The NIH recently released a Request for Information on “Updating the NIH Mission Statement” that I find puzzling. It proposes to change the official NIH mission to as to stop trying to “reduce disabilities.” Either this is purely a matter of semantics and won’t affect research investments (in which case the NIH is wasting time and money on the exercise), or else it
Related from ACX https://open.substack.com/pub/astralcodexten/p/contra-the-social-model-of-disability
I sympathise, but only to some extent. By riffing on semantics over substance you are missing something important - that there are different models, different semantics if you like, of disability. One of these is the social model of disability, which rightly needs to be given prominence alongside or even instead of the medical model.
Thanks for taking the time to discuss this. It is curious to me that, as pointed out in your extended quote by DeBoer, some factions place exquisite emphasis on nuanced meaning of words, but then overlook it elsewhere, or make up their own meanings which they insist others follow. An example of the later occurs above as Mañana tries to draw a distinction between impairment and disability. But the words simply don't mean this, even if one wants them to. If one lacks the ability to see, they have a disability . This is all it means and has nothing to do with society or culture.
An example of the former (inconsistent emphasis on precision) occurs in the new mission statement itself. In the original statement the phrase "To seek fundamental knowledge" applies to nature, behavior and applications. The mission remains a a knowledge-generating mission in all of these areas, which is consistent with our understanding of what NIH does. In the new construction, we are seeking knowledge about nature and behavior, but now we are applying , rather than seeking knowledge about applications. This fundamental changes the mission. HRSA, AHRQ, CMS and others are implementation agencies. NIH is not. I am pretty sure that they did not intend to change the mission of the NIH, yet this sort of carelessness can have implications later on.