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Portfolio Reflection

ericafenton's picture

Portfolio Reflection

It is truly shocking how little I had interacted with Critical Disability Studies throughout college prior to this semester. I am so, so thankful to have taken this course. The course has pointed out a huge gap in many courses about inequality and social change, as this was my first time interacting in a meaningful way with theories of disability and society. As a sociology major with a personal and academic interest in inequality and lived experiences of difference, it is shocking how much I learned in this course considering I took it during the second semester of my senior year. While the principles of disability justice intimately correspond to justice principles I have learned in other courses, their application to disability was new to me– which I recognize as a huge problem. 

Since our first few weeks of class, I have come to approach many aspects of my life from a disability justice perspective. Most obviously, I have been able to bring disability into my academic explorations. One of my courses this semester, Inequality and Public Policy (with Michael Levere in Economics), presented a great opportunity to think intersectionally about disability. We talked in the class about homelessness and how to reduce housing inequality. In a conversation about eradicating homelessness, it is absolutely essential to keep in mind the high population of disabled homeless people. This consideration will impact the plans for supporting people experiencing homelessness as well as dismantling the ideologies and systems that put people in such precarious situations in their housing. Outside of my academics, I have noticed myself keeping disability justice in mind as well. Now that I understand disability as a socially constructed phenomenon, it is easier to see how societal norms and expectations are what need to change to achieve justice, not more medical innovations, technologies of othering, or individual accommodations. I am seeing ableism everywhere now. I have noticed my club soccer team promoting its inclusivity, while doing no work to actually ensure that the club is accessible and comfortable for all types of bodies, cultures, and skills. Not only do the team gatehrings radiate white cis-het upper-class vibes - which are uncomfortable to many - but it has developed a culture of athletic expectations. I felt light headed one day and had to get a sip of water before it was officially “halftime” of a scrimmage, and I was met with “looks.” Only after revealing that I had donated blood that morning did the captains show any concern for my state - my lightheadedness was only valid in their minds if I had a logical, medical reason for feeling that way. I know that I would have felt “off” living through that situation prior to taking this class, but with the tools of CDS I was able to identify my discomfort as being uncomfortable with their display of ableism and the fact that people failed to recognize it as such. I talked to the captains about the situation at a later date, but they did not totally get how this one moment was indicative of the larger ableist culture.

In addition to the impact of disability justice principles on my thinking, this course has introduced me to the Center for Creative Works, an organization that I plan to stay connected with as I continue my life in Philadelphia. When I had the chance to talk to Allen Yu and his family, I really got a sense of the impact of intentional spaces for community built specifically with disabled artists in mind. Allen’s mother spoke about their struggles to find him a way to learn and practice art, and how they felt such joy at finding CCW. Whether as a fan of the art or a collaborator, I look forward to continuing my relationship with the organization.

I have appreciated learning from my peers throughout the semester. Our class had a serious wealth of knowledge, and on a topic that I am less experienced with, and so I really got to learn a lot from them and through my own reflections. It was a very open, supportive, and committed group of people, all dedicated to learning and unlearning together. A beautiful last class of college. Thank you!