Monday, February 23, 2015

Blog #5? - Thoughts on 2/19 Class (sort of)

I'd like to link two ideas from class together, as I believe they are very important.  We discussed the idea that the root cause of problems in relation to persons with disabilities is baseless bias.  I think I understand as just meaning that the bias is wrong and just plain bullish!t.

The idea I'd like to link to this is the idea of not "getting too comfortable."  While biases may be baseless in the sense that there is no "hard science," "fact," or some true legitimate reason for them, we have been learning that there is a base for biases.  The base is constructed of what most of us as a society [or as participants in one way or another within a particular culture] have been "fed" throughout history in relation to disability.  This base is one that requires deconstruction, and this cannot be done if we ever get "too comfortable."

As a male, I've learned that we (meaning males) apparently have a tendency to want to fix things.  For example, I've been told that males are often guilty of wanting to solve their significant other's problems and thereby neglect to actually listen during the process.  I find this easy to believe.  I am conscious of this and do my best to avoid taking over by hammering away at "fixes."  In that regard, I try to not get too comfortable when anyone comes to me with an issue and feel or believe as though I have the answer.

I believe this is applicable to disability in many ways and how some people develop particular biases.  Whether I like it or not, I've been taught (as male) to be a problem solver.  Similarly, I've been taught that disability is bad, not masculine, not cool, means you're weak, etc... (not my beliefs by the way, just what I've been exposed to).  If I am "okay" with that, or anyone is for that matter, then I am comfortable with "the way things are."  Which is bullish!t, but it would be my base, or anyone's base for his or her biases.

Now, I think many people in our society are highly focused on remedies and finding ways fix problems.  I think being hyper-focused on a "fix" is a mistake, as we cannot deconstruct the base of our or anyone else's biases.  So, while it is not a concrete solution or particular plan of action, I think not getting too comfortable (i.e. remaining critical in every new moment) is a necessary part of starting to find solutions.  Even when we think we have an answer for something we have to remain critical of our own knowledge base and challenge ourselves and others.

Not more than a few hours ago, I was on a conference call regarding a client who is considered a person with a disability.  I cannot get into the nature of the matter in any specific manner, but I wanted to share this.  We, a team of lawyers & future lawyers are working hard for a solution for a client of ours.  We discussed many options throughout the call and most of the members of our team had his or her own ideas as to what we should do or what is best for our client.

What bothered me the most was that the client himself was basically unspoken for the entire time.  We had lawyers and a doctor stating what was best for the client, and this "what is best" was not even related to an actual legal position.  After I had enough, I spoke up for the client and made a suggestion as to what he wanted or would like.  Speaking up and interrupting all of the "smart" minds on our conference call was a little uncomfortable, but it was the right thing to do.

As professionals, I think many of us get too comfortable (interestingly enough I never feel comfortable around all the "smart" people) with OUR beliefs and opinions on matters that haven an effect on other individuals.  The first step in my mind to combat that, is to avoid such comfort.  Being a bit uncomfortable by challenging yourself or others in these types of moments are certainly not as uncomfortable as being marginalized, silenced, ignored, or not receiving respect or the positive rights a person should have.

To finish my babble, I think I return to the question of whether we are ready to teach about and discuss ableism in educations.  Maybe some people are not ready.  To me, not being ready ties right into comfort.  It might not be something that many people want to do (who wants to be uncomfortable, right?) but it is something we have to do.  I think part of this question needs to focus on our preparedness to teach this, which again relates back to comfort.  We have to have the right teachers and administrations in place in the sense that they are not afraid to get uncomfortable with their knowledge base and teaching approaches / practices.

And a small reminder to myself or anyone else:

It is okay to be wrong, it is okay to not know it all, it is okay to ask for help when trying to help.  I find that some of the best leaders are the those who follow the best (or maybe in this sense, listen).  So listen to people and find out how your decisions and beliefs (your base of knowledge) affect their lives.

That's all for now.

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