Blog #6: Final Reflection

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.

Extension Recap

For my extension I showed two videos on the different perspectives and ways people look at disabilities.  The first video was called “Who I Am.”  This was a video for The Campaign for Disability Employment through it’s “What You Can Do Campaign.” This campaign is “a collaborative effort among several disability and business organizations that seeks to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging employers and others to recognize the value and talent they bring to the workplace as well as the dividend to be realized by fully including people with disabilities at work”.   It highlights the idea that people with disabilities have a lot to offer; they have likes/dislikes, good qualities/bad qualities and they have a disability.  They have just as much to offer, if not more in certain instances, and they should be appreciated for this in everyday life.

My second video was by The Noémi Association in France.  In this video parents and their children were asked to mimic funny facial expressions of people on a screen and you saw their different reactions.  When a girl with a disability had a funny facial expression, the parents refused to make the face, while the children continued to make the faces.  I chose this video because it connects really well to what we were talking about in class.  There are so many different perspectives people have in general, but especially regarding those with disabilities.  This video really showed the stark contrast people adults and children regarding disabilities.  It almost makes disability seem like a social construct that has developed and eventually children are taught to act/think a certain way about disabilities.  I think it really highlights that we need to start looking at things with the innocence of the eyes of a child.

I thought it went super well and generated a lot of discussion in class.  We brought up a lot of questions about when children turn into these adults, which was super important to recognize.  We concluded there isn’t a specific time but it happens in social situations and in schools.  We talked about race and disability, and the similarities and differences between them, regarding how society (and more specifically in this case, parents) talk about them.

Blog #5: Disability + Film

I watched Finding Nemo for this blog post, and at first, I wondered why this was under the list of films with characters with disabilities.  I say this because I do not remember this film being about disabilities and that’s when I realized, it’s not.  There are two characters that could potentially be labeled as “disabled,” one of them being Nemo, who has a “lucky” fin, and the other being Dory, who suffers from chronic short term memory loss.  I don’t think these disabilities really serve much of a purpose in the way that one would think a film with disabilities would.  More than anything I think they do a great job of not medicalizing their disabilities and instead make them something that are simply part of their self-identities.

I don’t think any tropes apply, in fact, I think the movie portrays something quite opposite of any type of trope.  I think they do a good job of using the realistic rhetoric in this movie and make the characters’ disabilities something that could be a downfall in certain situations, but also show the positive impact their disabilities could have (i.e. Nemo’s “disability” also makes it easier for those searching for him to find him; also Dory is the character that remembers the address Nemo can be found at).

I think these characters are extremely complex, and their disabilities do not define them in the slightest.  While you may be able to tell they have disabilities from seeing/talking to them, that is not something that defines them.  There is no pity painted in this film and change is not expected of these characters with disabilities.  These characters send the message that everyone is different, everyone has something about them that makes them even a little bit diverse.  I think my favorite scene is when Nemo is at school and is questioned about his fin and all the other students say the little things that make them different or even insecure at times too (sea urchin is H20 intolerant, squid has one shorter tentacle, etc.)  This movie does a great job of making disability something that should be in every film, because that is the reality of this world.  You shouldn’t have to have a character in a movie have a disability just so it can be highlighted/ pitied or in need of change; instead you should have a character with a disability just to have a character with a disability because that’s what “normal” is.

 

Blog #4 ABLEISM + ABILITY PRIVILEGE

I think one can be unintentionally ableist because that’s just how our society is set up.  People with disabilities are unintentionally discriminated against all the time solely based on the structure of buildings, schools, offices, etc.  There are so many events, even on campus, that are ableist because they are inaccessible to certain types of disabilities.

I think ability privilege is the advantage you have as a temporarily able-bodied person.  There are many benefits that come along with this, and usually we just don’t even think about them as benefits, since we are just used to it because we aren’t disabled.  I think you encounter it in your everyday but just don’t notice it because it’s the norm.  I never have to worry about how I’m going to get to class on a snowy day or how I’m going to go on a field trip to a Phillies game.  When I’m looking for jobs I know my ability won’t be question, however, people with disabilities will be questioned about accommodations and potentially could be denied work because of their disability.

I don’t think I ever really considered ability privilege before because it was never really talked about.  I feel like issues of race and religion take precedence over ableism.  I honestly was never exposed to disabilities until I came to this school.  I never really knew anyone with a physical disability before either and therefore never had to question anything of my ability.

The different disability rhetorics, the wondrous, sentimental, realistic and exotic, really impact ability privilege and how it is looked at.  Sometimes people with disabilities are only seen at one end of the spectrum or another; they are either praised for their accomplishments or pitied for the struggles.  It just goes to show once again that if you don’t fit in the ability privilege category, you’re different and will be treated differently.  Therefore, it is clear that those who are abled are naturally elevated because they don’t have these rhetorics that “define” them like those with disabilities.

