Two doctors, one
the Director of a center and the other an addictionologist, met serendipitously
years ago through a mutual acquaintance. Diane Wiener, PhD, LMSW,
and Ericha Scott, PhD, were introduced through independent encounters
with Ramona Johnson, a retired nurse and world traveler. Dr. Wiener
met Johnson on a plane; Dr. Scott met Johnson in an airport shuttle.
Then, the magical thing happened: Johnson said to Scott, I have
met someone I think you should meet, and handed Scott an article
written by Wiener, published in 1998 in The Arts in Psychotherapy.
Scott laughed at the synchronicity, telling her, I am writing
an article for this very same journal, right now. Eventually
the two future doctors met. Scott referenced Wieners work in
her article; the two articles were published exactly a year apart.
Theyve been friends and colleagues ever since, and for a period
of time worked together as faculty for Prescott Colleges Tucson
Today, Wiener is Director of the Disability Cultural Center at Syracuse
University (SU), which is the first of its kind in the US to be housed
within Student Affairs instead of Disability Services. She is also
a Research Associate Professor in SUs Department of Cultural
Foundations of Education. She teaches Disability Studies and has published
widely on subjects related to diversity, social justice, inclusion
and empowerment. Scott, who is also an author and artist, interviewed
Wiener via Skype on her seminal role as SUs director of the
Disability Cultural Center (DCC), on what disability means and why
it matters to all of us.
Dr. Ericha Scott: Welcome, Diane! Its so good to see you.
To begin, what thrilled me personally when I heard that you had been
hired for your role as the Director of the DCC at Syracuse is how
perfectly matched the centers goals are with your personal values,
your vision of the world, and your dreams. I think very few of us
make such a perfect match between career and our personal and professional
goals. How do you see that?
Dr. Diane Wiener: I appreciate what you just said. Youve known
me a long time, so your comments mean a great deal to me. I hasten
to say without egotism that I agree with you. I just wrapped up with
all of my colleagues and with many people what I would consider to
have been a very productive and meaningful series of events for Disability
Awareness Month, which as you may know is October.
As is the case with Earth Day, which is every day, not just in April
when its designated, Disability Awareness Month is every month
at Syracuse University, as I hope it should be, everywhere. But in
October, we have more attention paid to it because of the structures
that are in place. We had an incredibly complicated, nuanced, and
painfully obvious set of interactions around why disability matters,
as some of the undergraduates might put it. Its hard for me
to explicate how meaningful it is to me. I feel honored, privileged,
and deep gratitude about it. As you know, Im the only person
in the world in this role. I think it is a rare, complex gift.
Scott: We are facilitating this interview with you because you
are the director of the DCC at Syracuse and also because your role
and work are a good match for ABILITY Magazine. We all have our assumptions
about what disability means. Some of us have disabilities,
some of us dont; many of us will develop a disability as we
age. Were all on a continuum, even those of us who have disabilities
at this moment. How would you define the meaning of disability?
Wiener: I think disability is best defined as an interaction between
a persons physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, psychological,
possibly spiritual and other experiences with their environment that
may not always be an easy interaction, largely because of the environments
structures. I know that certain disabilities have a component thats
individualized and individualistic, and arguably all disabilities
are specific to each person. So even if I could name 76,000 people
who have cerebral palsy (CP), each of those individuals would have
a unique experience of CP.
Nevertheless, I think these interactions are interdependent between
the individual and the space. So while I can define disability
in part by what it isnt, I also can try to define it in terms
of what it is. That is my short answer.
The things that are described as impairments are disabling only insofar
as the environment is not designed in such a way to anticipate and
expect and welcome an array of people from diverse emotional, psychological,
cognitive, physical, and other kinds of points-of-view and backgrounds.
Even if environments are designed with the greatest array of human
experiences and conditions imagined, they can never be completely
inclusive because we may not be able to imagine the totality of human
experience. But in imagining a world in which we have the greatest
variety of human experiences in mind, as we design spaces, that makes
it less likely that people will experience what is called a disability.
