The Neoliberal Circulation of Affects: Happiness, accessibility and the capacitation of disability as wheelchair

K. Fritsch


The International Symbol of Access (ISA) produces, capacitates, and debilitates disability in particular ways and is grounded by a happy affective economy that is embedded within neoliberal capitalism. This production of disability runs counter to the dismantling of ableism and compulsory able-bodiedness. In charting the development of the modern wheelchair, the rise of disability rights in North America, and the emergence of the ISA as a universally acceptable representation of access for disabled people, I argue that this production of disability serves a capacitating function for particular forms of impairment. These capacitated forms are celebrated through a neoliberal economy of inclusion. I conclude by critically approaching the happy affects of the ISA, including the way in which the symbol creates a sense of cruel optimism for disabled people.


International Symbol of Access (ISA); disability; wheelchair; affect; neoliberalism

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