The Presidentially-appointed National Council on the Handicapped, in 1986 said, "man-made obstacles" result in limits greater than those caused "by any specific physical or mental disability."
Last year , Mr. Justice William Brennan, speaking for the U.S. Supreme Court, in School Board of Nassau County v Arline wrote, "Congress acknowledged that society's accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment." (Gartner and Lipsky, 1988)
John McKnight has been very instrumental in helping us understand the power of the environment. In the 1980s, McKnight often reported on the research of Nora Groce and deafness in West Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard. Because of a high level of hereditary deafness in Martha's Vineyard from the 17th through the early 20th century, the community adapted to deafness. Hearing people and deaf people alike spoke sign language. If there is no community barrier to communication, then where is the disability?
In 1989 McKnight wrote a story called, "Why Servanthood is Bad" and it opens with Nora Groce's study of this population.