Re: Elevators and exclusions
From: melanie griffin (
Date: Sat, 10 May 2008 13:54:56 -0700 (PDT)
I think the definition you quote is very narrow. It comes very close to, but
does not include, for example, another common definition of privilege, which
is the confidentiality between priests, lawyers and doctors and their
clients. For a wonderful exposition on privilege that I think relates more
to this conversation, see Peggy McIntosh's classic, "White Privilege:
Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" at

The range of opinions on how much accommodation is necessary illustrate why
the passage of the ADA was critical to ensuring the rights of people with
disabilities (good people can disagree on priorities, so Congress defined
them) and also why the law has undergone and is still undergoing protracted
litigation to determine what is "reasonable" where the law gives that


On Fri, May 9, 2008 at 4:33 PM, Brian Bartholomew <bb [at]> wrote:

>        A privilege -- etymologically "private law" or law relating to
>        a specific individual -- is a special entitlement or immunity
>        granted by a government or other authority to a restricted
>        group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. A privilege
>        can be revoked in some cases. In modern democracies, a
>        privilege is conditional and granted only after birth. By
>        contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held
>        by all citizens or all human beings from birth. [...]
>        In a broader sense, 'privilege' can refer to special powers or
>        'de facto' immunities held as a consequence of political power
>        or wealth. Privilege of this sort may be transmitted by birth
>        into a privileged class or achieved through individual
>        actions. Compare elite.
>        One of the objectives of the French Revolution was the
>        abolition of privilege. This meant the removal of separate
>        laws for different social classes (nobility, clergy and
>        ordinary people), instead subjecting everyone to the same
>        common law. Privileges were abolished by the National
>        Constituent Assembly on August 4, 1789.
> As I read this definition, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a
> privilege, and the full use of all four limbs is not a privilege.
> Could it be that "privilege" is not an accurate term to describe being
> able-bodied?  And since being able-bodied is not a privilege, the
> social justice rage is misapplied?
>                                                        Brian
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