When individuals, including myself, are interacting with our environments,
including you and your interaction with your environments, those with
disabilities will find ways to participate (not be undermined), because
disability should not have to do with being undermined. Disability
can and often does have to do with an identity, as a location of pride,
like any number of other expressions of human diversity that are not
So, for example, we live in a racist world, but people might nevertheless
insistently feel pride in being identified as individuals of color.
We live in a misogynist world, and individuals might nevertheless
necessarily and assertively be proud of being gendered female. And
we live in a world thats anti-Semitic and Islamophobic and frequently
oppressive to many other groups of people who are seen as so-called
Others. And who is the norm against which those people
are being imagined? I dont know who those people are, but I
dont hang out with most of those quote-unquote normal
Wiener: Disability is the interaction between the individual and the
environment when the individuals so-called impairments are not
always able to be experienced or negotiated comfortably, because the
environment may not be very welcoming, or the so-called impairments
are able to be experienced or negotiated comfortablyStephen Kuusistoyes,
often with patience and perhaps with some challengesbecause
the environment and the people within it are not disabling.
Scott: Im thinking of a book Lyall Watson wrote about a young
man from South Africa who had epilepsy (Lightning Bird: The Story
of One Mans Journey into Africas Past, 1983). He walked
into the bush as a young man and was welcomed, rather than scorned,
into an indigenous tribe as a healer. His epilepsy, for them, rather
than being perceived as an illness or a disability, was in fact considered
to be the mark of a medicine man. His story was verified because the
tribal elders gave him several rare, ancient artifacts in order to
provide evidence that his reported experience was true. He brought
these artifacts back to his contemporary culture and used them to
help tell how his epilepsy was revered rather than used as a way to
misperceive him as weak or something different than how he perceived
himself. He came back to his own society of birth empowered. That
story may fit into what youve discussed about contextualizing
Wiener: I think it does. In many ways youre highlighting what
is sometimes called the sociocultural model of disability. There are
many models of disability, and there are also different models in
different countries. Some of the countries Im thinking of dont
necessarily use the word model, but there are different
conceptual frameworks that may be used in different spaces. Notions
of disability, like many other social identities, are not transhistorical
and not culturally universal, as youre describing. I agree very
In a similar way, I think what often happens is that people with so-called
mental illnesses have been seen as very creative, very spiritual,
and as amplified in their wisdom in some way. And while I respect
that point-of-view, I also worry that that set of perspectives, at
least some of the time, makes it seem as if people with deep depression
are managing some spiritual enlightenment, when in fact those individuals
are often imperiled as well. One of the points I often emphasize,
which pisses off some people, is that Id rather Van Gogh had
lived. Im sorry that some people seem to think the paintings
are more important than his life. My understanding is that his life
was very devastating to him oftentimes, and that if he had received
a certain kind of emotional attention beyond his profoundly complicated
conversations with his brother Theo, who loved him dearly, he might
not have had a violent and tragic death, apparently by suicide.
The same could be true of other artists with very profound mental
health concerns. So Im not delighted by what is sometimes a
romanticization of certain disability identities, which makes ahistorical
the suffering that those individuals endured.
It does sometimes happen that someone with a disability is welcomed
and feels safe even in some space where it might not be easy if they
were somewhere else, but Im cautioning against the expectation
that we should be delighted by the link that allegedly exists between
creativity and what is sometimes referred to as madness.
I remember many years ago when you talked with me on your cable television
program about this topic. The main point is that for me, right now,
disability is contextual, its culturally specific, it also varies
from person to person and family to family and environment to environment.
Its not like one culture has one monolithic view of disabilities.
Scott: Disability can also be idiosyncratic and variable within
one individual, within short periods of time, and of course, over
the entire life span. Those differentials of perception and experience
may vary as the disability varies, social context changes, and/or
as a persons self-perception of those disabilities changes,
regardless of whether there are emotional, intellectual, or physical
Wiener: Agreed. There are a number of examples. Some people in the
Deaf rights movement might argue that cochlear implants are designed
by the medical establishments protagonists to eradicate the
linguistic and cultural identity of Deaf community members. But simultaneously
there are many people in the Deaf community who have elected to get
a cochlear implant and think of it as a tool. Professor Wendy Harbour,
a friend of mine, has a blog in which she talks about this topic very
candidly: Wendys World, One perspective is that
d/Deaf people who get cochlear implants are becoming like hearing
people. Theyre not hearing people; they are d/Deaf people with
cochlear implants. Theyre not erasing their deafness, theyre
utilizing another approach. Im sure there are a variety of opinions
within the Deaf rights movement about this, and some people may think
that my friend Wendy is a sell-out for getting the surgery. There
are lots of different cultural issues, contextual issues, temporal
issues, and theres variety even in one particular culture across
individual perspectives as well.
