March 8, 2013

Clemson's disability awareness day criticized for feeding stereotypes and stirring pity.

The event — awkwardly titled Walk & Roll in My Shoes — was to have professors/administrators paired with disabled students and somehow simulating the disability. Put a person who doesn't need a wheelchair in a wheelchair and so forth.
“I think that a simulation event of any kind -- whether it’s try on poverty for a day, or try on race for a day, or try on a queer identity for a day -- raises problems,” said Jillian Weise, an assistant professor of English. “It assumes that a nondisabled participant can understand disabilities totally and completely by wearing goggles or by wearing headphones.”

Weise, who walks with a prosthetic leg, said the event negates the personal experiences of living with a disability, instead promoting a superficial understanding of disabilities through a kind of parody. Relegating students with disabilities to the role of “shadows” will also fail to raise awareness, Weise said.

“We need to be more visible, and ‘shadow’ implies a nonperson, a nonentity, and the word ‘shadow’ is related on a literary basis to ghost, to death,” Weise said. “At this moment, we need to see persons with disabilities being successful and in positions of power.”

43 comments:

Mitchell the Bat said...

If you want to follow me, you've got to play pinball. And put in your earplugs, put on your eyeshades, you know where to put the cork.

Lyssa said...

I love the idea of "try[ing] on a queer identity for a day." Assuming that you're not expected to actually engage in romantic activities with same sex partners, what are you supposed to do, just echo tired stereotypes about gays?

Would I be a stereotypical lesbian that you see in real life (flannel shirt, butch haircut) or a stereotypical lesbian that you see on TV (slim, gorgeous, long hair and make up).

Larry J said...

Spending a day in a wheelchair can be highly educational on the obstacles many handicapped people face. Doing even seemingly simple things like getting onto and from a toilet or going from one building becomes much more challenging when you're in a wheelchair. That kind of awareness can lead to better adaptations such as curb cuts and grab bars.

wyo sis said...

One of the things elementary schools do that is more than a little silly, is have "days". Things like "pajama day" or "hat day" as rewards for accomplishing certain behaviors or goals.
For the past couple of years "fake injury day" has been popular. Kids love the idea of using crutches or wheelchairs. Slings are popular. It's not very long until they are tired of it and abandon their braces, or bandages because they are uncomfortable and get in the way.
I'm pretty sure they don't make any compassionate connections with reality.
This seems like a grown up version of fake injury day.

McTriumph said...

When is Clemson's "minority awareness day", when everyone shows up for class in black-face, sombreros and feathered headdress.

SarcastiCarrie said...

Didn't we have a President in a wheel chair? There's your disabled person in a positiono of authority, esteem, and power. Oh, but you say he hid his wheelchair. Hmmm, well, then what does that teach us?

Bryan C said...

I can't see a thing without my glasses. I demand a Nearsighted Awareness Day. Four-eyes are people too!

ricpic said...

Let gimps be gimps!

George Grady said...

“It assumes that a nondisabled participant can understand disabilities totally and completely by wearing goggles or by wearing headphones.”

No, it doesn't. That's just an absurd characterization.

“We need to be more visible, and ‘shadow’ implies a nonperson, a nonentity, and the word ‘shadow’ is related on a literary basis to ghost, to death,” Weise said.

It implies no such thing. "Shadow" can also mean "to follow closely". Surprise! A word can mean more than one thing!

“At this moment, we need to see persons with disabilities being successful and in positions of power.”

Why should we "need" any such thing? If someone with a disability happens to be the best choice for a particular position, that's great. But if not, there's no particular "need" to crowbar such a person in.

Do people who say these sorts of things think for a minute about whether they are in any way true? It's all about the agitation.

Synova said...

I think that people get to serious about stuff from either side of it and finding something to complain about has less to do with an activity than what one feels like doing today, promotion or fault finding.

