Sunday, February 1, 2015

Why teaching the history of disability is important

The key to understanding any sort of cultural identity lies in understanding and appreciating the history surrounding the group. Without the understanding and appreciation of the past events which shaped a particular identity, it is very hard to comprehend the current manifestations of the culture and how others in society treat them and vice versa. For example, it would be very difficult to comprehend the current condition of African-Americans in the United States outside the context of systematic slavery, segregation, and oppression. Without the historical background there would be very little support for civil rights laws protecting African-Americans, and other racial minorities, from discrimination imposed by members of the white majority. As Longmore points out in his book, this could also be said about people with disabilities as a "distinct social minority".
As he pointed out in his book and was discussed in class a major barrier in the social inclusion of people with disabilities is the fact that most people who have not chosen to study disability culture do not know the history of oppression of people with disabilities by society. Unlike other types of social minorities in the U. S., there is little to no education about the past and current struggles of people with disabilities at the elementary, intermediate, high school, and even collegiate levels. Since most people's worldview is instilled in them during the years of formal education, by excluding the teaching of the history of people with disabilities it shapes how they view such people in their everyday lives. Unless something happens to them or someone close to them, they go on with life blissfully unaware of the inequalities and outright injustice experienced by many people with disabilities, whether they be visible or invisible, in their everyday lives. Also, because there are unaware of the history of people with disabilities they are probably less likely to recognize when or how their speech or actions can be actually offensive to people around them even if they do not intend the insult.

Therefore, I firmly believe that the only way for society to become less ignorant and fully accept people with disabilities is to educate and expose them starting at a young age to the realities of the history of people with disabilities along with the realities that such people face on a day-to-day basis. It could even be something as simple as setting aside a week or two to dedicate towards learning about disabled culture and disabled history. If children at a young age can be educated like this there will probably be much more accepting of people disabilities in their later life which would lead to a society where ableism is less profound.

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