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There was once a young girl with a learning disability. She was quiet, socially awkward, and kept to herself but was kind and intelligent. One day a girl in class she liked talked to her for the first time. The young girl was ecstatic. However, the following day that same classmate came up to her and said I hate you and walked away. What is hate? The dictionary says its a tense or passionate dislike of someone. Yet, is that all it is? It’s a way to put someone down, to build confidence, to get your way.

A teenage boy is bullied at school and struggles with his classes. He is always worried and anxious about everything. His ticks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors interfere. His grades drop and he wants to drop out of high school. Yet, he did not quit school due to a single teacher’s devotion to him. He followed his passion. He received his masters and became one of the top employees at his workplace.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

People are not very open about suicidal ideation. It can be embarrassing and shameful for some. People with emotional/mental issues tend to cover up their suffering. They do not want others to see it or be a burden. People will suffer in silence and fight it the best they can. When people are suicidal they hide it, but there are signs. Professionals are always looking for these signs, knowing that right before suicide; people are calm and happy because they know they will no longer suffer. People often misinterpret this calmness and happiness as the person doing better. Unfortunately, by this point it is usually too late.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

A large part of disability etiquette is policing your words. It is about being respectful and courteous in what you say. It is very easy to use the wrong words, to phrase a statement in the wrong way. A small slip up, a small shift in connotation can drastically alter a message. At the same time it is important to police your reaction to those words and phrases. Everyone has their own unique perspective of their disability and stigma that influences their reactions.

The disability community is very aware of the negative effects of words and phrasing. The “normal” community, with some exceptions, is often unaware of this effect. Sometimes normally harmless words and phrases become insults to those with disabilities. The person-first versus disability-first argument is one of many phrasing etiquette issues. It is an issue of possession I-am versus I-have. Using ‘I am’ (ex. I am autistic) puts the disability in possession of the person. Using ‘I have’ (ex. I have autism) puts the person in possession of the disability. Putting person first also places the individual higher in value than his/her disability.

Two words that have made a small shift in connotation are disturbed and suffering. The word, disturbed, is a description of emotional distress. However, some are applying the word as a identity label. A person’s identity is defined by emotional distress. The word, suffering, is a way to describe that a individual is experiencing harmful effects. However, some are applying it as a possession label. The person’s suffering is in control of his/her life.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Last semester, I attended the CUNY IT Conference to learn about new innovations in Assistive Technology and Accessibility Information.  I was just waiting for some colleagues and looking at my nametag when there was this realization that I’ve done alright (amazing what a simple nametag can do).

The backstory is that I am a high school dropout and I had little direction for a long time, I was truly just wasting my life away (long story). That is until I found my calling working with people diagnosed with various disabilities.

Fast forward, I finally earned my bachelor’s degree in 2011 (the same year I got married), I like to say I took the 20+ year plan.  Now, today I’m working on my second master’s degree, and working as the Assistant Director of a Disability Service Office for a major New York City college.  I’ve also got great colleagues, great friends, great family and a great wife! I’ve done alright, indeed.

Sometimes in unsettled times, one has to remember how far one has come and just say, “I’ve done alright.”

Now tell me, have you done alright?

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

You wake up and wonder whether you’ll survive the day. Can you endure another day of pain and suffering? How much will you sacrifice? Will you be able to achieve the days goals? Do you go out into the world or stay in your safe haven? You put on your mask, hiding your emotions away and head out into the world. You wonder if your mask will slip and people will see your vulnerability. You hope someone will see through to the real you, the you crying out for help. Survival is becoming harder, the mask slips, your shield cracks. Your emotions are overflowing. You are exhausted and irritable. You can’t take in anymore. The dam has broken.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Everything and everyone is connected. The world is an intricate interconnected web of emotions, thoughts, actions, and words. Each and every person affects others, who affects others, who affects many more.

