I've been thinking for a while about the presentation of disability and chronic pain in Brandon's books and I reread a bunch of them recently and ended up with a lot of thoughts. I wrote a letter/email to Brandon trying to provide a little insight and I think it might be worth sharing here as well.
This is exactly the kind of feedback that is useful for writers to hear. I try to do the best I can, but I can always do better. I particularly like how you outlined some of the traps/tropes authors fall into, because those are exactly the things that are super helpful for me to read. (And similar lists have helped me a lot with my writing in other areas.)
I don't want to say much more than that, because I don't want to imply your perspective is invalid. (It most certainly is.) But I do want to mention that I pay a lot of attention this kind of issue, and there is a fine line to walk. Many things having to do with disability have a bit controversy surrounding them similar to the cochlear implant one--where the community itself can be very divided at what they want to happen, and what they want to see happen in fiction.
I consider it my job to listen, particularly to well-reasoned and passionate arguments like yours. But I do need to note that there are arguments on the other side that I do also listen to. And I personally--from all the many things I've read and the time I've spent pondering it--do not currently consider curing of physical aliments with magic to be inherently problematic. I DO consider it to be a difficult issue, and recognize your feelings, which are completely valid. If healing people of disability in the real world is difficult and full of touchy subjects, with a variety of opinions, then it certainly is valid to consider it so in fantasy!
My goal is always to try to depict the varieties of different human experience and opinions. And, indeed, one of my goals with Rysn is to specifically have a character to contrast someone like Lopen--who falls (as you have noted) on a different side of the argument.
But, to be honest, I don't even consider the healing of mental disabilities with magic to be inherently problematic. (Speed of Dark, an excellent science fiction novel, is about a cure for autism--and is done brilliantly.) I do run into a lot of people who really like that I don't let Stormlight heal most mental illness--but I'd say I've run into an equal number of people with depression who wish that I would let it do so, and have told me they'd take a cure for depression without hesitation if one gets invented. (Indeed, there are many who do a great deal to medically to try just this.)
What I would say is that I need to be careful not to present one idea as the only valid response to these sorts of things. You're absolutely right that there is a perspective I need to be careful not to invalidate, and tropes I can be harmful in perpetuating if I don't watch myself. (My sister in law has chronic fatigue, and yeah--the number of people who told her if she was just stronger-willed, she'd get past it, is huge.)
I will be very careful with the Rysn novella. (And we do these days try very hard to have specific readers who have disabilities like the ones I depict. It is my plan to do this here.) And I'll keep your post handy as I revise, as I think it will be helpful.
I would strongly urge you with Renarin in particular to not do some sort of "cure" storyline and to leave him as autistic. I feel that the story would be better off with that and would most probably do more good that way.
I have no intention of "curing" Renarin, as I agree with your points here--but I really appreciate you mentioning them. We are aligned on this idea. I used Speed of Dark as an example of how a theoretical cure could be used in a story in a non-problematic way. (In that story, a cure is invented, and the story is entirely about the ramifications of it--and the dangers. It is a highlight of why I think Science Fiction is important. Asking the question, "What if?" before something happens in real life gives us a lot of questions, ideas, and concerns to work on as a society in preparation for such events.)
That said, that is a book that specifically deals with this idea. My intention for the Stormlight Archive, and Renarin specifically, is to explore him as a character. Not to change him into someone else.
I was wondering if we'd see assistive devices using fabrials in future stormlight books? I think there might be a lot of in-world potential with fabrials in wheelchairs, prosthetics and other assistive devices as that technology progresses.
Dawnshard actually has Rysn looking at fabrials and wondering if those could be of use in the way you're indicating here. I think you'll be pleased with the result.