Thoughts on a Quote: WPA and Disability – Part the III

This type of post is where I take out and focus on a specific quote that stuck out to me and I want to think about it.  I will have the full quote along with the quote broken up into parts so I can focus on them in the thoughts part.

Citation

McLeod, Susan and Kathy Jane Garretson. “The Disabled Student and the Writing Program: A Guide for Administrators.” Writing Program Administration, vo. 13, no. 1-2, 1989, pp. 45-51.

Full Quote

The most obvious type of disability is physical: the blind or deaf student, the mobility-challenged student in a wheelchair or with impaired muscle coordination. But there are other disabilities which are not so obvious. There are disabilities related to health: students with heart problems, for example, or with diseases like Lupus or Epstein-Barr, which are unpredictable and often bring about extreme fatigue. There are also disabilities related to treatable emotional disorders: the manic-depressive who used to be unable to function in a school environment is now able, thanks to medication, to attend classes. (45)

Thoughts

So, this quote starts off good, I like it.

“The most obvious type of disability is physical: the blind or deaf student, the mobility-challenged student in a wheelchair or with impaired muscle coordination. But there are other disabilities which are not so obvious. There are disabilities related to health: students with heart problems, for example, or with diseases like Lupus or Epstein-Barr, which are unpredictable and often bring about extreme fatigue.”

I’m nodding my head like, “Yay, they have got it.  They are talking about visible vs. non-visible disabilities.  Awesome.”  Then I get to this sentence

“The manic-depressive who used to be unable to function in a school environment is now able, thanks to medication, to attend classes.”

and I’m not too happy.  I get up and start walking around my apartment, annoyed, because this deeply disturbs me.  So, I wonder why.  And I realize that it is what connects

So, even though I said in my last post that I should find an article on the overcoming narrative yet, I still have not because I already had this in my arsenal to read.

But, this quote disturbs me and I think I know why.  I’m going to attempt to word it and hopefully it will make sense.  However, it sort of needs a further recap of what the overcoming narrative is.  The overcoming narrative is where society expects disabled people to do everything in their power to act as if they are not disabled.  It basically implies that being non-disabled is better than being disabled.  Which is problematic if you replace disabled and non-disabled with any other minority group.

And that is what this quote does.  It basically says that “emotional disorders” can be overcome.  And not only can they, but they should because who doesn’t want to be “[able] to function in a school environment”

This is where I should bring in a summary of Mike Oliver’s article social model of disability because it would fit very well here.

In a gist, the social model of disability says that disability is a socially constructed thing.  Disabled people have a unique way of being in the world.  This unique way of being in the world is not a disability until society demands that they act in a way that is mutually exclusive from their unique way of being.  For example, I don’t look at people’s eyeballs, that is part of my unique way of being in the world, however, I’m not disabled until society demands that I look humans in the eyeballs in order to get a job.  Another example is someone who cannot walk, that is their natural way of being in the world, however, they are not disabled until society demands that they walk up stairs because there is no elevator in the building.

So, the connection between this quote and the social model of disability is that the “manic-depressive,” as McLeod and Garretson put it, has a unique way of being that can sometimes be mutually exclusive to the classroom environment.  Is the literal disabling aspect the bipolarity in the bipolar person or the environment that was not created with the bipolar person’s needs in mind?

Critiques of my Critique

Critique: Now, I want to address one issue someone could raise against my criticism.  This was written in 1989 and times were different then.  One response, one critique of the response, and finally one response to the critique of the response.

Response: First, yes, times were different.  However, the social model of disability dates back to the 1960s.

Critique of Response: Yes, but it may not have reached academia.

Response to Critique of Response: All right, I will grant that it had probably not reached academia.  But there is NO reason with all capital letters that we shouldn’t criticize this now.  When this is one of only a few articles that I have been able to find on disability in writing program administration, that critique is essential.  It’s essential because this is basically a cannon text.  With the criticism that this was written in 1989, WPAs can read this and just automatically trust it even though it is ableist, that is a very dangerous thing to do.

I don’t know if I worded that response well enough

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