Not every thing done needs to be perfect or do all things. I generally scorn these "awareness" activities but the truth is that many people are uncomfortable about disabled people because they don't want to offend and don't know how to balance ignoring the disability and curiosity.

This seems like something that would give non-handicapped people permission to be curious, as well as be an ice-breaker just in general terms.

Does it perfectly do everything? What does?

Marshal said...

It assumes that a nondisabled participant can understand disabilities totally and completely by wearing goggles or by wearing headphones.

Actually it doesn't do this at all. I'm sure there are precisely zero people who conclude this.

You'd think the lesson here - that every action can be deemed offensive by those desirous of being offended - would create some awareness of how unreasonable those who use the tactic are. But that's a pipe dream, because the tactic advances leftism.

Brew Master said...

Apparently those who thought up this idea never watched Southpark's 'Fetal Conjoined Twin Day' episode.

rhhardin said...

Follow a smart person for a day.

Chip S. said...

Coming soon...National Conservative Student Awareness Day.

Professors, administrators, and students w/o conservative views have no idea what daily campus life is like for this tiny, invisible minority.

Jay said...

And these are the same people who think they can understand economics and health care.

If you think it is important, valuable, or worthy to simulate being in a wheel chair, then you shouldn't be allowed to vote.

hawkeyedjb said...

"When is Clemson's "minority awareness day", when everyone shows up for class in black-face, sombreros and feathered headdress."

Or wearing blond hair and looking like a senator from Massachusetts.

hawkeyedjb said...

"When is Clemson's "minority awareness day", when everyone shows up for class in black-face, sombreros and feathered headdress."

Or wearing blond hair and looking like a senator from Massachusetts.

William said...

It seems more silly than compassionate and more likely to inspire bad jokes than empathy. When does clueless rise to the level of disabiity?

Kirk Parker said...

McT,

How about if Clemson has a "sane person day"? Talk about your underrepresented minority!

Richard Dolan said...

Unintenionally hilarious, and in it's way quite fitting. Make-believe identities to simulate make-believe emotions and demonstrate make-believe sensititives. It could only happen on an American university campus.

The very idea of putting on an "identity" for a day is an attempt in this case to take a literary theory literally (the mutability of identities, the displacement of history by narratives, the unreality of reality, it goes on and on).

Way to go, Clemson.

traditionalguy said...

The disabled are very sensitive to the healthy folks saying they understand the problems of the disabled as if it is a mere mobility issue, which is all the healthy can see.

That is compounded with their demand to be treated as the same as everyone else although they need attendants where the way has not been made disabled friendly, which is nearly everywhere.

IMO underneath their touchiness is feelings that their deep hurt from a serious loss can never be understood by those who have never experienced it.

Bob R said...

My son was born with multiple physical and mental disabilities. He lives with us, so I "pair" with him every day. This is about as stupid and offensive as ... well about a million other ideas that come out of university administrations. What are we coming to?

Darrell said...

Joe Biden suggests that the disabled just do normal things for that day... "Stand up Chuck, let 'em see you. Oh, God love you."

Seeing Red said...

We are coming to the end.

Paul Zrimsek said...

This actually turns out to be a great awareness-raising simulation for those able-bodied people who happen to be women-- they get to spend a day where whatever they do will turn out to be wrong.

Larry J said...

Jay said...
And these are the same people who think they can understand economics and health care.

If you think it is important, valuable, or worthy to simulate being in a wheel chair, then you shouldn't be allowed to vote.


I take it you're not an architect who has the design facilities for handicapped access or someone who needs to approve design changes to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

What George Grady said!

EMD said...

David Mamet handles this in The Secret Knowledge in respect to "understanding the plight of the homeless."

Jay said...

I take it you're not an architect who has the design facilities for handicapped access or someone who needs to approve design changes to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

No.

But of course you don't need to simulate being in a wheel chair to design a ramp.

PS: The ADA is a horrible piece of legislation.

EMD said...

How many people on campus are pretending to be professors everyday?

