By William Boyce
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Extra resources for A Seat at the Table: Persons with Disabilities and Policy Making
Finally, the definition should explicitly address concepts of power. Citizen participation has a variety of meanings that focus on sharing in activities by virtue of entitlement or right and derive from the basic constructs of democratic theory (Neufeldt 1988). Pateman, in her classic political science work Participation and Democratic Theory (1970), notes that the notion of participation is used widely, often with an imprecise definition or no definition, to include almost any situation in which even a minimal amount of interaction takes place.
The community is seen, not as a cohesive whole with mutual interests, but rather as a constellation 28 A Seat at the Table of distinct advantaged and disadvantaged groups. This definition of participation satisfies Pateman's general criteria, addresses both the organizational and empowerment purposes of participation, uses a structural perspective, and is applicable to many disadvantaged groups within communities. With these conceptual and methodological issues in mind, we propose the following definition of the participation of citizens with disabilities in policy making: Citizen participation is the organization of activities by groups of persons with disabilities who are at a structural disadvantage, in conjunction with able-bodied persons who are not, to increase control over the means to influence the policy environment and, in doing so, to improve their quality of life.
Notions of participatory democracy that are used to support this view primarily involve an educative process in which individuals learn to cooperate beyond their individual interests to achieve both public and private security (Pateman 1970). Thus, participation in the political science domain reflects fundamental tensions between the right to compete in a market economy and the right to an equitable standard of living. Political participation also reflects basic tensions between individual and collective rights.
A Seat at the Table: Persons with Disabilities and Policy Making by William Boyce