Scott: From what youre saying, it sounds as if denial and shame
can manifest on either side of the continuum.
Wiener: Yes, and I think there are a significant number of people
who have a great amount of pride but also are tired of being perceived
oftentimes as a triumph narrative. Harilyn Roussos memoir, Dont
Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back (2013) addresses
Wiener: What Im talking about is countering that overcoming
discourse that many disability rights activists who study media
in particular have highlighted as happening in so many Hollywood movies.
One of the most famous examples, of course, being My Left Foot with
Daniel Day-Lewis. Its all about the person with the disability
being there to help everybody else feel inspired, when the persons
life is not about inspiring other people or overcoming their alleged
adversity in order to be triumphant. The counter-discourse to the
triumph narrative reminds me of other social justice illustrations
provided by disenfranchised people talking back to our oppressors.
For example, in the civil rights movement and the anti-racist movements,
many activists have highlighted famously, Im not here
to help you white people learn about my life. Why dont you do
some research and think about the oppression that you participate
in causing, still?
This is all quite complicated, because it isnt appropriate for
people who are not members of disenfranchised groups to speak for
other people. Its also not appropriate, in my opinion, for people
in disenfranchised groups to think that they ought to be seen as representative
of a group, when their own opinion is their opinion and not necessarily
a collective opinion. Yet, people are not only put into tokenizing
positions, some may choose to self-tokenize, and others may want to
speak for other people. Its a tricky business.
Scott: Agreed. How do you navigate it? Youre in the center of
Wiener: I was recently asked to nominate myself for an award. One
of the criteria for this award is that the nominee has to self-identify
as a person with a disability. I dont always identify as a person
with a disability. I identify sometimes as emotionally disabled. Ive
increasingly come out to the undergraduates as crazy.
Ive used the word with my tongue in my cheek as a critical insider.
You know that for many years I eschewed that word, and Ive recently
come to use it in a disability-prideful way, but Im using it
as an insider, as I use the word dyke as an insider. Calling
myself a dyke is different than someone yelling at someone
out the open window of a moving car, Hey, you dyke! An
insider reclaiming a word, using the word queer, the word
mad, the word crip or any of these other words
that are allegedly able to be reclaimed, is rather different from
someone else using it as an admonishment of me or as an attack against
people in a group of which Im a member.
So should I nominate myself for this award? I cant let anyone
else nominate me because the procedures require that you nominate
yourself. First of all, I dont suffer from hubris, and I dont
love the idea of nominating myself for something. I also feel conflicted
about the ethical implications of saying that Im disabled or
that Im a person with a disability when I do in fact use the
word intermittent. So, I was talking about this issue
with a few mentors of mine, and they said, This isnt about
you. Its about the students.
Wiener: The students said the same thing, because we were discussing
it, and because a number of the students had been talking about this
idea in a loving way behind my back, as theyd been plotting
to recommend me for this award and wanted me to nominate myself. So,
some of the people with whom I talked about this informally, whose
idea it was (it was the students), also brought to my attention that
I should do this for them. (laughs)
Wiener: Again, what are the ethical implications of calling myself
a person with a disability when I identify that way sometimes, but
not 24/7? So going back to this inspirational thingI think its
very important to imagine, like with all identities, that this is
not one thing when we talk about disability. Its important to
talk about the intersections that exist between and across social
and cultural identitiesdisability in relation to identities
connected with race, class, political affiliation, ethnicity, sexual
orientation, gender expression, religion or its absence, age, size,
veterans status, health status, country-of-origin, etc., in
addition to not simplifying often marginalized identities as being
about overcoming or about feeling pride always. I dont know
anyone whos happy 24/7. If anyone does know such a person, Id
like to meet them. I think that includes the people with disabilities
who are not happy 24/7. So rather than saying that people with disabilities
are struggling and look at the inspirational overcoming triumph of
their life as a modicum of joy for all of us to follow, yay, Im
unhappy sometimes, people without disabilities are unhappy sometimes.
