The identity of an individual is extremely significant in classifying the individual into what category they belong to. However, identity is not the only criteria that is emphasised when classifying an individual; there are other criterion, such as the physical appearance of an individual. According to James L. Cherney, physical appearance is key to recognising individuals, but there are special cases of individuals who have disabilities (Cherney, 22). Cherney suggests that individuals with disabilities face a lot of challenges when it comes to identity crises. This is why there are Cyborgs that play a bigger role in enhancing the identity of these individuals. Cyborgs help individuals with disabilities to embrace technology and use scientific advancements for their benefit (Cherney, 23). Christopher Belshaw on the other hand, is of the view that technological advancements have a profound effect on individuals who were to be born with disabilities or individuals who are born with disabilities. Belshaw does support the view that gene therapy, which is a scientific method of preventing the birth of individuals with disabilities, has an immense effect on the future life of these individuals. It affects both the psychology and the identity of these individuals (Belshaw, 264). The ideas of these two authors in reference to technology and its effects on the lives, identities and psychology of individuals with disabilities are totally striking. In reference to the ideas put forward by these two authors; this paper will analyze the effects of technology on the identity, the well-being and the emotional characteristics of individuals with disabilities.
The author introduces the article by talking about the cyborg and the debates surrounding it. The cyborg has been said to be important on the part of women, as it helps them modify parts of their body that seem imperfect. The cyborg is also among the technological advances that have improved the lives of individuals with disabilities. Technology has provided these individuals with a chance to live normal lives, to access places that they could not access before and to accomplish their lifelong goals. Technology and science in medicine has led to equipment, surgical operations and machines that can modify the lives of those with disabilities (Cherney, 23). The history of the cyborg can be traced to the 18th century, when movie makers began modifying their characters using science. Characters in films were given extra powers with the help of technological advancements. Since then, man adopted the idea and adopted individuals who wanted to explore space. Spacemen were scientifically modified to adapt to the conditions in space (Cherney, 24). In the same way, scientists developed machines that could be implanted into the bodies of individuals with disabilities. The modification to their bodies gave them the capability to perform activities that other individuals could perform. This idea eventually spread all over the globe (Chernney, 25).
There were obviously individuals who were against the use of cyborgs. Individuals started criticising those that used these machines. There were claims that these people were wrecked machines who always required to be mended and even if they could be repaired, they will always be damaged. These comments were quickly erased by the defence remarks made by individuals with disabilities who confirmed that cyborgs were only a temporary solution to the problems they encountered (Cherney, 28).
One type of a cyborg is the cochlear which is implanted in the ears of deaf people to improve their ability to hear. The cochlear is useful to deaf individuals, but it is a type of cyborg that organizations and individuals who are in the forefront to fight for the rights of the deaf contest. According to such organizations, the deaf have a language; the American Sign Language. It is this form of language that identifies the deaf as a special people in society. The deaf do not consider themselves as individuals with disabilities; rather, they view themselves as individuals who belong to one of the minor languages in society. The society has tried to forbid the use of this language by promoting use of oral language among the deaf, and this is a form of discrimination. The cochlear is another setback to the use of this rare type of language. Since its introduction, deaf adult individuals rejected it stating that it is a means of erasing the deaf culture and the real identity of the deaf person (Cherney, 30).
Christopher Belshaw, Identity and Disability
There are many forms of disabilities; and common among these are blindness, deafness and lack of a part of the body. Individuals with disabilities seem to live quite an uncomfortable life. However, there are four major ways in which these disabilities could be prevented. One way is through abortion, another way is to advise parents who are most likely to give birth to a disabled child not to go ahead with the process. The most effective of these ways is gene therapy which totally modifies the foetus to properly develop all features of the body (Belshaw, 264). The controversy that arises after all the scientific modifications is the debate whether the identity of these individuals would be changed if they are genetically modified.
In discussing his ideas, Belshaw puts forward different ideas. To begin with, he claims that the life of an individual would take a different direction if the individual was born under different circumstances. His main reference is the material that gave rise to an individual. This view maintains that different originating materials make different people; for instance, several men were to donate their genetic material to one woman, the identity of each of the individuals born would be very different even if they belong to the same mother. In the same way, if a mother conceives from the same man at different times, there will be disparities in the identity of each of the resulting individuals. However, these disparities are not very important, because the end result is the same person, mad of the same material. These disparities do not therefore change the identity of an individual (Belshaw, 265).
The second idea that Belshaw discusses is the fact that identity changes according to the experiences a child goes through. If two parents were to give birth to a baby, then they decide that the timing is not right, and they would give birth to this child in two years: the child would be different in identity and psychology from the child that would have been born two years before (Belshaw, 267). He maintains that the activities, experiences and the modifications an individual goes through change his/her identity. In the same way, a foetus that is subjected to gene therapy will have a different personality from the same product if it would not have been subjected to therapy. Gene therapy therefore always has a great impact on the future being of a person (Belshaw, 272). Identity and disability are therefore are therefore closely related; a deaf person or a blind person develop their identity according to the experiences they undergo in their special condition. If the same deaf or blind person were to regain their hearing or their sight back, they would not have the same personality or identity as they did before. Therefore, experiences, actions and behaviours of individuals with disabilities are tied to them in their specific conditions at a given time (Belshaw, 274).
Synthesis of the Articles
According to the two authors, the body and selfhood are two aspects of human beings that are tied together in that one affects the other under all circumstances. An individual who is deaf or blind might use technological inventions to make his condition better. However, the use of these machines and modifications do not alter the personality or the identity of these individuals. The individual remains the same no matter what circumstances he is placed under. This is thus the aspect that led to various associations for the deaf in the United States. These associations claimed that no one could take away the identity of deaf individuals since it is their special conditions that differentiate them from the rest of the population. Of more specific about the deaf, is the fact that they belong to a specific type of language, known as the American Sign Language. This type of language distinguishes them as an individual who belong to a very different kind of language from other languages of the world.
Technology has also ensured that there are many ways in which the future of individuals could be altered. Medical professionals can always determine if a foetus will have a disability or not. If a foetus is noted to have the disability characteristics, they can be altered by the best methods in the medical professional. One of these methods is gene therapy, which ensures that all disabilities in a foetus are completely erased. However, gene therapy interferes with the identity of an individual. This is to say that if an individual was to be born with disabilities is totally altered, his identity will also be altered. Identity and the body therefore relate to each other and there is no role technology could play to hinder this fact.
The identity of individuals is an aspect that distinguishes them from other groups of people. There are different groups of people in the United States and one of these groups is individuals with disabilities. To defend and promote the rights of their identity, individuals with disabilities have developed organizations. In the United States for instance, most organizations for individuals with hearing impairment were developed in early years of the 19th century. Another aspect that has a great bearing on the issues of identity and disability is the role that technology has played in the lives of these individuals and their views on this issue. To be specific, technology has improved the lives of individuals with disability. It has made their lives look normal and much better. However, it is up to these individuals to decide if they prefer these adjustments or not. All in all, it is important to keep in mind that identity is determinant on whether an individual has a disability or not.