In this Episode #14 of Autism Spa Podcasts, we speak with Diana Pastora Carson, Speaker, Trainer, Coach, Writer, Elementary School Teacher and Lecturer at San Diego State University about her work with special needs educators, the disabled community and her two books; Beyond Awareness: Bringing Disability into Diversity Work in K-12 Schools and Communities and, Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights.
Diana Pastora Carson is a Sibling Advocate and big fan of her brother, Joaquin Carson, who spent 15 years of his life in an institution, and for whom her family fought for 3 years to bring him home. She is a Ret. Elementary Educator of 30 years, teaching both special education and general education for students in pre-K to 6th grades, a Lecturer of Disability & Society course at San Diego State University and other disability and inclusion-related courses through the University of San Diego and local community colleges. She is a Public Speaker, Inclusion Visionary, Community Activist, TED Talk, served two terms on Board of DRC, served on the Board of Disability Voices United, and last year, opportunity with ABILITY magazine to produce a series of interviews with thought leaders of the disability community in honor of the ADA’s 30th anniversary. Diana will soon be launching an online course for educators and community members who want to learn about disability awareness from a social model or social justice lens. She is also in the planning stages of starting her own podcast: “Beyond Awareness: Disability Awareness That Matters. She is the Author of: Beyond Awareness: Bringing Disability into Diversity Work in K-12 Schools and Communities AND Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights
What is Beyond Awareness and how did it start?
My 3 worlds collided when I, as a sister-advocate, elementary educator, and disability studies educator came to the realization that my brother’s life in an institution could have been avoided if the special educators, professionals, and community as a whole, had been committed to access, equity, and inclusion…if society had been committed to love for all people, and demonstrating that love in dignifying ways. This made me look at what we were doing in terms of disability awareness, ability awareness, disability sensitivity, etc., and why it was not working, and in fact, why it was reinforcing everything that is wrong with our attitudes about disability
Questions: What needs to be done differently? What needs to be fixed? People? Or Barriers? PWD or Society?
Historically, we’ve done disability awareness activities that are based in the medical model, that say that something is wrong with a person’s body or mind, and our job is to fix it. And if it can’t be fixed, then we have every reason to pity that person, or sometimes, to deem them as inspirational. In doing so, we completely ignore society’s role in disabling people. For instance,
- No ramps for wheelchairs (ie, my house)
- No assistive technology to help people communicate
- No captions in media or image descriptions online
- No ASL interpretation, or even simply not attempting to learn some basic ASL to facilitate communication
- PWD have to maneuver their lives around where they can get access. They have to work way harder than nondisabled people to have access to education, employment, healthcare, self-determination, and
Beyond Awareness focuses does not rely on traditional disability awareness lessons where we simulate what WE think it might be like to have a disability. Beyond Awareness focuses on foundational topics related to the social model of disability, as told by people who actually live the disability experience.
Ableism – Oppression of PWD
Access – Do PWD have access to the same opportunities to be, do, and have what nondisabled people have access to?
Assistive Tech – Technology that supports a person’s health, well-being, and independence (screen readers, communication devices, open captioning, or even a straw!)
- Disability History/ Disability Rights/ Disability Justice – Do we understand how disability rights have been hard fought and how we have come so far? And do we understand that it still isn’t enough? PWD still have to fight for their rights. They have to fight for access, equity, and inclusion on a daily basis, for the big things, and the little things. So now that we have legal rights, we still must focus on disability justice.
- Self-Determination/ Choice/ Being in charge of their lives
Word Choices – How do we talk about disability?
Person first vs identity first language – Do we understand and honor both?
Do we fall prey to inspiration porn, assuming everyone with a disability is inspirational simply because they have a disability?
Do we avoid the word “disability” instead of embracing it, by using euphemisms (handi-capable, differently abled, special, etc.). And if we do, why do we do that? What have we been taught to believe about “disability” that carries so much stigma, shame, negativity?
Check out Diana’s free, downloadable ebook called the 5 Keys to Going Beyond Awareness. Very helpful to those wanting to learn more about how to create a powerful, respectful, research-based disability awareness event or conversation.
She also has a comprehensive online Beyond Awareness course coming out later this summer. Perfect for educators and parents as well. Simple, actionable steps educators can implement today in their classroom or school community. And parents as well can learn from this ebook about what’s most important in disability discussions. If you get the free downloadable ebook, then you’ll get the updates for the course as well.
You can also find Diana on social media: Facebook , Instagram and LinkedIn.
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This has been a production of the Afshar Group, a public affairs advisory firm.