MadisonMan said...

It seems to me that administrators who have time for this don't have enough work to do.

Rabel said...

"Walk and Roll in My Shoes."

I can see how that would tick off the one-legged English professor.

And what's with the backwards "R" in the header on their web page?
A dig at dyslectics? Terrible.

The differently-abled deserve our respect, not our pity.

Here's the classic and properly respectful treatment of the issue.

Larry J said...

Jay said...
I take it you're not an architect who has the design facilities for handicapped access or someone who needs to approve design changes to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

No.

But of course you don't need to simulate being in a wheel chair to design a ramp.


If you're designing a facility for public use, you need to know about the obstacles that handicapped people face. Things like curbs and narrow doorways can be complete roadblocks to someone in a wheelchair. Failing to make reasonable accommodations will likely find you on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

My wife and I recently built our retirement home. While we're still healthy, we incorporated many of the lessons we learned from our friend and neighbor as he fought a losing battle with MS. We don't want to have to make expensive modifications or move out of our home when accident or illness reduces our mobility.

The handicapped are the sole minority group that any one of us can join. All it takes is a severe illness or accident, or just the ravages of age. You seem to think that it can never happen to you so anyone who is concerned about it shouldn't be allowed to vote (your words). I personally think you're a moron but that's just my opinion.

Erika said...

I'm sure their intentions are good, but how ham-handed. The disabled people I know want to be treated like anyone else, not patronized.

That said, I do think most able-bodied people mean well in regards to the disabled, and sometimes don't know how to balance wanting to be helpful if it would be appreciated, with not focusing too much embarrassing attention on the disability. I think a matter of fact, "Can I help you with anything?" and then taking no for an answer and ignoring the disability henceforth is the best approach, and most people do that. Without benefit of a weird awareness-raising day at a university.

gutless said...

It puts me in mind of the old sight gag, "Walk this way".

MadisonMan said...

I'm sure their intentions are good

Bad assumption.

An administrator's boss went to a conferences somewhere and heard a talk on how this was done someplace else. And said "Let's implement this here!"

This was done simply to fill in a check-box on a form somewhere.

TMink said...

“At this moment, we need to see persons with disabilities being successful and in positions of power.”

You do. You just do not know you do because they do not identify themselves by their disability and fly it like their freak flag. The most powerful, listened to man on the radio is disabled, depending on a cybernetic device to hear. But Rush never talks about that.

People who call attention to their disability or struggles are not, by and large, succesful.

Trey

ken in sc said...

I worked on a doctorate at Clemson, up until the ABD level. I decided I was too close to retirement to benefit from it and was also disgusted with the PC BS. Clemson is a typical progressive island in the NPR archipelago.

Crunchy Frog said...

International Women's Day my ass. All you married guys out there - does your wife let you get your way the other 364 days of the year?

I didn't think so.

Every day is Women's Day.

seth said...
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Peglegged Picador said...

Rabel said:

"Walk and Roll in My Shoes."

I can see how that would tick off the one-legged English professor.

Yeah, shoe :)

I don't know why she'd be so bent over this. I agree that it's kind of dumb, but I'd be more inclined to say that than to play the butt hurt card.

As a 3 track ski instructor, I have to say that I do enjoy taking my colleagues out on one leg and demonstrating their deficiencies, but I'm an equally bad 2 legged skier, so any sense of superiority is tempered by that knowledge. At the end of the day, we're all people and while I do believe that it's important to strive for universal design and accessibility, emphasizing differences ultimately only serves to do just that.

William said...

My first idea was to dress up in a track suit and put metal splints over my shins. Dressed as Pistorius, I would then run into the ladies' bathroom and shot up all the girls with a paint gun. On mature reflection, however, I can see how this could be misnterpreted by the 2nd amendment fanatics. The better way would be just to chase women around with a cricket bat. What better way to spread awareness of the challenges and triumphs and amputees?

ampersand said...
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