Hi everyone! I’m playing catch-up at the moment. Please bear with me. The following post is a response to the readings listed under Week Ten (10) on the syllabus. I believe I might have been absent that Tuesday (I’m not sure). Either way, I’m attempting to make up for it now.
Technical communicators must find ways to advocate for those who are disabled, oppressed, and/or disadvantaged in some way or another. Though it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how this should be done, the following discussed chapters provided insight to avoiding the use of separatist language and ideology within social and environmental spheres.
The Smyser-Fauble piece was really interesting to me since it dealt with feminist disability studies. For over ten years, my Mom has worked with an organization that provides housing and assistance to individuals with developmental disabilities. With that being said, I found the section of the article which spoke on language all too familiar. Early on, I was lectured on the use of appropriate language regarding our associates, friends, and family members who deal with disability and mental illness on a daily basis. So, even before Smyser-Fauble addressed words such as ‘those’ and ‘normal’ found in works by Elmore and Meloncon, red flags had already gone up in my head. For example, the article says that according to Meloncon, “accessibility is the material practice of making social and technical environments and texts as readily available, easy to use, and understandable to as many people as possible, including those with disabilities” (101). As pointed out in the text, the end of the sentence that includes ‘those with disabilities’ is separatist in its measures because it ascribes a kind of otherness to a specific group of people. This practice in language is almost always dangerous. It must be remembered that ‘those with disabilities’ are first and foremost people. I would like to propose that one of the ways in which we could advocate for those who are disabled, oppressed, and/or ‘disadvantaged’ to some degree is to 1) be more mindful of the language we use and 2) adapt ecofeminist theory in our work, writings, and communicative measures.
The idea of separatism closely resembles that which is presented by Shiva in Sackey’s piece. It may be a stretch, but it seems as though these two readings (Smyser-Fauble and Sackey) intersect in terms of addressing separatist/dualist mindsets. Last semester, I wrote a final paper on the degradative and exploitive effects that capitalism has on our environment. Within the paper, I presented ecofeminism as a theoretical framework – something that I thought would assist my audience in understanding how discarding duality-saturated mindsets helps improve the oppression of individuals, groups, the environment, etc. Interestingly enough, I found in research that ideas of dualism exist when humans assign standards and traditional values to certain situations and groups of people. Everything and everyone that does not fit into those categories automatically becomes subordinate to whatever does. When speaking in terms of the environment, dualist mindsets help perpetuate a culture of mastery. Because nature is often viewed to not be as intellectual and advanced as man, man has little regard for the well-being of nature (nor does he feel the need to consider what may benefit nature in the long-run). This idea could easily be applied to what was found in the Smyser-Fauble article. Due to the fact that individuals with disabilities are labeled with detriments instead of simple differences, they are often regarded as different and less-than-capable. In turn, the needs of our disabled counterparts are not valued to the same extent as the needs of those considered able-bodied and/or privileged.
Dualist ideology and separatist terms like other, normal, and/or anything that could possibly carry a negative connotation should be discarded. Collectively, if we decided to adapt a more inclusive mindset/outlook towards things and individuals previously deemed ‘different’ from us I believe that we would notice a positive change in how certain groups of people are perceived and accommodated.
What other ways might we improve the perception and accommodations for those who do not ‘fit’ into the standard-like brackets and traditional spaces as mentioned above? These articles got me thinking a bit, and I would love to hear others input.