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Reflection Essay

aconn's picture

I went from having almost no knowledge of disability studies before taking this class, and now I feel as though I cannot unsee the intersections at every turn in my academic and personal life. I don’t exaggerate when I say this; I am familiar with disability but have never had the language to explain, describe, or enunciate what I have experienced. Repeating many others, the current public lexicon is woefully equipped to address the diversity of human experiences, especially when it manifests itself as disability. Taking this class and holding on to several questions important to me throughout the semester has led to my understanding of disability being expanded upon in many ways.

I favor listening, and I apologize for the lack of interactive participation on my part. I hope that my posts on Serendip as well as my projects show that I am actively incorporating disability studies into my thinking and work. The intersection of disability is an effective modality which we can explore to end neoliberal capitalism, and I think that this class opened me up to those methodologies of criticism.

 It has been very difficult to learn remotely, and to be specific and local:  having education primarily mediated through a laptop has devastated passing rates for K-12 public school students in North Carolina. This points to a bigger problem at hand when it comes to accessibility and disability justice. Not all people learn effectively through the technology of the internet, and that technology has not yet learned to reciprocate the effort all of us put into them. I situate disability justice at the forefront of my thoughts because it most accurately critiques the dominant systems of oppression, and offers solutions to those systems. Accessibility is important when engaging in education, and taking the course has allowed me to better understand the ways in which accessibility is denied in technological development.

 My thesis was on a novel about elevators and their capacity, so I learned to use the frameworks from class to look at how elevators show bias in their operation. Elevators are perhaps not even thought of as technology anymore, but their manufacturing literally switched the connotation of height during the early 20th century industrialization. My first question was “How does disability inform surveillance and visual studies?” and it was answered by applying the practices to my thesis and reading more perspectives.

These technologies tend to reduce people to numbers and averages (elevator capacity, # of occupants, etc.) while leaving out the experiential nature of using the devices. The perceived neutrality of technology can be done away with if we incorporate those aspects of disability culture that prioritize experience over empirical reduction, or at the very least promptly offer an alternative to it. Disability studies also articulates the systems of power that subordinate people by disrupting the narrative logics of scientific technology. 

Scientism, different from science, is the ideology that promotes science as the reduction to a truth, or the systemic belief in the alignments of expertise, data models, and scientifically-driven objectivity that necessarily exclude nonnormative phenomena as aberration. This ideology manifests itself in ecological racism, architectural ableism, and outright state-sponsored eugenics when it is left to brew. I don’t want to recount horrific examples in detail, but rather quickly say that there are still 500 service lines of lead piping left to replace in Flint, Michigan, going on seven years now. The Flint City Council failed to consent to the completion of the project in April of this year due to filibustering. To quickly say that those preceding statements are the narrative logics of scientism: a council that is so concerned with the 20 million dollar financial loss it received paying a fine for systemically poisoning its citizens through neglect over multiple decades, that it is willing to continue to systemically poison them by stalling clean water accessibility efforts. I digress.

I still have much to read and much to learn from in terms of disability culture and studies. I appreciate the evenings spent together and hope to take the lessons learned with me into the future. Both Eli Clare and Ruha Benjamin stick out in my mind as platforms to continue to learn, and I hope to continue to reflect!