The Normal Project

I think there’s a socially constructed normal way to live, but I don’t think it’s something to aim for.  Who really wants to have average as a goal?

— Alyssa

In the United States, disabled people are seen as a deviation from what is normal. The impaired body represents pathology, deficiency, and defect from culturally constructed normal ways of being.

The Normal Project is a 2015 online academic term paper by Jason Ross and Sarah Quinto for City University of New York. For this project, we asked Autistic disabled individuals: What does normal mean to you?  Answers to this question are included alongside theoretical models of disability and impairment. By placing them together, we are asking: What value do these models have for understanding disability? What opportunities exist? And where do the models fall short?

This project borrows heavily from the Sociocultural Model of Impairment-Disability developed by Devva Kasnitz and Russell Shuttleworth.

What is Normal? The Interviews.

Give a girl flowers

Finding a girl we need to give a girl flowers, go to a restaurant, say hi, get to know them, and fall in love.

A quality life

Normal is a setting on the clothes dryer. It’s also a statisical concept. I’d rather talk about a quality life. A quality life is when someone is fulfilled. — Stephen Theoretical Models Life Cycle Theory: Stephen’s experiences as a young child informed his later development into a leader in the Autistic community.

Healthy, good, acceptable, desirable, and so on

I used to try to push through exhaustion and felt guilty and ashamed if I couldn’t do what normal people do every day. That is another oppression of the word normal is that it can lead people to push their bodies beyond healthy limits.

The typical existing situation

I personally define normal as the typical existing situation in the context of society as a whole and whatever the majority deems to be acceptable. — Dylan Theoretical Models Ecological and Community Based Theory: Idea that society determines the concept of normal.

Not something to aim for

I do deal with anxiety and depression, largely from older failed attempts at being normal, though other people’s reactions to my not trying to be normal are sometimes a contributing factor to my anxiety.

Helping out

Normal means how to help out in certain ways. Traveling, taking walks, and moving around (in any way that helps be motivated to be in the community and feel supported).

What I got to do

Normal is what I am doing. What I have to do, need to do, and got to do. Goals. Is to clean my bedroom and bathroom before I go somewhere. Do my laundry. Check on my family. Attend weekly meetings for true religion. Watch sports on television. I feel grateful. I feel equal.

A subjective state

I have never felt “normal.” I think that disability is a subjective state, personal to one’s own view or conception of it.

Authentic Lives

My personal experience of “normality” is that it has been a cudgel wielded against me to shame me for being different.

Being part of humanity

Disability means being part of humanity but being thought of as all these other horrible things by society.

Supported by systems

I define normal as the way of existing or behaving that is supported by whatever system, institution or structure you are currently engaging with.

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