicalcapacities. This form of disability usually results fromunprecedented misfortunes, particularly vehicle accidents. They facestigma and they are left out on major social functions apart fromthose that are reserved for the disabled, and this further reinforcestheir isolated place in the community. Although the government isimplementing polices to involve the disabled in health anddevelopment plans, there are various gaps.
Blumer, Herbert. Symbolischer Interaktionismus and Herbert Blumer.(2016). Print.
Nadel, Siegfried Frederick. The theory of social structure.New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Oliver, Michael, and Colin Barnes. The new politics ofdisablement. Palgrave: Macmillan, 2012. Print.
Pescosolido, Bernice A. "Erving Goffman: the moral career ofstigma and mental illness." The Palgrave Handbook of SocialTheory in Health, Illness and Medicine. Palgrave Macmillan UK,2015. 273-286. Print.
Quadriplegic, Paraplegic & Caregiver Resources. Spinal Cord Factsand Statistics. Sci-Info-Pages, 2015. Web.
Siebers, Tobin. "Disability and the theory of complexembodiment—for identity politics in a new register." Thedisability studies reader 4 (2013): 278-297. Print.