Liberal ethics and well-being promotion in the disability rights movement, disability policy, and welfare practice

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    The disability rights movement (DRM) has often been closely associated with the liberal values of individual choice and independence, or the ‘ethics of agency’, where enhancing the capacity to make autonomous decisions in various policy and practice-based contexts is said to facilitate disabled people's well-being. Nevertheless, other liberal values are derived from what will be termed here the ‘ethics of self-acceptance’. The latter is more disguised in liberalism and the DRM, as rather than emphasising the capacity to make autonomous decisions, self-acceptance focuses on the positive acceptance of individual limitations, but again to enhance well-being. The further argument is that while the ethics of agency and self-acceptance often logically cohere and overlap, through promoting the values of self-respect and relational autonomy, dilemmas arise from our asymmetrical, or uneven, dispositions towards time, and present and future lives and experiences. For example, positively accepting individual limitations allows for a present-oriented immersion in ‘the moment’, but which often requires some suspension of future-oriented goals and aspirations. Understanding some of the implications of this asymmetry, and the dilemmas arising from it, provide important insights concerning approaches to physical and intellectual impairments and the subsequent debates within the DRM, social policy and welfare practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)20 - 35
    Number of pages15
    JournalEthics and social welfare
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2012


    • agency
    • liberalism
    • well-being
    • disabilities
    • self-acceptance
    • disability rights


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