Marshak et al.’s paper aims to study the potential barriers to the use of provided accommodations for disabled students studying at a university level. The study is conducted at a medium-sized university, with a sample size of 16 students from that university. These students are interviewed to identify these barriers, and are asked to explain how these barriers affect them. The research concludes with the discovery of five potential barriers to the use of these services, and the limitations and potential improvements of the study.
The theme that stood out to me from this study was the ‘Desire to Avoid Negative Social Reactions.’ It seemed to me that some of the students from the sample size intentionally denied the use of accommodations because they either questioned its fairness or felt others (including disabled people) would ridicule them for using them to gain an ‘unfair’ advantage on academic tasks. It was a theme that I had never thought of before; I had the notion that people understood the need of these accommodations, that the disabled need different ways to interact with their surroundings since the human ecosystem is not conventionally designed for their convenience, but is designed for ours. I feel like it should be looked upon as bringing them up to the same level as everyone else, and not as gaining an unfair advantage.
I also felt that the above theme had a link to what Dolmage described as a ‘disability drop’, which he described as the ability to gain certain privileges by portraying oneself as disabled. Clearly, this ‘myth’/stereotype portrayed in fictional works is shown to have an influence on people’s minds. I feel that media producers, especially media of the influential kind, should explicitly express their intent of use of such stereotypes after their use to avoid such unintentional influences.
In ‘The Spoon Theory’ by Christine Miserando, Miserando describes the difficulties she faces because of her chronic illness (Lupus). The story begins with Miserando and her friend conversing, when unexpectedly, her friend asks her how it felt to have Lupus. To describe this feeling, Miserando hands her friend a handful of spoons, which she symbolized as units of energy/ability to perform basic tasks. She exclaimed that a healthy person has an unlimited supply of these “spoons”, and will not need to ration their spoons to perform basic tasks, while she is forced to choose where to spend her spoons, and hence is restricted to the freedom the healthy population possesses. This is the idea behind the spoon theory.
Personally, I feel that ‘The Spoon Theory’ sheds light on the design and implementation of numerous accessibility workarounds across Purdue University. Most of the accessibility workarounds on campus seem to be implemented for physically and/or temporarily disabled people and do not seem to be thought out for chronic disabilities. For example, a lot of buildings have slopes right beside staircases to the entrance of the building. While this may seem like a great way to solve a lot of physical accessibility issues, I feel that a lot of these slopes are incredibly steep and are hence inaccessible to people lacking the energy to raise themselves off the ground.
Lastly, Miserando’s statement on spending her last spoon of the day on cooking dinner made me think about the dining courts at Purdue. All residential dining courts on campus require people to serve themselves. While this may be normal to a lot of us, it might be difficult for a chronically ill person to wait in a 20-minute line, which could potentially cost them a spoon, to get their food. I feel that raising awareness of the different kinds of disabilities that exist can help the community help one another in such cases, and potentially make it easier for them to access such amenities without having to compromise.
Dolmage’s review of disability myths covers the portrayal of a multitude of stereotypes in current popular media, and their influences on individuals’ perception. In this review, he maps out these ‘myths’, which he defines as stereotypes, and brings them to notice by referring to specifics in contemporary works that the reader can associate with. After discussing these myths, he also explores the usage of these myths in terms of characterization, a narrative device, and driving the plot forward, which I felt was a nice touch to make these myths more visible to the reader.
Personally, after reading Dolmage’s review, I could easily relate with two of the myths he defined; the myths “Physical Deformity as Sign of Internal Flaw” and “Disability as evil” are used so often in media that as an audience, we would instinctively visualize an antagonist with a deformity if no visual hints are provided on the character’s appearance. This is especially true when portraying professions which are considered unethical or immoral by society, for example, in “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs”, the queen is used to portray herself to society as pure, however, when the playwright portrays the evil side of the queen, he presents her as a witch with a hunchback and a deformed facial structure. Similarly, in “How to Train Your Dragon”, the audience is made to frown upon the profession of a dragon hunter, and hence every character that is portrayed as a dragon hunter is shown to have lost some body part of theirs. The deformity is used to the effect of characterization in both these works, and I feel that it is one of the most common ways content creators (Authors, playwrights, etc.) introduce relatable antagonists/ evil characters.
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