I recently attended the Psychonomic Society's 64th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California. I would like to highlight one particular presentation. It was the one about disabilities. Indigenous people can have disabilities, too. All panel members had disabilities. Each presented their lived experiences (identity), how long they have been disabled, what it has been like in general and at the conference in particular, and their research. Several panelists were blind/ visually impaired, deaf/ hearing impaired, and one was autistic. Even though I’ve worked with children with special needs for many, many years, I have so much ableism, visualism, and audism that I have only begun to scratch the surface of what that means. This panel was the highlight of the conference for me. It was moving and powerful.
The listed symposium topics and speakers were:
Symposium Organizer—Jill Shelton, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA
Are We WEIRDA? Ableist Sampling in Psychology Research— Rain G. Bosworth, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA
Strategic Advocacy: Individuals and Institutions—Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Gallaudet University, USA
Autistic Identity Across Development: A Critique of “Regression” Into and “Outgrowing” Autism—Steven Kapp, University of Portsmouth, UK
Discussion of Diversity in Disability: Evidence from Disability Identity and Research—Morton Ann Gernsbacher, University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA
Here is my summary based on the challenges they described. As a currently able-bodied person…
1) I can easily converse with an Uber driver or the passenger sitting next to me on a train or on a plane.
2) No one will be offended by me “waving my arms” as I talk.
3) I can ask for directions if I’m lost and be reasonably sure to be able to understand the response, even if I have to use Google Translate.
4) I can easily distinguish items visually, for example, when pulling utensils out of a drawer or selecting them in a fast food restaurant “station.”
5) If the environment is noisy, I can use visual cues to point to a quieter place to speak.
6) I can hold a plate and a drink at a party and still speak.
7) I can read a person’s name tag at a conference.
8) If I choose to, I can join extra conference activities without special accommodations ahead of time, like hikes or biking in the city.
9) If invited, I can join an informal group of folks who want to go out to lunch or dinner and know I will be able to converse without arranging an interpreter.
10) I do not have to make my own arrangements for interpreters so that I can present at a conference.
11) I do not have to make a backup plan for when/ if those arrangements fall through.
12) I do not have to pay out of my personal expenses for interpreters.
13) I am not labeled a “troublemaker” for asking for accommodations.
14) I can access the conference without interpreters or special equipment.
15) I do not have to be super aware of going over my time limit at a conference because I can “watch” the clock and not wait for interpretation before moving to my next sentence.
16) I might be asked to chair a session or be a moderator without anyone worried about whether my visual or auditory impairment will “get in the way.”
17) I do not have to worry about the airline damaging my assistive devices (wheelchair, etc.).
18) I can be tired after a conference, but I haven’t had to do any “extras” at the end of the day.
What other advantages can you think of?
Steven Kapp & Jill Shelton (ASL interpreter on monitor)
Rain G. Bosworth
Teresa Blankmeyer Burke
FINAL THOUGHT: One of the presenters showed a slide of a graduation. The valedictorian had an ASL interpreter in front, closed captioning on the screen, and a sign language interpreter standing next to him, signing for his parents, in Indonesian. Now that’s access.