Beyond Inclusion: Seeing Ability

We have been discussing diversity and inclusion and seem to come to the conclusion that awareness and framing are key to the process of creating an inclusive space. I am drawn to what we do not see as instructors. We do not even see the students full potential in the course, leaving their being–who they are and want to be–often a complete mystery.

The one stereotype or factor we did not discuss was mental health. I mentioned invisible dis/abilities in our class discussion, however that was taken a different route. This is a difficult topic at Tech were stereotypes and fears are connected to a collective memory. It is something we must talk about– and be aware of as instructors. The students in our classrooms are diverse in ways far beyond race, gender, and class. Understanding the emotional, psychological, and psychosomatic stressors of the college classroom can help us create space where we come together–truly together–to learn.

To avoid further polarizing students who are not “able,” one small step I have taken is to refuse to use anything other than “dis/able” for the required sections in the syllabus. We are all dis/able in some capacity– acknowledging that is a beginning to the creation of inclusive spaces.

This post does not even begin to unravel the stigmas and discrimination graduate students and faculty face… but that is a conversation I hope we have. I hope you enjoy the film below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0HZaPkF6qE    (Examined Life by Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor (!!))

“The religious and historical roles of madness in society are further reinforced with elaborations in these dictionaries of the stigmata, a further derivation of the word stigma in medicine, meaning a ‘mark that is a characteristic of a defect or disease’ – hardly very progressive and politically challenging,” writes Smith. “The focus of our efforts should be upon society and the perpetrators of this discrimination, not the subjects of it. If we accept the concepts of parity of esteem, then we should describe not stigma, but rather bigotry, hatred, unlawful and unjust discrimination. Accepting the application of the word stigma reinforces this prejudice and does nothing to challenge it. We must challenge the status quo not accept it.”

The word ‘stigma’ should not be used in mental health campaigns (The Guardian, October 10, 2014)

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3 Responses to Beyond Inclusion: Seeing Ability

  1. jessit07 says:

    Jordan – I really liked that you drew your post away from the more typically considered aspects of diversity. I never particularly thought about the mental diversities between us – and I’m sure I’m not alone on that.

    Do you think that these dis/abilities and interpersonal differences are more easily accepted as a general rule because they are (perhaps) more difficult to discern and consequently less commonly perceived?

    • jllaney says:

      Thanks, Jessit07!
      I am not sure if unseen (often mental or emotional) dis/abilities are more easily accepted as much as they are simply unknown without disclosure– and disclosure is a risk for many students due to stigmas.

  2. Miko says:

    I completely agree with you. Sometimes we think inclusion and diversity are related to things we see, but there are many aspects that are not so easy to identify. And it is true, we all can have some level of disability at some point, so we have to be more sensitive towards the topic.
    Thanks for sharing the movie too!

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