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Course Reflection

ekoren's picture

In this second attempt to learn about and understand disability studies as a discipline, a follow-up from my first-year writing seminar, I feel that the work I have been doing has sunk in for me in a way that I hadn’t previously experienced. Truly, I see ableism as more deeply ingrained in and intertwined with daily life than I ever did before taking this class. Some of this understanding undoubtedly comes from the time we’re living: during a pandemic, disability, illness, and access feel particularly relevant. However, I also think I’ve become more inspired to be alert to the smaller and larger injustices that occupy my day-to-day existence even outside of the atypicality represented by living during a globe-altering virus outbreak. 

Numerous examples come to mind of the “small” injustices to which I’ve become more attuned. Particularly I remember that, early in the semester, we discussed the topic of language, and I later wrote an entry in my CCW notebook about the typical experience I have of hearing words like “lame” and “insane” used around the bi-co. I hear these types of words used casually in all sorts of settings, and I am grateful to this class for reminding me to be more descriptive in my spoken language and reminding me how the path towards accessibility is truly a mutually beneficial process. (As I attempt to make minor alterations to my own vocabulary to be more inclusive, I also become more thoughtful, descriptive, and accurate when I engage in discussions.) I hope, moving forward, that I can lean into this classroom-induced growth and find the bravery to bring these internal conversations into external environments, including my friendships, familial relationships, and professional settings. 

Even as I hope to continue to apply my learning to my life outside of this class, I want to acknowledge that much of my learning has actually occurred beyond our classroom community. Specifically, I took another health studies course this semester called “Memoirs of Illness” and found the class incredibly challenging. We read, unsurprisingly, memoirs about illness, and, whether by virtue of the genre itself or the book selection, in particular, most of the stories we read depicted folks who were struggling with some permanent effect of their illness. Personally, I’d call this “permanent effect” disability; we read about blindness, quadriplegia, Alzheimer’s, and more. For me, then, this was an even more obvious place to apply a disability studies perspective than any of my other classes, which could all also likely benefit from our class’ scholarship. So, I would frequently bring up points about disability studies, questioning moments in the memoirs we read and critiquing certain conclusions. Just as frequently, and deeply disconcertingly, I would receive push-back. In a way, I took for granted the bubble of our class where we all were largely traveling in the same direction, contributing different ideas but holding the same basic assumptions, operating from a shared understanding about the ableist world in which we live. Even as I more deeply accepted core ideas from this class - the inalienable value of human life, the critical importance of human diversity for its own sake, the knowledge that hard is not worse and that a lack of access creates disability, not the other way around- I was discovering that I was in a startlingly small minority.

Opening myself up to adopting a disability studies perspective in my everyday life has been a hugely productive challenge. I wouldn’t trade a single one of my moments of discomfort in my Memoirs class for all the knowledge I’ve gained through this course. I recognize, now, that my views on disability are not necessarily common or easily accepted, and I feel better equipped after this second semester of study to face that reality. I entered this course fairly idealistic, but I exit this course extremely idealistic; I feel confident that I have been given the tools to address much of the ableism in my immediate surroundings and to ask questions about still unknown topics and controversies within the discipline.