Dr Cynthia Bruce said ‘Describing ableism only in terms of discrimination against disabled people fails to capture the essence of ableism’s power to oppress. We are disabled by our inaccessible environments- not by our bodies’ (Bruce, C. 2019, Ableism Explored At Equity Conference. The Teacher. May 2019. p6).
How true is this? A group of people decided what normal was and then decided those who do not match this normal are disabled. This is not the message of any inclusive space. When building spaces of inclusivity it is important to ensure that difference is celebrated, difference is valued, and difference is everywhere.
This sentiment of normal vs different is far too common in society, especially in our schools. Thinking in terms of able vs disable leads to some students being given a ceiling on their capacity to learn. As educators and society builders, we cannot put a limit on what anyone can do. We can guide them, we can teach them, we can support them. BUT we cannot tell anyone what is out of their reach due to capabilities.
This thinking will never lead to equitable and fair learning for all students. HOWEVER, teachers have the power to stop this thinking or change its direction.
✨Teachers are in the unique role of influencing young minds to think openly✨
To really start to shape out students to think about difference as the norm we need to challenge our own perceptions and our underlying perceptions about difference and people.
A few ways we can do that:
👍see children as children
👍view challenging situations as puzzles to explore 👍 👍ask why: why do I think this? why did I make this decision? why do I believe this info to be true?
👍reflect on your actions & your answers: after asking WHY, think about your reasons, talk about your reasons, explore
👍accessibility should be built-in, not an add-on (think UDL)
👍acknowledge that you don't know what you don't know: BE OKAY WITH THIS!!!
👍try to start to understand different perspectives & experiences