Follow Up

I wanted to finish the story of my class Power, Privilege and Visions of Justice.
After the first meeting, a cooling off period was in order, so I waited until Friday to take any steps. Through the point person at my LGBT center, I got an electronic copy of the syllabus and Later the instructor emailed me electronic copies of the readings.
Still quite upset, I tried a couple more days of calming down, but it didn’t work. Finally, I emailed the instructor thanking him for the readings and expressing my frustration with how the class was conducted. I bluntly asked how I could learn about privilege from someone who created an exclusionary classroom environment. We emailed back and forth, but he continued to feel the only issue was the readings and their accessibility whilst I thought there were broader issues at play. He wanted to talk about how he was used to Disability Services handling everything. I wanted to discuss how his actions reflected able bodied privilege. Talking at cross-purposes never works and this case was no exception.
My other email exchange had a far more productive outcome. I again contacted the point person at my LGBT center and her almost immediate response was a request to talk about it. In that phone conversation, I found someone to add to my list of people who have an open mind and are willing to learn. It looks like she will be an ally in any other future efforts I undertake to educate my LGBT center on issues of accessibility.
Armed with the syllabus, I then began to use google and other methods to search for the readings in alternative formats discovering that less than one third were available. Given a couple of weeks, I might have managed to work things out, but within the time constraints of a 6 week course, I felt it was not a reasonable endeavor nor was it a reasonable accommodation for my LGBT center to make.
I attended one more class, to get a sense of how the readings would be used and decided they were too central to the discussion for me to simply skip them. I explained this to both the instructor and the point person.
I have learned a couple of lessons from this experience. First, simply telling someone a blind person is going to be in their class is not enough. They need to be educated as to what that means. Explicitly. My mistake was to assume it was clear. As one friend has often told me, “Educate. Clarify. Remind.”
Second, don’t assume who will and will not understand disability issues. My surmises in this situation were totally off.
There have also been a lot of reminders of lessons I should have learned long ago. When you identify a problem related to access, the next thing out of your mouth should always be the solution. The formula is identify the problem, try to relate it to something familiar to the target individual, and give a preferably simple solution.
It has also become clear that I need to cultivate calm. Educate from a place of calm. Meditation here I come.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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