Wow I can’t believe this semester is already over and I’m here writing my last blog post for this class. I have learned so much in and out of the class room this semester, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to work with LEVEL. LEVEL has really taught me a lot about disabilities in general, and more specifically those with disabilities on campus. I’ve met so many people through LEVEL and hope to call some of them my friends for life. I think more than anything LEVEL has broken down many of the stigmas associated with disabilities for me. To be honest, I used to think a disability was more of a disadvantage in life, however, after working with LEVEL, including faculty, exec, and students, I have learned that I am wrong about that. I have met some of the brightest, most confident, funniest people through LEVEL, and oh yes, they have a disability too.
I think after working Jack McCall for the first time was when I really started thinking about disabilities differently. Basically my only exposure to disabilities before this was with Overbrook School for the Blind students, and since they are nonverbal and mostly wheelchair bound, it is very difficult to see the potential of these students, so it is easy to assume that most people with disabilities are this dependent on others. However, after working with Jack, I’ve probably never met anyone more independent. That first time I met with him he was writing a History paper and all I did for him was scribe. He outlined everything so meticulously and had all his ideas down on paper in like twenty minutes…I was mind blown to say the least, and not because he was a student with a disability, but because I myself could never do that. He is definitely one of the smartest people I have ever met and I even told his mom I need him to tutor me in outlining. When I first started working with LEVEL I thought that I was going to be able to help these students so much, but in reality they helped me. I’ve had many interactions with LEVEL members, but working with Jack, along with talking with Hindley really helped me. Hindley is wise be on her years to say the least, and we had an hour long conversation about school, the future, destiny, etc. and it was one of the best conversations I have had at Villanova thus far. She really has a good head on her shoulders and a great attitude and she taught me the importance of living in the moment and self-reflection; I am forever grateful for that conversation with her.
I think talking about the medical vs. social model of disability, along with the disability rhetorics really helped me better understand disabilities and how they are viewed in society. I think I have really learned the importance of using the social model of disability and realistic rhetoric when speaking about disabilities. I definitely look at ads or commercials that use disabilities differently, since most of the time they are using the wondrous or sentimental. At the beginning of the semester I wrote this in my first blog: “I hope to gain an even deeper understanding of Disabilities studies and become more comfortable talking about disabilities and serving those with disabilities by the end of this semester,” and I am very happy to say that I do have a deeper understanding of disabilities and I am 100% more comfortable about talking about disabilities, especially since we just shared our accessibility plans and I am definitely more comfortable serving those with disabilities because it’s no longer about them having a disability, it’s about them being a person with whom I am talking to or working with, and again “oh yeah, he/she has a disability too.” What I have taken away most from this class, is that someone with a disability isn’t just their disability, in fact, they are a person first, with many likes and dislikes, vices and virtues, personality traits and yes, they also have a disability.
In regards to disability and social justice I have realized that our world is not that just. Those with disabilities are not given as many opportunities as those without them, in fact, sometimes a disability can inhibit one from getting into a school, sorority, job, etc. It is ridiculous that these people are not being treated the same way as everyone else. Most of this world was created with the medical model in mind and this prevents those with disabilities from participating in life as fully as those without disabilities can. I have realized there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in this area, and I hope to become an advocate, and work towards “leveling the playing field,” for those with disabilities. I think I am still left with some questions after this class, mainly, what do I do now? I have all this information now, but I am not sure how to fit it into all aspects of my life and work towards making positive strides for those with disabilities. I want to know what other classes I can take? What fields I can go into that relate to disabilities? Ultimately, I just want to know what I can do next to continue this journey of being educated…I think everyone should be educated on disabilities and this class should definitely be part of the core curriculum, because education of disabilities isn’t a “special topic,” in fact it is just common courtesy and I want to help move people into this kind of mindset regarding disabilities.