4.2 Barriers to Change BECK

Power and Privilege in DS Provision
Tanja Beck
McGill University
AHEAD 2014 – Sacramento, CA
Tanja Beck
Working in DS professional since 4 years
Core responsibilities: promote the inclusion of diverse learners, 50%
working with students, 50% working with Faculty, UDL, disability and
anti-oppression training and workshops
As an Access Adviser in the Office for Students with Disabilities, I
benefit from the marginalization and oppression of disabled people
Workshop participants
Who are you? Where do you work? What are your expectations for
• To raise awareness of our own social location
and privileges
• To integrate this knowledge into our daily
• To challenge the perpetuation of oppressive
systems on a personal and institutional level
Roadmap for today
Historical Perspectives of Disability
Prevalent frameworks
Ableism, Privilege and Power
Power and Privilege in DS Provision
Becoming agents of social change
Historical perspectives
Middle Ages
Spiritual: Physical and
mental illness
unchangeable condition
resulting from sin
Devil, witch, sinner
Prosecuted, tortured, burned
1800 (medicalization of
Medical Science: genetic
deficit, inferior
Objects of curiosity,
deranged monsters,
freaks, same category as
prostitutes, immigrants
Displayed in carnival freak
shows, hidden in asylums, beg
on the streets
(Eugenics, medical)
genetic deficit, defective,
Negative attitudes
towards people with
disabilities, deformed
Sterilization, euthanasia,
movement/ WW II)
Physically and mentally
ill, patients, disabled,
Objects of pity, burden,
“patients”, dependents,
Rehabilitation, segregated in
schools, sheltered workplace,
patients who need help and
1970s (independent living
People first language =
people with disabilities
Citizens, civil rights,
independent, controlling
their own lives
Reh. Act Section 504 prohibits
discrimination against
handicapped, mainstreaming,
independent living
1990s (Americans with
Disabilities Act) - today
People with Disabilities,
diverse individuals,
diverse learners,
disability as diversity
Equal citizens, equality of
people with disabilities
Full participation, equal, antioppression, access as a right,
social justice, UD and UDL,
awareness campaigns, WHO
Manifestations of disability stereotypes
in media
Enforcing stereotypes
Enforcing labelling
How do stereotypes work?
• We use values, characteristics and features of
dominant group as the supposedly neutral standard
against which everyone is measured (University
system, asking for documentation) – normalizing
standards of society
• Language to distinguish dominant from subordinate
groups which leads to
• Stereotyping (the student with ADHD or even students
with disabilities) assigns a group identity to students
with disabilities although disability is a complex
experience, different in individual experience but also
experienced differently depending on environment
The medical model
Reframing Disability
The social model of disability
Distinction between the two frameworks
• Disability is a problem for
• Environments are designed
the individual, personal
according to normalizing
standards of society
• dichotomy able vs. disabled • access is achieved through
• Focused on diagnosis
• Disability is a problem
stemming from the
• Disability is socially
constructed through
barriers that exist in
• The system/environment is
designed, to the greatest
extent possible, to be
usable by all
• Access is inclusive
Why social group membership?
• Traditional research on inequalities and forms of discrimination
such as ableism, racism, sexism focused on the oppressed groups
• The concept of privilege is relatively new, emerged 15 to 20 years
ago for the first time
• Privilege is a result of our social location, the belonging to or being
excluded from one of the dominant social groups that exist within
• Vice versa, Oppression is also a result of our social location
• We are never purely oppressed or privileged, our social group
location varies
• Social group locations also interact with each other, they work
together to privilege or oppress
• What are social groups? And what is social group membership?
Social Group Membership
• Belonging to a social groups shapes our reality
• Dominant and subordinate groups
• Dominant group determines structure of society
and assigns roles and values to members from
subordinate groups
• Categories such as class, gender, race and ability
establish and maintain a social order
• Dominant group is seen as the norm
• The dominant group is everywhere: TV, ads,
Reflective Exercise: Social Group
• Diversity wheel exercise
• Are a result of our social location
• An invisible backpack of unearned assets, an knapsack
of special provisions, passports, tools etc.
• One group has something of value that is denied to
others because of the social groups they belong to
• We are unaware of our privileges, this makes them so
dangerous, easy to perpetuate this system
• Examples are white privilege, male privilege, able
bodied privilege
Reflective exercise privilege
• The ability to coerce another’s behavior
• Members of dominant social groups hold power
• Power accrues to those who are closest to “the
norm” (able bodied, hetero sexual, white etc.)
• Professional power = authority, power that is
associated with our professional roles as
“specialists”, comes from
organizational/institutional power structures
Ableism as form of Privilege and
Disability Oppression
• System of discrimination, oppression and exclusion of people with
• A set of discriminatory ideas and practices that construct the world in
such a way that it favors the able-bodied and marginalizes the disabled
• “ideas, practices, institutions and social relations that presume able
bodiedness, and by so doing, construct persons with disabilities as
marginalised … and largely invisible ‘others’” (Chouinard)
• System organized around privilege are:
– Dominated by privileged groups
– Identified with privileged groups
– Centered on privileged
• Functions on individual, institutional and cultural level
Power and Privilege in our professional
• How does ableism manifest itself in our daily
practices on an individual, institutional and
cultural level?
• How might power and privilege affect advising
• How might it show in our relationships with
• Can you identify systems of privilege on an
institutional level?
• Brainstorm!
How to initiate change?
• Recognize that disability oppression exists
• Be aware and acknowledge your personal
biases, stereotypes and privilege
• Reflect on your own practices, privilege, biases
on a regular basis, question yourself
• Act: identify and remove barriers in your daily
routines and processes, remove medical
model practices and replace them by
inclusive, social model practices
Recognizing Ableist Practices
Assuming that people with disabilities are
unable to make their own decisions;
limiting the ability to make their own
decision (“I think you should…” “It would
be best for you if…”)
Accept that person is more than their
disability. The have the right to make their
own decisions with varying degrees of
success and failure as everyone else
Imposing help thereby taking control
away from the person (“Let me hold this
door for you…”)
Ask a person if they need assistance, do
not impose accommodations as the
expert professional, be an active listener,
engage in a dialogue
Establishing lower expectations (e.g.
students with LDs)
Be aware of unnecessary barriers, remove
barriers and hold students accountable to
the same academic standards as everyone
else (UDL)
Taking the role as the specialist in advising We are not the specialists, discuss
and interactions with students
strengths and weaknesses and have
student determine the course of action
Documentation guidelines (ask students
wit MH to submit updated
Rethink your documentation guidelines,
follow AHEADs documentation guidelines,
provide temporary accommodations
Use medical documentation as primary
Start with the students self report,
barriers they experience and decide with
the student if their assessment might
have additional information
Using language that implies power
imbalance such as “What can I do for you
today?” “What do you need?”
Using language that opens up a mutual
conversation “What brings you here
Using language that implies that the
student/disability is the problem such as
“What is causing your problem?” “What is
your problem?”
Discuss the student’s individual strengths
and weaknesses focusing on barriers in
the learning environment “What barriers
are you experiencing?”
Generalizations such as “From my
experience students with LDs need…”
Always keep in mind that students
experience barriers in many different
ways depending on the environment and
the context
Thank you!

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