I took this class only by chance after switching writing seminars with someone else at the beginning of the semester. I wasn’t particularly interested in the topic of the class in any way but was glad I would still be able to take intro to CS. At first, the portraits and videos we saw regarding disability made me very uncomfortable, Riva Lerer’s portraits were hard to look at, and it was hard for me to understand how these portraits could be seen as “beautiful”. There wasn’t any particular moment it happened, but I do see now that I have a much better understanding of what disability is, and am much more comfortable talking about it and seeing it. I think the strong discomfort I felt at the beginning of the semester around disability, shows how hidden away it is.
A big part of what I learned in this class is related to my second essay. Around this essay was when I realized that we will all most likely be disabled eventually, and we will all know someone who is disabled. I can’t remember who said it, but I found the point very compelling that buying and selling houses that are accessible, isn’t just a nice idea to support disabled people, but is worth it from a personal perspective. I learned that this is important not just for disabled people, but also for myself and everyone else.
Once I realized that the way we view disability actually matters to everyone, I started to become a lot more interested in the class and material we were reading. I think this led me to my 3rd paper about genetic engineering in relation to disability. Again, the way our society views disability has an effect on everyone, not just disabled people (which also will include almost everyone). Even if you don’t believe that including disability in our society is important, it will not stop being a part of it, and the assumptions we hold about disability will lead to the laws we make about disabled people and the way they are treated.
Another thing I got out of this semester was the actual perspective of disabled people. I think before this class, the part of my life that I dreaded most was being disabled and helpless and elderly. In high school, we read Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, in which (from what I remember) the main character basically watched his old friend become more and more helpless and disabled until he dies. Having to rely totally on other people, like Morrie does in this novel, seemed so undesirable and pitiful to me. I think this fear played on my assumption that I would be a burden on others, dependent on others when in America we so highly praise independence.
I was really struck by Mairs point about how the elderly perceive themselves to be burdens on their families, but in other countries, it is completely normal for multiple generations to live in the same household. It made me wonder what we are doing to our own mothers and fathers when we put them in nursing homes instead of caring for them like a family. I think I am honestly significantly more likely to invite my parents to live with me in the far future when they need someone to support them, and it is absolutely crazy that we don’t do this already.
Seeing the actual perspective of a disabled person, showed me that while disability can be very inconvenient and frustrating, it is certainly not the end of your life or happiness.
This class, more than any other, has actually challenged my beliefs and unconscious assumptions and showed me a new way of seeing the world. It has changed the way I see disability, and has made me much more aware of how it is present, or at least will be present in all of our lives.