Protests: Contentious Politics, 1970-1999
The Old Social Movement Demand: An Extension of the Frame of Civil Rights
most basic demand made by people with impairments is that the frame of civil
rights be extended to them. In the process of frame extension, a frame
originally applied to one group or several groups is extended to a new group,
in what is essentially a process of cultural recategorization. Through this
recategorization, it becomes legitimate for the new group to be making demands
that had previously been seen as being inappropriate for them to make. Frame
extension does not guarantee that the group’s demands will be met, but it
does suggest that the demands have some justification. Unjustified demands
will never be met; justified demands might be. A successful frame extension is
not a one-step process, but, rather, involves several stages: frame stripping,
frame modification, and reframing.
involves justifying the inaccuracy or inappropriateness of the old frame
through which an issue or group was viewed, so that it can be removed. After
it is stripped off, a vacuum is created into which a new frame can be
inserted. It is not a given that the new frame will be an extension of the
desired frame, but this can be one outcome. Frame stripping may be done by the
social movement, through protests as well as other means. It may also be aided
by conscience constituents, especially in academic or media publications, who
attempt to show why the old frame in outdated or perhaps empirically
the process involves frame modification. If this happens, modifications
to the frame are formulated (and reformulated) both within and outside of the
social movement. By the end of this stage, the social movement must have
achieved some degree of consensus about which modifications they are willing
to accept and which they reject.
involves attempts by the social movement to apply the (possibly now modified)
frame to their issue or group, which by this time has stripped off its old
frame and is ripe for a new one. It also involves the social movement’s
attempts to make sure that the desired frame rather than another is inserted
into the vacuum left by the frame stripping process.
Demands for the extension of the frame of civil rights, and for the actual rights that accompany the frame, form the core of one set of cross-disability demands propounded by people with impairments. These demands say that people with impairments want a change “from good will to civil rights,” in the oft-quoted title of Scotch’s (1984) book. Adherents use phrases such as “new paradigm” or “paradigm shift” to discuss the ways they want disability to be viewed by the public and for policy purposes. They want disability to be viewed not as a medical condition but as a social condition, not as a condition that causes pity but also one that does not carry with it an automatic denial of basic civil rights. Below we examine the demands that people with impairments were (and sometimes still are) making about how this process should occur.