Disabilities and Inclusion

Recently, I attended an event known as Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities: Using Your Skills and Gifts to Create Access in Your Community. It was part of the Inspire Workshop series organized by CEW+. It was such a unique workshop, because workshops often gloss over the effects disabilities have on people have them. I personally loved that the speaker, Jacqueline Kaufman, went into detail about disabilities and incorporating deafness. Sometimes, these details are excluded from the conversation. To formally introduce her, she is an Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan Medical school.

Personally, I decided to attend this workshop as I am super passionate about disabilities and deafness. I am passionate because I have my own experiences as a deaf person and wanted to be a voice at this workshop. I wanted to be available in case my opinion was necessary or if I needed to clarify some potential misleading comments. This workshop swayed my concerns and Dr. Kaufman was fully prepared with details and asked for participation from the audience.

The presentation covered the various types of disabilities which ranges from invisible to physical to mental to cognitive and so forth. There are so many ways to define the term of a disability that it’s hard to have the most accurate definition of what it is. She brought up an interesting fact that deafness can be seen as not a disability, but an identity and culture you are a part of. She also discussed potential situations that people with disabilities may deal with and how society can be judgemental. She used the term “inspiration porn,” defining those with disabilities as an inspiration, heroes living a normal life as their greatest achievement. This is so important to mention as this a true story and often offends people. During the workshop, in groups, we had to discuss how we could resolve a few situations that were given to us. I thought this was a creative way to get people thinking about how a simple situation can be inaccessible for someone and ideas for how to make it inclusive for those with disabilities.

Not only was she focused on disabilities and inclusion, she also shared her journey on how she started in hard sciences and moved into clinical psychology. This is relevant and key to the workshop because she shared her academic and professional experiences, explaining her education on disabilities and deafness. Her experiences led to her being more passionate about these topics. This was relevant, especially as a deaf person, I needed to understand her motives and intentions for the community. It shows you can be truly passionate about a topic when it's not for your own benefit and is sensitive for others.

Yet, it didn’t surprise me that there were not a lot of students at the event. I saw a lot of staff and faculty at the event. I wish there were more engagement from students. Also, I wish it was a longer event or broken down into two parts: one with the presentation and the other with a more engaged workshop. Regardless of my suggestions, I enjoyed the workshop. In general, I appreciate when people are interested in this topic and engaged in the conversation. I do hope that people would watch the YouTube video of this session because it was really interesting and informative.


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