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Educating Ourselves and the IUPUI Community

One critical role of AES is to educate the IUPUI community about persons with disabilities within an academic community. AES has for years provided workshops for departments and schools and consulted with individual administrators, faculty, and staff. Besides providing information about the legal requirements, AES has encouraged the embracing of diversity and the value of its students, faculty, staff and administrators with disabilities. To further this effort, AES provides the following:

Persons with disabilities want to be seen as people first, not as a disability, then as a person. Therefore, the preferred form of identification is "person with a disability." Instructors should interact directly with the person, making eye contact rather than looking at the interpreter or aide; don’t overly praise ordinary feats such as turning in an assignment; respect personal space – don't put your hands on a wheelchair. Treat persons with disabilities as you would any other student. Call on them in class and correct a wrong answer.

As with many other minority groups, and persons with disabilities are considered by some the largest minority group, an early part of the disability movement was the identification of famous people with disabilities. The site, City of Tampa Florida Famous People with Disabilities, lists famous people with disabilities. The list is amazing and you will find people you recognize and did not realize had any disability. The site also provides where additional information on the individuals can be found.

Over time additional steps have been the creation of advocacy groups, the push for self-advocacy, and successful campaigns for federal and state legislation including the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) which has been signed by President Bush and will take effect in January 2009. This legislation primarily negates judicial decisions which reduced the coverage and extend of ADA. Among the various lay and professional groups that have formed, the one of the greatest value to post secondary faculty and staff is AHEAD. AHEAD or the Association of Higher Education and Disability maintains an excellent website which offers resources, discussion groups, legal information and lists its annual conferences, workshops, and events.

Research in the field of disabilities began uncovering useful information. An article by Rose Sachs describes 3 paradigms for examining disabilities which have different explanations for disabilities, how disabilities should be treated and by whom.

"The Morality Model, the first and oldest model of disability, proffers that disability is caused by moral lapse and brings shame to the individual and to the individual and to the family. Disability is viewed as the outward manifestation of inner evil or depravity." Erving Goffman (1963) describes the stigma of disability as "bodily signs designed to expose something unusual and bad about the moral status of the signifier." The disabled person is "a blemished be avoided." Moreover, historically, rendering someone disabled as punishment for a crime or perceived crime was standard practice (Goffman, 1963). Within many cultures, the practice has continued into the twenty-first century.

During the mid-1800’s, with developments in the medical and rehabilitation fields, the Medical Model emerged. This view is not one bound to morality, but rather to pathology. Although less damning than the Morality Model, the concentration is still on the disability, not on the person with the disability or the experience of disability. The primary aim of the Medical Model is to correct and cure. Disability is viewed as a disaster, something to be fixed. Clearly, the many medical and technological advances (which) have come out of this perspective have significantly contributed to the comfort and range of opportunities for people with disabilities. And although rehabilitation and accommodation remain critical to the lives of individuals with disabilities, the Medical Model places the decisions about the well-being of persons with disabilities outside of their purview, is paternalistic, perpetuates the negative image of disability and of persons with disabilities, and further promotes segregation.

The Minority Model, which informs Disabilities Studies, presents the experience of disability as seen through the lens of those persons with disabilities and characterizes that experience as socially, politically, and economically constructed. The Minority Model is not the study of disability, but rather, the study of the shared experience of disability. Lennard Davis (1997) in the Disabilities Studies Reader, contends that "we live in a world of norms." The problem with disability, then, is not the disability or the person with the disability, but rather the "way that normalcy is constructed to create the 'problem' of the disabled person," stemming from the erroneous assumption that persons with disabilities are abnormal, and therefore undesirable (Davis, 1997). The problem of disability results from a hostile environment that does not accommodate persons with disabilities and that assigns them an inferior status. Jenny Morris (1991), in Pride Against Prejudice, examines the perception of disability from the perspective of the disabled person: "Our anger is not about having a 'chip on your shoulder,' our grief is not a 'failure to come to terms with disability.' Our dissatisfaction with our lives is not a personality defect, but a sane response to the oppression we experience (Morris, 1991).” Quoted from Rose Sachs' "Faculty/Staff guide: Integrating Disability Studies into Existing Curriculum."

Other models are emerging as well. At the same time, faculty at numerous universities began to develop courses in Disabilities Studies from the freshmen to the graduate student level. Degree programs and centers such as the University of Syracuse’s Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies began springing up in the United States, Canada and elsewhere focused both on academic studies and practical action agendas. Numerous articles and books have appeared as researchers from a wide range of disciplines became involved, working in their own disciplines or together across traditional academic boundaries.

In addition to the academic approach and far older are the autobiographies, biographies, novels, short stories and poetry that reflect the lives of persons with disabilities. Lists of fiction and other materials can be found at many library sites. Try typing in "Springfield Library's list of books on persons with disabilities" on the web for example. You should get a short list of collections and novels.

Examples of college courses with attached bibliographies can also be found on the web; a few examples are provided if you wish to explore the area further. These courses and others on the web vary according to the focus and background of the faculty member(s) teaching the course.

"Topics in Disability Studies: Disabilities Rights" - University of Michigan, Fall 2008
Instructor, Prof. Anna Kirkland.

"Disability: Philosophical, Historical and Social Perspectives" Dowling College, Spring 2006, instructor Dr. Christian Perring. (The best way to get to this syllabus and its links are to go to Dowling College's course, Disability: Philosophical, Historical and Social Perspectives as a search item on the Web.)

"Gender, Disability & Sexuality: Seminar in Feminist Disability Studies" - Syracuse University, instructor Dr. Beth A. Ferri.

Finally, there are academic journals in a variety of fields devoted to disabilities. One example, the Journal of Literary Disability in February of 2008, had an article "A big deaf-mute moron! Eugenic Traces in Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" by Heidi Krumland (JLD 2.1 2008, p.32-43). A large number of students have read this book but not in the context of disabilities, though the main character is clearly disabled and ultimately a symbol for humanity.




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