When we know that norma is the Latin word for T-square and that normalis means perpendicular, we know almost all that must be known about the area in which the meaning of the terms “norm” and “normal” originated. . . . A norm, or rule, is what can be used to right, to square, to straighten . . . to impose a requirement on an existence.
—Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological (1978), 239.
Thinking critically about disability requires exploring the normative order of the social and physical environment that—as Canguilhem suggests—straightens out the lives of disabled people, T-squaring and otherwise measuring some people’s minds, bodies, senses, emotions, and comportments against the rule of normed expectations. Both in everyday life and in the human sciences, “normal” often appears as if it is a static state of affairs, and when people are said to have an unwanted condition, they …