Im glad Im inspiring, but Im not doing it for inspirational
Scott: What I think is important is your interest in and dedication
to supporting Mad Pride and combating what you refer to as mentalism.
Could you elaborate on that?
Wiener: Sure. A number of years ago, Rebecca Ribeiro, Kurt Warner
and I wrote an article that was published in Disability & Society.
There was a special issue about Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
We speak explicitly in the essay about Huxleys work, and we
also highlight the movie Gattaca, a 1997 science fiction film by Andrew
Niccol about genetic discrimination. We talk about the complicated
and sometimes uneasy relationship between disability rights and the
anti-psychiatric rights movements.
The word mentalism is used in the title of that essay
to emphasize the ways in which certain states of mind are seen as
normative, and that states of mind (again, using culturally-specific
definitions) that exceed or dont match up with, that are too
long-term, short-term or temporary in all the ways that they are those
ways, if they dont match up with whats seen as quote-unquote
normal, thats a form of oppression. Because people
with those states of mind, including myself, are seen as crazy
and are often perceived to be experienced by people in a mainstream
context as needing psychiatric intervention.
The only reason Ive never been locked up is because I havent
said certain things to certain people at certain times, and if I had
I would have assuredly been repeatedly locked up. Now, Im in
no way suggesting that people who have managed to try not to be locked
up but still are less important than I, or weaker than I, or less
clever. And Im also not saying that people who needed to be
psychiatrically assisted ought not to have received that assistance.
Another thing about this mentalism discourse is that some people have
misapprehended my position as being against medication, medicine and
biologization of any kind. If I thought a pill would help me, I sure
as hell would take it. If I really thought that I was at risk to kill
myself, I would want help, I imagine.
If somebody chooses to have therapeutic intervention that other people
think is not okay, that goes back to this notion about the choice
about ones own body. Theres often an uneasy relationship
between the disability rights movements members and the pro-choice
movements members, because theres a wish by some to eradicate
any kind of difference. For example, some people think we need to
not have women over 40 being at risk of having babies with Down syndrome
because we dont want more people in the world with intellectual
disabilities. Thats an oppressive, violent point-of-view, in
Simultaneously, if a person wants to have an abortion because their
baby is going to be born with Down syndrome, I ought not to be telling
them what to do and neither should the government, but I do think
(and this is one of the ways in which my politics as a die-hard feminist
are challenged, because Im a disability rights activist) it
would be immoral for a woman to abort a fetus because it was probably
going to be born with Down syndrome. I think that would be reprehensible,
and yet its her body, not mine. So its complicated. The
Ashley X story, as described recently at the bioethics
and disability rights event that we hosted at Syracuse University,
highlights many of these subjects around the rights of people with
disabilities that are often disrupted and violated by family members,
medical practitioners, etc. The complete title of the event was Disabilities
as Ways of Knowing: A Series of Creative Writing Conversations, Part
Three: Lives Worth Living. The event, featuring William Peace
and Stephen Kuusisto, was video-recorded, and a captioned video will
soon be available on the DCCs YouTube channel.
So I dont think mentalism is all that different from other forms
of ableismthe idea that children with disabilities are a burden
on our society, that adults with disabilities are wasting money that
could be spent on other purposes, that disabled people are sucking
the life out of the mainstream cultural minds because we shouldnt
be preserving their right to have access to education
and employment, because they dont really learn anyway
and cant ever be truly productive members of society. Mentalism
is a kind of ableism that highlights the psychological,
emotional, and cognitive elements of ableism. Because oftentimes ableism
focuses on a disability thats physical and visible, and I would
argue, which might offend some people, that even in the disability
rights movementthis is not original, but I do agree with this
point of viewtheres a hierarchy of disability narratives,
and the people with emotional, psychiatric (or labeled as psychiatric),
cognitive and intellectual (or so-called developmental)
disabilities are at the bottom of this hierarchy, while people with
visible physical disabilities are at the top of the hierarchy.
