Sunday, February 1, 2015

Blog #2? I think - Autonomy & some Ableism.

Dr. Peace said something in class which is something that will always be present, and maybe necessary of consideration, as we engage in any kind of disability studies and/or activism.  So I figured I would mull over the statement (this could very well be a paraphrase) that - autonomy is an inherently destructive idea.  It is difficult to disagree with this statement, yet sometimes it is also difficult to accept this statement in its fullest sense.

I thought more about the notion of autonomy this summer in Italy.  I had plenty of time to think about disability and autonomy  while I was there taking the Literacy and Inclusion course with our School of Education.  We visited the Facilitated Communication Center in Venice, where we were treated to a lecture with our own Dr. Ashby as well as several other scholars and professionals from the FC Center.

We spoke with two young men who used FC and they demonstrated this type of communication for those who were unfamiliar with it.  The authenticity of this means of communication is often contested and doubted by certain groups of doctors / scholars / professionals.  At the same time, the legitimacy of Facilitated Communication as a needed, or sometimes even preferred, means of communication is questioned.  Without getting into the nitty gritty of these debates, I wanted to share my thought about how silly it is, in my opinion, for people to doubt the authenticity or legitimacy of this type of communication.  Actually, in this instance I just used the word "silly," but maybe ableist is the most appropriate word - I think my thought about this actually illustrates an example of ableism.

So let me get to my example.  Our society values autonomy, and in general, I think many people forget about how interdependent humans are.  As this is the case, someone who uses facilitated communication, or facilitated communication is itself, is often perceived as a lesser form or even an invalid form of communication.  Why is this?  I imagine it is because it people actually see the physical touch or assistance that is sometimes needed for this form of communication.

Now, think about the flip side to this.  For example, maybe someone just uses spoken language as his or preferred form of communication.  Maybe, this person wants to say something to someone or make a decision about something in his or her life.  So this person, picks up the phone, or maybe goes out for coffee, and talks with a friend or family member about what he or she should say or do in this particular situation.  After consulting with someone, this person is now comfortable with what her or she is going to say or do.  Then that person moves forward and finally says what he or she wanted to say or does what he or she wanted to do, after this "consultation" with a friend or family member.

I always wondered why the touch of a shoulder as a way to facilitate communication through typing, is / was seen a inferior.  I always wanted to know why it is / was seen as inferior, especially when people who use spoken language on a regular basis, depend on others not only to speak, but also to develop or very thoughts- almost on a daily basis.  I'm guessing, which I didn't know much about then, ableism is certainly at play here in many ways.

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