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Jun 20

The Implications of Teaching about Implications of Disability

First, I’m guilty. I’ve done it.

I’m in process. And I know everyone else is too.

Maybe you have had an experience where you see things a new way, and you simply can’t go back. That’s how this is for me.

It’s a fairly common thing for those of us who work in professions that are connected to disability to provide workshops about various disabilities. One of the common topics in a typical workshop is “The Implications of _____________.”

Implications of deafness, implications of blindness, implications of dyslexia.

I included this topic in workshops I provided for years without giving it a second thought.

But not anymore.

And here is why.

The World Health Organization website lists the following as implications of deafness:

  • Difficulties in obtaining, performing and keeping an occupation.
  • Social isolation and stigmatization in all ages and both sexes.
  • Profound social and economic effects in communities and countries.

http://www.who.int/pbd/deafness/facts/en/

Clearly, though, being deaf does not cause any of these things. These are not implications of being deaf.  When and if these things do occur, they are are implications of being Deaf in a society that is not designed for you--a society that is not inclusive.  Listing these implications as the WHO does (and as I admittedly have done) pathologizes being Deaf.

The real pathology is not within the individual, but within our society.

What are the implications of being deaf in a hearing society? The implications of being blind in a sighted society? The implications of being disabled in an ableist world?

Lais Kari, a proofreader who is blind, says it well.

Disability isn’t the problem. What’s the problem is convincing others that it’s not a problem. 

What are the implications of being denied opportunities to work, to vote, to be taken seriously, to just show up at an event without having to spend time advocating for access–again and again?

I’m not denying that there are implications of a bodily condition of any kind. And maybe it is important for some people to be aware of those.

But if our goal is to create a better society, then let’s focus our energy on understanding what we are losing by not including everyone.

What are the implications if we don’t?

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