When you adopt a cross-disabilities perspective, but you want to make
sure that youre highlighting invisible disabilities that are
physical, and mental health complexities and emotional variances that
are often invisible, the word mentalism helps us do that.
The oppression against people whose states of mind are not deemed
normative is an oppressive act that is no less important in our analysis
and struggle for justice than the discrimination against people with
disabilities who cant access a building because the stairs (and
the absence of a ramp) dont make it possible for them to access
Scott: This discussion is an important one for war veterans who
are returning home with multiple injuries and often a diagnosis of
post-traumatic stress disorder. This dialogue could, interestingly
enough, integrate very diverse people from diverse groups. Also, Im
thinking about an experience I had as a person who is now wearing
two hearing aids. I wrote to you about this recently, when I was part
of a training seminar as a participant, not the teacher or trainer.
I signed up for the second seminar in a series with no concerns that
hearing would be a problem with my hearing aidsbecause for the
first seminar they had people (trainers and participants) speak from
a microphone. Apparently, for the second seminar, unbeknownst to me,
the group leaders felt it was advantageous to have participants speak
up out loud as a way to encourage self-assertiveness. I asked if we
could have a microphone because I was missing probably 30% of the
dialogue. I was asked to have the group vote for my request, and the
group voted yes to additional microphones. So the leaders brought
in two microphones, but at each break they kept moving the microphones
out of reach, which was a little surprising to me. Historically, I
dont think of myself as someone who has overtly run into issues
with regard to my own disability. Granted, Ive had a hearing
loss my whole lifetime, but possibly my own denial, my familys
denial, whoevers, but in some way I was insulated from overt
public self-identification as a disabled person. But I really felt
it in this event, and I owned it, not because I want to identify that
way, but as a pathway to gain understanding and empathy for other
people who have disabilities and who deal with discrimination on a
daily basis. The power of the slight and neglect was riveting to me.
Even though I kept bringing the issue of the microphones back to the
attention of those in charge, there were many reasons, excuses, and
justifications, some of them valid, for why they were not using the
microphones, even after the group had elected to bring them to the
seminar. What I realized is how common this mentality can be. Is this
part of what youre saying when you talk about mentalism?
Wiener: First of all, I am aggrieved that happened to you, but Im
also not surprised. I think the complexity of what youre highlighting
relates to a concept a lot of people call universal design.
If we create situations with the broadest possible array of peoples
experiences in mind, although we can never meet everyones needs
simultaneously, we still will have competing needs that exist. One
person wants a mic, another person finds the mic disruptive because
theyre sensitive to noise. Someone wants to do group work; another
person thinks group work sucks. People want to use techniques that
are kinesthetic; other people are auditory learners. People who need
to have audio captioning for a video will find that people in the
same room with them are feeling undermined by the audio captioning.
Nevertheless, I think some experiences are not just about opinions
and perspectives, theyre requirements. You need to have captions
on a video because you cant hear the video, and someones
going to say, Your captions are messing with my concentration,
and thats really an exclusion of people. Thats not just
some point-of-view compromised. So universal design is always imperfect,
but there are certain aspects of universal design that I think are
minimal and basic and ought to be practiced. One of those is honoring
peoples different learning styles with the acknowledgment that
not everything can always be perfect for everyone, that people ought
to have videos that are captioned, documents ought to be screen reader-accessible,
a microphone should be available. If someones overstimulated
by noise by virtue of a microphone, they can excuse themselves. They
might feel that theyre being excluded from the conversation.
Its a complicated situation, and people who cannot hear and
cannot see and cannot access spaces physically and have a need not
to be endlessly overstimulated because of negotiations of Autistic
identity, they, we, need to find ways to work things out with each
I think that Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is one
of the things that could have been utilized to help in that situationso
that theres live captioning underneath or next to whats
being spoken. People who are visual learners, with or without learning
disabilities, people for whom English is not a native language, people
who are d/Deaf but who dont use American Sign Language (or who
just prefer CART), people with hearing challenges who might identify
as disabled, or who sometimes identify as disabled, etc., can all
use CART. So, maybe you and I need to start an intermittently disabled
Scott: I like it.
