Taking Handicap into Account: Systemic Features
The approach of handicap must resolutely be systemic. At least because the matter of handicap obviously and immediately addresses the question of social link, which is reciprocal by definition. Also because handicap as a fact is far from being marginal: one European out of ten is concerned by handicap; nearly 10 million of disabled persons (in a broad sense) can be counted in France. Only 15 % of disabled persons contract handicap at birth, so, any valid person may contract a handicap any day. Differences, also diversity, factors of complexity, demand a systemic approach. Lastly, handicap needs compensation (sensory or motor aid…, desk fitting out…): it is the environment which adapts itself to the disabled person!
In practice, and, generally speaking, in the society, individualism takes the lead over “living together”. Stereotypes on disabled persons (deemed less performative, generating extra costs…) become widespread among people both in everyday life and at work. Answers provided by some elected members or administrators are not sufficient because they are fragmentary (for example limiter to training), while a set of consistent and complementary answers are needed.
The whole of those answers must include time factor; the point of view on disabled persons must be educated from childhood, from primary education. So, a systemic treatment of handicap implies coordinated actions in the following fields: children (welcome, education…), companies and employment (competences acknowledgement, recruitment…), administration (welcome and support, recognition of disabled worker status…), training (of disabled people, nursing staff, but also recruiting people and employers…), accessibility (to housing, buildings, transports, cultural and associative life, and of course cure and care), right to compensation (of sensory or motor handicap…). Even the component cure and care is of systemic nature: the person must be treated in her whole (therapeutic education, medicine acting at each step of the care path, care directed towards the transition to social and occupational rehabilitation, disabled person acting throughout her path…). Associations dedicated to handicap, who treat, educate, train, insert, support, and those who, in their sports, cultural or artistic activities, include a handicap part, obviously play a major role in that approach.
Unexpected spin-offs of the compensation of handicap can be seen: the adaptability of some space (building, transport) to the needs and constraints of a person with a loss of autonomy is not a simple respect of law as regards accessibility, but is broadened to the quality of use of “life spaces” for everybody, taking into account the needs and constraints of the whole of people: the disabled person often appears to enlighten the needs of the whole (example: access platforms to busses). Considering system engineering vocabulary, that amounts to speaking of taking into account the needs and constraints of all the stakeholders, which is an essential condition of secure outcome of a project.
The adaptation of the environment to the disabled person, in the very scope of the February 11th 2005 French law, as well as the claim of her full citizenship (schooling, employment…), with its consequences onto the whole of people is not the least surprise arisen from thinking about handicap.
Considering the systemic features of the question of disability would make it possible for some elected or administration people not to immediately focus on solutions, often fragmentary, without any care of other relations between the actors of the field and their environment, but on the contrary tackle the question as a whole, and think about the benefits induced on “valid” people, major part of the population.