Reading Reflection: Marshak et al.

Marshak et al. provide insight from college students about their decisions to use or not use disability services, as well as challenges with using the services. What example(s) stood out most to you from the article and why? How might some of these examples be helpful for thinking through some of the more abstract concepts we’ve discussed so far such as microagressions, accessibility, medical and/vs social model, and various disability myths? Do any of the examples speak to or shed light on our previous discussions? Or, are any of the examples helpful for thinking about your current or future project?

In the article, Markshak et. al investigate the barriers that prevent college students with disabilities from using the disability accommodations available on college campuses. They conducted a study involving sixteen participants with different types of disabilities at a medium-sized university and identified five categories of barriers: identity issues, desire to avoid negative social reactions, insufficient knowledge, perceived quality/usefulness of services, and negative experiences with professors.

I was somewhat surprised that identity issues were the most frequent barriers for seeking/using accommodations, but in retrospect it makes sense: many students wanted to be self-sufficient and avoid letting disability define their identity. I believe these identity issues are exacerbated by disability myths, in particular the myths that view disability as a “problem” with a person and that view disability as a defining part of a person’s identity. Other disability barriers, particularly insufficient knowledge and perceived quality/usefulness of services, are related to a lack of understanding or awareness about disability and accommodations by students with disabilities.

Removing these barriers is by no means an easy task. In general, one reason that these disability barriers exist is because of a disconnect between modern disability laws and societal notions about disability. Many modern disability laws are largely based on the social model of disability: they focus on equality and changes required in society to help accommodate disabled people. However, societal notions about disability are rooted in the medical model of disability: disabilities are viewed as medical “problems” that should be “fixed.” The medical model focuses on what is “wrong” with disabled people, while the social model focuses on the needs of disabled people and helps to empower them. It is evident that barriers like identity issues are grounded in this unhealthy medical model. As disability awareness continues to spread, society will shift towards the social model of disability and some of these barriers may reduced.

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Reading Reflection: Miserando

So far, we’ve been thinking about accessibility for disabilities as they are commonly understood, and we have expanded this to consider other populations such as the elderly, people with strollers, and those with temporary disabilities. Imagine accessibility and design for someone such as Miserando. What barriers may exist in your specific selected buildings or in general? What needs may chronically ill people have that you and/or your group have not considered yet? You do not have to be super specific, as you likely have not researched this, but use Miserando’s account of her daily life, and other knowledge you may have (if any), as a starting point. If you are at a loss for what barriers may exist, use this free write as a time to pose questions about accessibility and accommodations for chronic illness. You may also make connections to the Andrade & Ely reading on accessibility and spatial orientation.

In “The Spoon Theory,” Miserando explains life as a person with chronic illness. When her best friend asks her about what it feels to be sick with Lupus, Miserado is initially surprised: she thought her friend knew what there is to know about Lupus. But when her friend pursues asking about what it is like to go through life with Lupus, she spontaneously develops the “spoon theory.” She explains that most people start their day with a lot of energy and have a lot of control over their lives, but sick people often feel that they have a limited amount of effort and are not in control. To convey this point, Miserado grabs a handful of spoons and places them in her friend’s hands. She asks her friend to list off her daily tasks and takes spoons away one by one as her friend talks about things that require effort. The realness of holding the spoons and feeling them be taken away helps her friend understand how people with chronic illness live each day with a limited amount of energy and are always conscious of their illness.

I was touched by “The Spoon Theory”: Miserando’s story reminded me of the daily struggle of one of my family members who had a short term disability. The piece made me think about how buildings on campus can be more accessible for people with chronic or mental illnesses to help them feel as comfortable as possible. One of our buildings that struck me as being uncomfortable is the Physics building: the stairwell and hallways on the west side of the building are confined and narrow: between classes, they become jammed with people, forcing students to squeeze past one another. As a person without chronic illness, this experience is already unpleasant; for people with claustrophobia or limited mobility, I can only imagine how dreadful it must be to maneuver through that part of the building. I think open spaces are much more inviting and accessible. Another one of our buildings, the Lawson computer science building does a great job of this. It has wide hallways with tall ceilings and students always have plenty of space to move around. Other accessibility issues for people with chronic illness include heavy doors and elevators/restrooms that are difficult to reach from building entrances. When it comes to accessibility, it is important to do things in the best interest of people, not to comply with laws.

Reading Reflection: DoImage

Prompt: What is your overall response to Dolmage’s review of disability myths? Do you think these myths are still prevalent in 2017, or have representations improved? Which myths stick out to you from films, books, tv shows, or other forms of media you’ve seen or read? Do you disagree with any of Dolmage’s points? (It is okay to disagree!)

In “An Archive and Anatomy of Disability Myths”, DoImage argues against myths and stereotypes about disability perpetuated in popular media. Almost all stereotypes of disability have negative connotations because disability has been viewed as a negative idea for much of history. Some myths view disability as a problem in a person that is inherently unnatural; others view disability as divine punishment for a deviant society and people’s neglect for nature. DoImage provides examples of the myths in literature and film, linking them to books or television shows.

I enjoyed how DoImage connected disability stereotypes with popular media: it made his arguments more convincing and relatable. Two of the myths were particularly interesting to me. The first was “disability as sign of internal flaw,” which claims that a person’s physical disabilities can become part of their identity and are indicative of internal character flaws. The second was “overcoming or compensation,” which claims that disabled people can make up for their impairments with hard work or special talents. These two myths reminded me of Dr. Gregory House from the television show House M.D. Dr. House is a brilliant diagnostician who walks with a cane due to pain from a leg infarction. He is a cynical narcissist and his harsh rationality and unorthodox diagnostic methods create much conflict between him and his colleagues. Much of the show revolves around House’s injury and his addiction to painkillers. It is strongly suggested that both House’s misanthropic nature and his medical brilliance come from the pain that he feels from his injury: he would not be who he is without his injury because his disability is a part of his identity.

I believe that DoImage’s disability myths are still prevalent in 2017. Although attitudes towards disability are changing in modern times, it is difficult to erase the association of disability with negativity and unnaturalness that has been perpetuated through much of history. Some myths about disability, especially “disability as object of pity and/or charity,” are especially prevalent today (in the form of “inspiration porn”). Hopefully, through good public policy and increased awareness about disability, representations of disability will continue to improve in the future.