Humans are full of contradictions. One of the greatest being our fragility and resiliency. Humans are the weakest and most vulnerable species as a baby. Our bodies go through drastic changes during puberty. Humans can easily break down and lose hope. A single, small injury can kill us. Despite this, humans survive infancy. Humans can survive death defying feats. We will fight to our death for what we believe in. Humans continue down the hectic path of life and we survive.

The human race is capable of extreme benevolence and extreme malevolence. The human race should not be destroyed through its own doing. Humans have tremendous potential to become an impressive, unrelenting force of nature that is capable of extraordinary acts of goodwill.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

The election is over and we have a new President. Not the one I wanted admittedly (for several reasons), but the election is over and Mr. Trump won.

Now, unlike what President-elect Trump and what some of his supporters said in the run up to the election; I DO recognize the legitimacy of the electoral process. I do NOT advocate for armed rebellion because the candidate I supported did not win. I DO recognize that he is the President–elect and no, I do NOT hope for his “removal” by extrajudicial means.

I DO hope we can come back from all this and at least put on the veneer of civility but I admit that may be difficult because of some “words” that may have been said/typed in the heat of anger. Most importantly, I DO hope that President-Elect Trump means what he says when he says he will be a President for ALL Americans.

I DO hope his definition of Americans will include minorities, immigrants, and people of different faiths, people with disabilities and differing sexual orientations and identities.

Good luck President-elect Trump, we’ll all need it.

Dan

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

Consequences
A little girl with autism was on a long car ride across many states with her mom and grandma. There were no exits in the area. They could not stop because she might run out into traffic. The girl was tired, hungry, overwhelmed and started to break down. She could not express her frustrations and needs because of language difficulties. Her mom was unable to calm her down. The girl hit and scratched her mom. By the end of the trip her mom’s arm was covered in scratches and bruises.

How would the mom explain the bruises and scratches? What insulting remarks would they endure in regards to the girl’s behavior? What if the mom decided to risk stopping? Would the girl have run out into the street? How would they survive even greater stigma and the repercussions of the girl running out into traffic?

What If
A young girl with autism goes to the renaissance festival with her family. She was very happy and excited. However, an hour later she became overwhelmed. The crowds and loud noises were causing sensory overload. She struggled to process everything going on. Her stress and anxiety levels shot through the roof. Her dad took her to a quiet, secluded area.

What if things didn’t turn out well? What if she had a meltdown? What would people think? Would the police or social services be called? Would the family suffer injustice stemming from stigma and ignorance?

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

A Cruel World
The world is cruel in many ways. However, life is about persevering in the face of adversary. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Three Words
We fought again. You are worthless. I hate you. Love is gone. I lost control. I killed you. A shattered soul. I committed suicide. Life moves on.

Life is horrible. I am lost. I am here. A broken heart. Please help me. You are strong. Love is alive. A life saved. The world remembers.

Ignorance
People say ignorance is bliss but it’s not. Ignorance hurts you and you are ignorant of those damaging effects. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Just wait until it backfires on you.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Do or do not disclose your disability to your employer, a predicament that has haunted people with disabilities to this day. Most advise that you do not disclose except when necessary to perform the job. Sometimes it is not necessary but it would be helpful. How much do you disclose? Do you have to include specifics? It depends on the situation. People are concerned about disability discloser. Yet people don’t think that we are forcing people to hide who they are. A disability is a part of who a person is. They shouldn’t have to hide that for fear of retaliation. A person doesn’t have to worry about disclosing that they are “normal.” They can work without fear of retaliation. Why can’t we accept the “normal” and the disabled as equal partners in the workplace?

No Disclosure
Expectation: normal, meet expected
Reality: don’t meet
Interpretation: incompetent
Reason: slacker, uninterested

Disclosure
Expectation: abnormal, achieve less
Reality: meet or exceed
Interpretation: “competent”
Reason: less than, stupid

Hope
Expectation: individual ability
Reality: meet or exceed
Interpretation: competent
Reason: different, not less

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.