Disability Justice in Education and Healthcare Settings: Nothing About Us Without Us.
short link back here: erka.me/crip
As a result of this 90-minute workshop, participants should be able to:
- Define the social model of disability and how it applies to their present setting
- Describe the importance of disability justice in a system, for students/patients/providers/admin (i.e. everyone)
- Recognize basic spiritual needs in an intersectional lens with a disability justice starting point
- Assess spiritual support needs in a setting when access and accommodations are not prioritized
National Joint ACPE/APC Annual Conference May 10-12, 2022
Presenter: Rev. Erika Sanborne, MA, MDiv, PhD Candidate (Sociology @UMN)
For Those Attending the Live Session on Tues. May 10, 2022
Welcome! When you arrive on May 10 for the live session, please do what you need to do to be comfortable, bring whomever you wish to join you, and if you are able to TYPE, be prepared to type a few brief responses into the “live Q&A” area throughout the session, or to have someone with you who can type, if you would like to participate.
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For Everyone, Including Those Not Attending the Live Session
For academics looking for my current work
Please note that this is not your ordinary conference presentation, for which the target audience is other researchers. This joint national conference is largely attended by practitioners – i.e., chaplains and allied healthcare professionals, and those who train and supervise them. This session was billed as a “workshop” and intended to educate providers on disability justice. It’s not a research talk. If you’re looking for my current research, connect with me at the University of Minnesota.
Social Model of Disability
Disability is inherent to the social world. Disability is not inherent to a person. People have differences and impairments that may or may not result in disability depending on their interactions with the social world, where physical and attitudinal barriers produce disability.
Suppose that you are very myopic and you live in the United States today, where you can acquire corrective lenses or eyeglasses. If you are able to do the things you need to do wearing those lenses, then you would not be disabled by myopia in your present social context, even with such visual impairment. Imagine if you lived in a time and place, or in a part of the world today without access to healthcare or eyeglasses. Then, the same visual impairment in the context of a society that does not provide access may lead to disbility, wherein perhaps you cannot see well enough to shepherd or farm or sew or cook. There, you may be disabled whereas here in the U.S. today with your eyeglasses, you are not disabled. Notice that the difference between your being disabled and your not being disabled has nothing to do with your body and everything to do with your interactions with the social world.
Disability is not internal to people’s biology but rather to the social systems in which people may live, work, play, study, heal, and pray.
This is known as the social model of disability. It’s grounded in a definition of disability established in the 1970s by disability justice scholars, born out of the Black Civil Rights movement in the U.S., and institutionalized by the United Nations in 2006, with the agreement of 168 member states, and it is the central topic of Part 1 of this workshop, which is all about reframing what we think is the problem. And this is really important because that will determine what we think needs to change in order to make things better.
Links to More Info
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Home Page
Conference of States Parties to the CRDP
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Social Model of Disability: Thirty Years On (Mike Oliver, 2013)
“My Body Doesn’t Oppress Me, Society Does” – Patty Berne and Stacey Milbern
Disability justice always acknowledges power, privilege, and access. Disability rights and disability justice are night and day.
The Disability Justice Framework (Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, Stacey Milbern) is useful and has ten principles:
2. leadership of those most impacted
3. anti-capitalist politics
4. cross-movement solidarity
5. recognizing wholeness
7. commitment to cross-disability solidarity
9. collective access
10. collective liberation
I think the first question of disability justice is asking yourself this question: Who is not here? That question is about access, and the honest answers are about power and privilege, and those answers will generate your “to do list” if you want it.
Spiritual Needs in an Intersectional Lens
If I were to categorize causes of spiritual pain, broadly, I come up with three wide containers: generally-expected stressors, critical incidents or violence, and oppression. I think our established chaplain assessments and approaches can work well for the first two categories. In one way or another, we listen, validate, find out more, respect the patient’s own meaning making systems or faith traditions, and figure out how we can help them to best connect with some of those resources in order to cope with their crisis, change or loss. And we might do some extra care and referrals for the trauama as needed.
When the cause of spiritual suffering is oppression, which is always intersectional, I suggest that it’s different. Our ordinary approaches to spiritual care and assessment need to be revisited. Oppression is different. And ableism is oppression that privileges the protection and care of certain bodyminds while excluding and deprioritizing other bodyminds. A disability justice perspective reminds us that multiply marginalized people are the most oppressed, and the most in need of access, solidarity and care.