Wiener: Im not ashamed; its just that I dont always
identify that way. CART (sometimes also called Computer Aided Realtime
Translation) is expensive, but its a civil rights issue. I have
used CART. I dont have a learning disability, Im not Deaf,
and if I were Deaf, I am already fluent in American Sign Language
(ASL). I have a story about using ASL as a hearing person, which Ill
mentalism is discrimination against people whose mental, emotional,
and psychological states of being are perceived to be outside of the
norm of mainstream society.
Scott: Well done. Clear. Thank you.
Wiener: Recently, I was physically ill and am still having multiple
medical complications. On Facebook, I came out as having a mysterious
and invisible ailment of a physical nature. My voice was so shot that
I was beginning to identify as having a short-term vocal disability.
Because Im fluent in ASL, and because I didnt want to
have to work with an augmentative communication device when I have
other options, I arranged with the university, for the two weeks that
I was really in trouble, to have sign language-to-voice interpretation
services when I was going to be in a big meeting.
I therefore, being hearing, was signing during these meetings and
had sign language interpreters voicing for me, as they would for someone
who is d/Deaf. (Note: Not all d/Deaf people know or use ASL; some
d/Deaf people voice for themselves.)
I had a first-hand experience the likes of which Ive never had
in my life, even though Ive signed for 30 years and Ive
been part of the Deaf rights movement for 30-plus years. I actually
had an insider glimpse into what it was like to have hearing people
dominate a conversation to such a degree, that I had to feel like
I was interrupting to get my point across because I couldnt
use my speaking voice. I was raising my hand and signing, I
want to say something, I want to say something! and the interpreters
voicing for me, Id like to say something, Id like
to say something. And even my most clued-in, activist, social
justice-oriented colleagues at some of these meetings didnt
realize that thats what they were doingtalking over me,
and not sharing the floor.
Scott: Thats powerful. Thank you! What is a typical day like
for you as a director? Also, since I know people are trying to replicate
your program across the world, please tell us about that.
Wiener: A day in the life of what I do is difficult to describe,
but sometimes, for example, Ill receive a call from a parent
whose son is Autistic and who wants to know if there are places where
their son could feel welcomed at the university. I would tell them
about the ways in which I do not provide accommodations, but Im
glad to help refer them to the Disability Services office. If their
son wants to hang out and come to the Disability Student Union (DSU),
which is a new undergraduate organization, for which Im proudly
the advisor, that individual would be welcome to come even if the
son didnt identify as Autistic, because the students who are
in the DSU are students with and without disabilities.
The DCC is strongly connected with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network,
which takes as its premise the notion that autism is a cultural identitythat
there is an Autistic culture, if not more than one. Many individuals
involved with the Autistic Pride movement, of which the Autistic Self
Advocacy Network (ASAN) is an illustrative example, often think of
Autistic culture and Autistic pride as parts of the fabric of whats
referred to as neurodiversity. So, Im supposedly neurotypical.
Im allegedly an NT, a neurotypical (not Autistic)
person, but, if I was Autistic (thus, neuroatypical), I might just
call myself Autistic. As in, Im an Autistic person,
or Im an Autistic, not I have Autism.
Again, language choices are not unilateral or monolithic. Lots of
people dont like that language, use other language, or have
SUs DCC has a language guide that was written by the first DCC
Graduate Assistant, Alex Umstead, in consultation with me, and is
called An Introductory Guide to Disability Language and Empowerment:
(Note: This guide includes content on the ways capitalization is often
used to express identity and pride, as happens throughout this published
Within the first five months of being at SU I was asked, Diane,
are you Autistic? Are you on the spectrum? I was amazed. Id
never been asked that before. And one of my colleagues, whose child
is Autistic, and I were talking about this, and she said, Well,
you know, its a compliment. And I thought, You know
what? Youre right. I discussed these experiences with
Alex (Umstead), who happens to be Autistic. Alex promptly went online
and found a rainbow-colored infinity graphic, connected with a neurodiversity
site. The rainbow infinity sign (a horizontal figure eight) is a symbol
of the neurodiversity movement. He added text and designed an infographic
(information graphic) for the DCC. The image is on the DCC Facebook
page. We would love for the infographic to go viral. It says: No,
Im not Autistic, but thanks for the compliment.
