I am applying to a graduate program for critical disability studies. Why did I choose this field? To many, it’s an obscure and odd choice. Personally, I didn’t know that field existed prior to stumbling upon it randomly. When I found it, I knew. It was like a bolt of lightning struck. I got chills. This was exactly what I was looking for. So what is it?
The field of critical disability studies is an interdisciplinary field. It involves everything from healthcare, sociology, psychology, and more. It’s looking at all aspects of disability. How those with disabilities are treated within culture and society. How the system often fails those with disabilities. The impact of a failing system on the psyche of those with disabilities. It’s learning to look at disabilities beyond what we know them to be within our society.
Why does this interest me? I have a disability. I think that’s well established at this point. The thing that many people don’t understand is that I have a unique perspective. I went from a normal, privileged, white woman to disabled. I’ve experienced first hand the difference in treatment between being normal and disabled. That is troubling. It’s more than troubling, it’s horrific. Those with disabilities that I’ve had the privilege to get to know, don’t have this experience often. They have been disabled their entire life. They’ve only experienced mistreatment. People look down on them.
I have heard jokes since becoming disabled. I think that people think it’s okay because I was once healthy. The reality is, when you make fun of disabled people, that hurts me too. When you point out that a disabled person does something better than you as an insult to your ego, it’s an insult to me. Not only is it an insult to me, it’s an insult to the community that I love dearly. We are not unable. We are human beings. We have feelings and autonomy. We know ourselves and our bodies. We are just as worthy. We are enough as we are.
So what does this have to do with my undergraduate theatre degree? I have always wanted to uplift the voices of those who are marginalized. I have seen theatre as a tool to bring social change to the community. It’s extremely powerful and often very effective in inciting a new perspective and starting difficult conversations. I never knew what social change I wanted to highlight until I experienced being disabled. One of the most bothersome experiences of being disabled is no longer being spoken to. I will often go out with people and strangers ask the person next to me about me or Crush. I am almost always present when this happens and fully able to speak for myself. This is normal. This has happened to me at least six or seven times and that’s with covid. That’s one year of having Crush and six months of being in my house. That’s not okay. I’m still privileged in the community too. I can blend well. I look outwardly “normal.”
The way we look and address disabilities in society needs to change. That’s why I’ve chosen to pursue critical disability studies. I’d encourage you to look at your own behavior and how you view people with disabilities. Acknowledge your unconscious bias’ and your past behavior. If you have questions about what’s appropriate, ask someone. If you’re not comfortable asking, you probably shouldn’t be asking. That being said, I’m always open to addressing questions. I may not answer them but I’ll let you know why they aren’t appropriate. I hope this sheds light on why this subject is so close to my heart.
I hope that you’re having a great day. I hope that your day is filled with positivity, joy, and laughter. I hope you find peace, love, and happiness.