Student Address delivered by Kenneth Harvey – Social Work
2010 Undergraduate Minor Honoree
Delivered at the Celebration of Achievement ceremony held April 27, 2010.
Around three years ago, I took my first class in disability studies on a whim, just a class to fill my schedule. Taking this class ended up being for me the best decision of my college career; although, for me, good decisions in college came few and far in between.
Taking classes in and deciding to minor in disability studies has given me an understanding and knowledge base that I would have been incapable of achieving on my own. What you learn from participating in these classes really changes how you look at the world. I did not have an “ah-hah!” moment when everything clicked for me and I saw the world in a different light that I can share, but I can share with you what I have taken from the classes quickly, if you would like.
From disability studies, I have taken away four principles that really guide my thinking these days: both inside and outside of class. They are four principles that relate to disability and the inequality that members of society and our community face.
The first principle is fairness. – The way I think of fairness is that old saying, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Disability studies has taught me when you look at a problem to approach it from this point of view.
The second principle is equality. – Disability studies has taught me that when thinking about how to solve a problem you should base your solution around equality and making things equal for all members of a community.
The third principle is accountability. – Disability studies teaches you that before change of a problem occurs, individuals, communities, and even on a larger scale society, must realize what they are doing or not doing to contribute to the problem of inequality and take accountability for it in one way or another.
The fourth principle is responsibility. – Disability studies teaches you that we are all responsible for trying to fix the problem of inequality and to make individuals who are unaware of the problems in our society aware.
In disability studies, you learn about many theoretical frameworks, theories, and schools of thought. At first it can be extremely intimidating, as you know little to nothing about the literature you are being presented, but if you stick with it you begin to understand and see problems in society that now seem so clear, but have somehow eluded you in the past. These principles reflect what I have learned over the years and what I will take with me when I graduate. I hope I did a good enough job describing what others have also taken and will take with them from disability studies.
With graduation around a week and a half away, it has made me realize that many times you don’t start to have a real appreciation for something until it is coming to an end . . . whether it be a sports career, in this case school, or even an individual’s life. I now kind of understand what my dad used to say to me as a kid: “Take your time and enjoy things because it’s all going to go by quick.” And it has.
So as I and the others graduating with a minor in disability studies prepare to go into our respective careers and try to make it in the world, we will be bringing with us a knowledge base and understanding that allows us to make our workplace, and the communities where we live, a more understanding and accepting place. A better environment for all bodies. We must always remember it is our responsibility to do so.
So does anyone remember those four principles I talked about? Fairness, equality, accountability, and responsibility. Well coincidentally, if you take the first letter from each of these principles it spells fear. And it got me thinking the only reason that these principles do not get accomplished is because of fear.
So I will leave you here today with a question I don’t have the answer to. But maybe one of you do. Regarding disability, what is everyone afraid of?