Another thing that might happen in my day is that Im in a meeting
where people are asking me why we should have sign language interpretation
at an event. Should people have to request an accommodation? Should
there be a sign language interpreter, just in case, if its an
event that is open to the public, so that people who are Deaf and
are ASL users could just show up and be welcomed, instead of having
to identify themselves and say, Im Deaf and I need an
interpreter? Sign language interpreting services are expensive.
Discussions about that, peoples opinions about that, civil liberty
issues around that, Im sometimes in the middle of those conversations.
In the course of one day, I could meet with an undergraduate who has
never before realized that there might be an array of experiences
that are connected with what it means to identify as having multiple
sclerosis or muscular dystrophy or an Autistic identity or a so-called
psychiatric illness, and the student is sitting there asking me questions
because they have a paper due for school and they want to talk about
this stuff. So theyre interviewing me, as often happens, and
they want me to tell them about what its like to be disabled,
and we wind up talking about spectral issues. Or, we talk about diversity
within disability movements. And, sometimes, theyve never thought
that being disabled could be something someone would be happy about.
I watch the students head light up like a bulb and this Holy
shit! moment a19-year-old has in my office.
Or, I might have an experience where I have someone from another university
call me up and tell me the latest on the Center that they helped to
create, which is modeled in some ways on our Center. Theyre
hoping that their Center will some day get approval to hire professional
staff, because we have professional staff, and they want staff too.
The DCC at SU was the firstand remains the only Center of its
kind in the worldto have a full-time professional director.
We are no longer the only one housed in Student Affairs, as there
are now other Centers like ours that have been and are being established
in Student Affairs.
So, my advice for people who want to do this is that the students
should lead, but they shouldnt be burdened with doing all the
work. Students, administrators, faculty, staff, community members,
including alumni, should work in collaboration to identify supports,
constituents, etc. Is there a Deaf Studies program at the university?
Is there a Disability Studies program at the university? Are there
people committed to issues of multiculturalism and diversity? Are
there people who are dedicated to social justice and anti-oppressive
values? Those people are your allies. Go see them or interact with
them in some other way. Maybe youre not sighted, but youre
still going to see them, symbolically, some might say.
Have interactions with people and foment. Think about budgetary implications.
Maybe you have a small space. I have a small space. What I tell people
when they visit, and they want to experience our extremely accessible,
paradigmatically inclusive furniture, multiple-level-hung coat hooks,
every single thing in that officethe lighting, the hypoallergenic
furniture, the dimmers, all of thatpeople want to experience.
They say, Oh, this is cool. Architects come and want to
see how it works. People remark, But its not very big.
And I know its not very big, but its there.
And, so I say, We are modest in size, but not in scope!
in ABILITY Magazine
interview is dedicated to Ramona Johnson, who passed away in 2013.'
Dr. Ericha Scotts website
You can read
the complete article and the full magazine, including all of the photos
in our Digi issue, by clicking "Like"
from the Loni
Jack Eyers Modeling his Way!
Chinas Ye Tingfang
Drs. Scott and Wiener
Excerpt Human Rights
Anderson Caring for You
Twins Sisters and Lupus
New Research Disability and the Workplace
Senator Harkin The ADA Generation
in the Loni Anderson Issue; Senator HarkinThe ADA Generation;
Ashley Fiolek No More Red Eyes; Humor Holiday Cheer;
Paula Pearlman Lets Go Further to Protect People; Geri
Jewell Congress Needs a Reboot; Long Haul Paul Stella!
; Twins Sisters and Lupus; Excerpt Human Rights; Jack
Eyers Modeling his Way!; Chinas Ye Tingfang; Loni
Anderson Caring for You; Rebecca Tripp A Natural Tree
Hugger; Magical Meeting Drs. Scott and Wiener; ABILITY's Crossword
Puzzle; Events and Conferences...