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Forum aims to acknowledge disability marginalization

by Panagiotis Argitis - Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Nov 12th 2019 06:00 pm
Presenter and associate professor Dr. Kathleen C. Colantonio-Yurko (left) discusses a part of the (UAA) training as attendees listen in. Along with an extensive look into the definition of disability and ableisim, the forum covered the ways in which people can break the barriers standing between accessibility for all.
Presenter and associate professor Dr. Kathleen C. Colantonio-Yurko (left) discusses a part of the (UAA) training as attendees listen in. Along with an extensive look into the definition of disability and ableisim, the forum covered the ways in which people can break the barriers standing between accessibility for all.

Though sometimes difficult to grasp, daily life impacts on how people perceive their surroundings and the ways in which they communicate with others. Within the core of understanding society and its ticking gears, it is important to promote a more accessible environment for everyone to coexist in. 

With a goal of combating the barriers restricting inclusivity within The College at Brockport community and everyday life for all, the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI) and the Professional Development Committee in partnership with Student Accessibility Services held another installment of the Understanding Accessibility and Ableism (UAA) training on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Seymour College Union. 

Open to faculty, staff and students, the UAA training led by PCDI committee member and Chair of the Department of Women and Gender Studies Milo Obourn, focused and presented on the definition of ableism and the ways in which those who identify with a disability are exposed to marginalization. 

While the discussion was attended by both students and faculty, the conversations shared throughout the training began with understanding the social model of disability and its global effects, rather than its impact solely on Brockport’s campus. 

Movements toward disability rights began in the 1960s and are continuously evolving in today’s society. Despite the growing attention in combating prejudice against disabilities, forms of marginalization and defamation of those who identify with a disability takes shape in several parts of the current timestamp. 

During the training, the definition of “disability” was expanded upon by clarifying that “disabilities” stretch beyond physical restrictions. 

“It is important to recognize that we’re not just talking about physical, mental, emotional part of human,” Obourn said. “We are talking about the ways they experience stigma and marginalization in relationship to that.”  

Following the discussion behind the origins of disability oppression and distinctions of ableism within society, the training honed in on ways individuals can make changes in both daily life and throughout Brockport’s community. 

Language, as thought by most to be solely a form of physical communication, has a vast amount of impact in society’s role toward combating disability marginalization. As part of the presentation discussed, the best form of action stems from the simple ways in which people choose to interact and speak with others. 

The differences between person-first language (PFL) and identity-first language (IFL) were exemplified during the training in order to understand the importance of people who choose to identify with disability as part of their character and culture. PFL and IFL indicate the ways in which one refers to a person when speaking and differ from one individual to the next.   

Practicing toward an inclusive and accessible language structure is not due to individual confinement but rather an action made for justice and equity among all humans. 

“This is about treating people how they want to be treated,” presenter and associate professor Dr. Kathleen C. Colantonio-Yurko said. “It’s not up to you to apply language to apply to others, it’s up to others to decide what language they identify with, people who use identity-first language is because they are proud and you don’t want to undermine that. ” 

While the training gave an insight into the importance of language use following examples of words and phrases that have metaphorical disability meanings, working toward a cultural shift on the way that people speak was encouraged during the discussion rather than demanded. Making mistakes on the path against disability stigmas is part of the process but focusing on inclusive language is a step above replicating language with ableist implications.

Despite the ongoing efforts from PCDI and student accessibility groups on Brockport’s campus to grow personal and public services on disabilities, the resources currently available can only provide assistance in specific areas rather than the entirety of the campus’ population. 

Bringing awareness to the topic by learning how ableism works and being proactive allows for more people to be accommodated and thought about.

“Think about where the barriers lie,” Obourn said. “There is so much that individuals do automatically to create a culture shift for all students.” 

Finding ways to make society a better place for all to equally coexist is part of a process rather than an immediate result of change. However, minimal actions can have the greatest effect on the impact of negligence toward disability identification, marginalization and a more inclusive world.  

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