Disability as Diversity

When it comes to diversity and teaching about diversity in the classroom, I immediately thinking about different races, religions, languages but not abilities. I had never considered disability as a topic for classroom discussion. When I approached this week’s reading and assignment I was a little bit concerned. As a student, we only spoke about disability once a year, during the month the school held the “Special Olympics”. Teachers usually spoke of disability as a limiting and the need for us to be sympathetic and compassionate to students with disabilities.

Sometimes they would have us engage in activities to show us what life is like with a disability. They rarely discussed anything positive and we hardly ever came in contact with students with disabilities. By the next week, we had swept the issue from our minds. As a soon to be Social Studies teachers, last week’s class and this week’s readings really got me excited about including disability in the classroom. Learning about the legislation in previous classes already had me considering ways it could be included as a unit in the US Government course as well as throughout US History and Global Studies.

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However, diversity can be an overarching theme for any social studies class or unit and teaching disability as diversity could really affect the ways in which society approaches disability. From the readings, I realized that I have a tendency to use derogatory phrases where disability is concerned. I am so use to saying “the blind leading the blind” that I have had to start a swear jar to stop saying it. I never considered the negative connotations of the phrase.

Phrases like this one and the others mention are said so often that I think most people have forgotten how they originated. I think that teaching disability as diversity would make everyone more aware of the various individuals that make up our society and start conversations about how people with disabilities are treated, what issues they face, etc. Conversations I believe are important if we are going to make society more inclusive. Inclusion in the classroom, however, should start in the lower grades. I think that children are more receptive the younger they are to differences.

I also think that seeing diversity outside of the classroom is important to. I am a big fan of the show Switched At Birth, which has a cast that includes deaf actors and deals with many issues facing the deaf community. The characters of the individuals in the show who are deaf are three-dimensional, complex and relatable. As teacher and adults, I think they show the viewers that their lack of hearing is a difference versus a limitation. I think shows like this one can have a positive effect on society and students.