Daylight Saving Time is quite possibly the best real-world example of how the social model of disability works that I have yet seen, as this past weekend has painfully reminded me.
Like a lot of people, I spend a week or more after the time change dragged out, sleeping poorly, unproductive, and with wildly varying moods. Even people who don’t consciously notice the difference to their own health or mood express it in their behavior: studies show that productivity tanks, people argue more, and the number of fatal accidents increases due to the time change. In other words, DST does a real number on our quality of life – at least temporarily.
What does this have to do with the social model of disability?
The social model of disability states, essentially, that while we may be impaired by conditions that have a medical, bodymind-based cause, we are not disabled by those conditions unless we run up against social conditions that don’t accommodate them.
For instance, using a wheelchair doesn’t actually “disable” the person who wants to go places. The wheelchair gets them to the places they want to go just fine…until they need to get into a building that doesn’t offer a ramp. The lack of a ramp is what disables them.
The power of the social model lies in the way it exposes these disabling conditions as largely constructed: that is, they are under our control and we can change the way they are set up. Humans built those stairs; humans can build a ramp instead or alongside.
What does this have to do with Daylight Saving Time?
DST is a human construct nonpareil. Unlike stairs and ramps, which are at least constrained by concrete realities like labor-hours and, well, concrete, time is a completely fictional agreement that only exists because we all agree that it does, based on some loose shared perception of when is “now” versus when is “then.” And so is DST.
DST only happens because we, as a society, agree to change our clocks forward one hour at 2 a.m. on some predetermined day. Because we all do that, we put up with the disabling consequences for a while after: the disrupted sleep, the brainfog, the mood swings. These are “symptoms” of a disability that only exists because we participate in a fictional social construct: the time change.
The medical model of disability, which locates disability in the individual and turns it into a problem to be solved by Science, doesn’t have room for DST-disability. There’s no DST Disease that people get for a few weeks every spring, and that magically resolves. We disable ourselves. The social model just underlines how.