I think this connects to LEVEL a lot because ableism and ability privilege are the reasons we need organizations like LEVEL in the first place. There are so many roadblocks people with disabilities have to go through at Villanova because of the lack of natural accommodations this school has.  There are places and buildings on campus that are wheelchair friendly, some places don’t even have elevators.  This school was set up, although probably unintentionally, in a way that was made solely for the able-bodied person.  We need LEVEL to break down these boundaries, both the physical and theoretical ones.

 

Blog #3: IDEA

I’m surprised by how long it really took for there to be official laws and bills for children/people with disabilities.  The disabled community didn’t make real legislative progress until the 1970s-1990.  The IDEA came around in 1975 and the Americans with Disabilities Act didn’t come around until 1990.  It is surprising to see how long it took for people with disabilities to have rights.  It’s surprising that kids with disabilities had to struggle in school systems before 1975, when the IDEA ensured that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education.  It’s also surprising that the civil rights legislation of the ADA wasn’t passed until the 1990s, meaning that many people before this time were discriminated against when it came to employment.

Although these forms of legislation were passed and they were leaps forward for the disabled community, people with disabilities still struggle both in school and the workforce.  We talked a lot about how employers deny job positions to those with disabilities for “other reasons” other than their disabilities.  Also, while many children receive free public education, they are not necessarily given the accommodations and help they need in and out of the classroom.  While these are things I already knew, I think there needs to be even more steps taken for progress in these areas.

I think it is amazing we have both Learning Support Services and The Office of Disabilities here at Villanova.  I have personally had my fair share of medical issues and although this may be very different from having a disability, I still needed some accommodations here and there when it came to my workload and quizzes/tests.  I think it is great we have these professionals who know everything about the students’ cases.  It is important to have a child’s medical background, IEP, or any other documentation that can be of importance in a child’s education and wellbeing.  Working with LEVEL/LSS has really shown me the importance of using as many resources as you can to help those who need it.

Blog #2 LEVEL

So far I have sat in the level office for a few hours and gone to a LEVEL meeting.  I had such an amazing experience when I sat in the LEVEL office.  I encountered so many different people, played some games, and heard/shared some great stories.  I had a great experience with some of the LEVEL members as we played this “game” that makes people fall in love.  One of the longtime LEVEL volunteers went through “the 36 questions that lead to love,” with one of the students.  It was so fun, we were all laughing and trying to figure out our own answers (as far as I know they’ve yet to fall in love).   I also met this one girl in particular, a senior, who had an invisible disability, which is quite similar to an illness I actually have.  We really bonded on the everyday struggles and what it feels like to have this extra burden without people realizing it.  The LEVEL meeting was also super well organized and introduced me to even more people.  The main focus was on Casino Night, which is their big fundraiser, but we also addressed disabilities in the media and the changing world we live in.

LEVEL definitely challenges the normal idea of “service.”  I did RUIBAL as a freshman and now I am part of SLC/serve at Overbrook School for the Blind.  Usually when I serve I feel like I’m doing so much for the students and it is super routine.  Now I feel like the students are doing more for me and educating me.  I never know what to expect when I walk into the LEVEL and I think that’s the best part.  I think LEVEL is doing more of a service for me than the other way around.  I definitely don’t look at disabilities the same way I used to now that I work with LEVEL.  Working at Overbrook is very different from working with LEVEL.  At Overbrook I work in a multiple disabilities classroom and these teens are completely dependent on others.  It’s very difficult at times and makes you look at disabilities in such a debilitating light.  However, LEVEL has shown me that this is not always the case.  While it can be hard not to notice the wheelchairs students are in, the walking sticks they are using, the guide dogs that they have, there is so much more to the story.  I think people tend to forget that people with disabilities have goals and aspirations just like those who are “normal.”  They have the same concerns, problems and drama they rest of us have.  LEVEL has really shown me that it’s not about the disability of a person, but instead it’s about their abilities and what they do with them that really counts. 

 

 

Blog Post #1 Welcome

I’m Taylor Keefe, and I am a Psychology major and an Education and Spanish minor from Bergen County, NJ.  I am very interested in Forensic Psychology and Law, but I don’t know what I would want as a career yet.  I worked as a Social Services intern this summer so part of my heart is there also. I am heavily involved here and therefore spend most of my time doing many activities including A capella, A.C.T., and Service Learning Community.

I originally was taking Intro to Disability Studies as a requirement for the Service Learning Community, however after being exposed to the education department last semester I decided I was interested in minoring in Education.  Intro to Disabilities is a requirement for my minor, but I was more interested in taking another class with Dr. Bialka.  I probably learned the most, both in and out of the classroom, through her class last semester and serving at Overbrook School for the Blind.  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.

I am super excited to work with LEVEL this semester.  I have heard a lot about it in my 4th hour classes so I am pumped to be able to finally see what the hype is all about.  I think it is a great program our school has and from what I understand it is very successful.  I haven’t been involved in much on-campus volunteer work so I know this experience is going to be a lot different.  I also am excited to work with some of my peers; it is such a great way to meet new people in a relaxed setting.  I hope I can provide a good support system for the students and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us!