2011 AHEAD Conference and Changing Attitudes

I’m attending the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Conference in Seattle this week. Many of the sessions are typical fare for a disability conference, but I’ve found a strand of conversations pushing the conversation beyond where many disability advocates in attendance are comfortable. I love it.

The conference brings together professionals from disability service offices that provide support to students with disabilities in colleges and universities.

Here are some of the questions that were asked:

  • How do disability simulations used for disability awareness reinforce existing power structures and negative stereotypes?
  • How do disability service offices act as the gatekeeper rather than door opener?
  • Why is so much time spent evaluating and diagnosing disability that could be spent on creating more accessible environments for everyone?
  • How is the disability rights movement similar and different from movements of other oppressed groups?

There was a great discussion on the power of language where the power of words was affirmed, but Alberto Guzman put the language discussion into perspective when he said, “If the goal is to be politically correct, then we should just forget about it”.

There is tremendous value in examining our own ideas and perceptions. There was a palpable energy felt as as ideas and attitudes were challenged and changed. I will leave this conference with a renewed sense of purpose and direction in the work that I do.

The presentations from the AHEAD conference can be found on the AHEAD Conference website.

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