Sunday, June 30, 2013

Social Construct of Disability... Again!

I've written about this before but felt the need to come back to it after reading "Disability and Society's Role" on the blog Emma's Hope Book.

Just as the person who wrote this is trying to piece this concept together, I find myself constantly challenged by it.  This line in particular jumped out at me while reading...
“In contrast to impairment, Reindal writes about disability as the “barrier to being,” suggesting that the social constructs that view those with impairments as lesser beings, not worthy of inclusion or accommodation, creates an existential crisis that extends deeply into the disabled person’s core being.”
Not worthy of inclusion or accommodations.  Powerful words. Words I think we need to factor in to the educational decisions that we make for students with disabilities. 

What happens when the accommodation needed involves being physically apart (excluded) from others?  As we continue to move awary from a fully self-contained way of serving the students, many seem to wrestle with what the "right balance" is.  There is a belief that as the "gap gets bigger", students should be separated in to remediated classes, partciularly for courses like mathematics and language arts.  This way they can "learn at their level" and "they will be able to connect with others who are like them."  They will have a "place to belong".  

These are not my beliefs but they are what I hear.

Yet, when I step back, I can't say that "full inclusion" in to the system as it stands now is the answer either as the system can serve to further disable students. 

There is a link in the middle of this blog post that brings you to an article entitled "I'm Not a 'Person with a Disability', I'm a 'Disabled Person'". Talk about making me rethink what I've been pushing in regards to person-first language for some time. Reading this helped me to peel back yet another layer of my own ableist thinking patterns.  The writer of this post makes a very clear distinction between "impairment" and "being disable".
"Secondly, most of these people haven’t noticed the social model’s distinction between “impairment” (the things you can’t do because of your body/brain) and “disability” (the social barriers disabling you on the grounds that you have an illness or impairment). I have a mobility impairment and because of that society gets all right-clicky and prevents me from functioning to my full potential."
It brings us back to thinking about the barriers society and education has created by defining one right way of being and working towards conformity. One can start to understand the thought that perhaps putting students in to classrooms where the goal is conformity actually is more disabling for them then creating segregated classrooms that can be created with less barriers.  But segregated creates barriers to being included in the larger community and sends the message that there are people who are not worthy of accommodation.  How much more do we disable any person by sending them this message by our actions?  And what about all those others who can function okay but would function better if the goal was not conformity? 

Inclusion is not about physically putting students with disabilities in to classrooms... it really never has been.  It is about recognizing that we, as educators, are in a position to engineer personalized learning environments and plans for all of our students.  If we focus on learning and helping each student to discover and nurture and understand their personalized plan to maximizing their learning in all domains (social, emotional, physical, cognitive...etc.) we also send the message that every child is worthy of accommodation and inclusion.  We operate from the standpoint that the disability is neither in us as teachers or in them as students, but rather in the way that our system has been constructed.  We empower both ourselves and our students to create a system that works better for all of us.  

There is probably no easy but for me it comes down to defining what is of most value.  I believe that we should be aiming for full inclusion as I believe it sends a message of acceptance and puts our focus on discovering and breaking down the barriers that we have socially constructed in our education systems. 

I'm starting to understand more and more how our knowledge is ever-evolving and that it must sit in the middle of the world as we know it now.

One’s destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things.
(Henry Miller Read)

No comments:

Post a Comment