Her Campus Attends the ALC Disability Awareness Campaign

The Accessible Learning Centre hosted an event last Thursday evening to conclude the week’s Disability Awareness Campaign. The evening started off with a warm welcoming from the ALC team and was accompanied with food provided by Wilf’s and a raffle draw to win an amazing prize! We sent a Her Campus Representative, Amanda Marino to attend the event. Here is what she has to say about the experience.

Being a biology student, I have never had the opportunity to take a course with Dr. Overboe. I heard about him being an amazing professor and one that is very loved by each and every one of his students. After the talk, I know that Dr. Overboe has a way of enlightening your thoughts, and changing your perception on something that you may have thought you were confident about. I decided to write a post-talk reflection piece in hopes that my changed perceptions could enlighten yours.

When I was younger, I was taught that I was “normal” and that there were people who were “different”. I was never taught that different was bad, but different is different and it is defined as “not the same in nature, distinct”. Now that I have “mild” anxiety, some people might consider me “different”.  Aside from anxiety, I have had no personal experiences with permanent physical or mental disabilities. I am however, not in the dark about disability whether it is visible or invisible.

While Dr. Overboe was talking I couldn’t help but think about my experience in Guatemala. Last summer I paid to volunteer with a mobile medical clinic based out of Guatemala. We travelled to the outskirts of the main city and these are some of the worst conditions I have ever seen. Each day I would show up to clinic in my brand new scrubs, sneakers and medical equipment. Without getting into detail about what I saw, I had an uneasy feeling the entire trip about something different than what was visually in front of me. This feeling I can’t shake makes me believe there is some truth in saying: we do things we think are helping but we are actually just doing things to make ourselves feel good. In other words, we trick ourselves. In one sense I feel like I did help someone get the medication they need and I appreciate the doctors who took time to prescribe it. In another sense I feel like I was disabling these people from being happy by reminding them of what they do not have. Not to mention, everything I was doing could have been done by ANYBODY if they were taught how to use the equipment.

Although my experience is not directly the same as what Dr. Overboe was talking about at the event, the idea that “care is poison” prevails. As much as I want to believe that what I was doing was because I care, it may have only been a “feel good” experience for me. Going into the program, I was very ignorant in my thinking. I thought, “the conditions over there are horrible, I need to do my part in helping out”. Coming out of the program, I realize that yes I aided in their physical healing, but I also succeeded in giving them a negative cultural shock.

To put it into perspective, disability can be compared to racism. For instance, ableism is similar to being white, it is the normal and it is what people recognize. Anybody who is different from white (able) is not normal and therefore, disabled. Differences have been well defined in the world. Each person who is different from the normal (able) is known as having to over-come some type of disadvantage (disabled). Perhaps by doing things we think are helping, or showing care, are actually just things that make us feel better about the differential barrier created by society. Instead of being ignorant, we should educate ourselves about the disabilities faced by individuals. Before we act, we should be able to understand the translation from his or her normal to the normal-normal that goes on. I feel like now would be a good time to mention that Dr. Overboe has Cerebral Palsy. He has published papers, gotten his PhD, contributed to many different organizations and has been a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University for 10 years. His disability is not something he has to overcome; it is an integral part of who he is. Just like the individuals who live a culturally different lifestyle, it is integral to their being. This is an idea that needs to be adapted and affirmed in populations today: the change from a deficit model to a diversified model of disability. 

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