Can you assess spiritual needs using your existing assessments when the cause of spiritual distress is oppression, and they are not lacking any known spiritual resources? I suggest that what such a person needs for their spiritual well-being is justice, and anything less is just window dressing in front of the biggest elephant that can possibly fit in a room.
When Access and Accommodations are not Prioritized
Well, I’m not aware of any educational and healthcare settings that do prioritize access. Some places try to provide accommodations, which is a lower standard as accommodations tend to refer to the legal things required and sometimes enforced due to ADA and related policy. In general, in most places, access is not prioritized and assessing spiritual support needs is about justice which is access which is solidarity.
It’s only within a more Western, capitalistic (i.e. production-oriented) ableist social order that people’s needs even get characterized as burdens rather than as opportunities for generative things! (Read more from Mia Mingus + access is love.) And, you know, with accessibility, that’s spiritual care because we are now talking about interdependence and our relatedness.
Why does nobody question the expense of purchasing all those chairs in every cafeteria? If you’ve never questioned that expense, or thought of cafeteria chairs in this way, that’s because of ableist social norms that lead you to believe that certain bodyminds unequivocally deserve care and support, and certain other bodyminds are a burden and a nuisance, and something we can ignore and certainly do not have to address in our budget. We. Have. All. Been. Socialized. to privilege nondisabled experiences and needs. Disability justice challenges our socialization.
As spiritual care providers and educators, you have an important role in the well-being of many people. Don’t accept ableism. Always ask who isn’t here and then respond to what you learn about yourselves. And insist that your setting become a place that does prioritize access, where everyone deserves to be cared for, because of who they are, not in spite of it.
Links to More Info
Disability Justice is Simply Another Term for Love (Mia Mingus)
Support the Disability Visability Project by buying something here (my hoodie is from this shop)
“Vulnerable to the Virus, High-Risk Americans Feel Pain as the U.S. Moves On” (NYT)
These lists are incomplete, as is this website, all of which is intended as a curated list of things to serve as starting points for your learning.
A Word on Language
I use identity-centered language (i.e. disabled people), which is common but not universally preferred among disabled people, disability justice advocates and critical disability scholars. The main alternative option is person-centered language (i.e. persons with disabilities). I also use the term crip favorably, comfortably, and proudly, as an intentional act of reclamation as those of us who prefer identity-centered language tend to do. While my strong preference for identity-centered language is to emphasize the social construction of disability, I also respect the choices of those who prefer person-centered phrasing for themselves. As with all identifications, practitioners will do best to ask patients/clients/students their preference.
Don’t Use These Words
when expressing your alarm or dissatisfaction: that’s hysterical, crazy, lame, dumb, insane, or r-word; is blinded by ___, crippled by ___, or finds ___ maddening
when expressing your solidarity with a cause: I see you, I hear you, I walk with you, I stand with you
Curated Online Resource List
Accountable Reporting on Disability, Race, & Police Violence – by Leroy F. Moore Jr., Talila “TL” Lewis, Lydia X. Z. Brown et al.
Glossary of Ableist Phrases – by Lydia X.Z. Brown
National Black Disability Coalition
Journal of Disability & Religion (Taylor & Francis)
Select Sites and Blogs from some Disability Justice Leaders
Sins Invalid, co-founded by Patty Berne
Leaving Evidence, by Mia Mingus
Books Worth Reading
The Disability Studies Reader (Davis 2016)
Haben: The Deadblind Woman who Conquered Harvard Law (Girma 2019)
Feminist, Queer, Crip (Kafer 2013)
Medicine Stories: Essays for Radicals (Morales 2019)
Shouting at the Leaves (Msumba 2021)
The Body is Not an Apology (Taylor 2021)
Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People (Wong 2018)
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century (Wong 2020)
As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. All commissions generated from this page through 2022 are tagged and will be donated to a disability justice cause.
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4 thoughts on “Disability Justice in Education and Healthcare”
Ask questions here if you’d like.
Rev. Erika, my name is Kelsi Watters. I am a Chaplain Associate at Legacy Health and I am totally blind. I attended the APC conference and was able to listen to the recording of your session. It would mean so much to me if we could be in touch. I’d love to talk more about disability justice, the APC conference and accessibility issues I experienced there (like you, my emails were ignored). The annual APC celebration was a complete disappointment because it was inaccessible and not inclusive for sight impaired people. As a new BCC I was looking forward to hearing the names announced but they only appeared on the screen. Anyway, I really would love to connect.
Thanks so much for your note. I’m glad you were able to access the audio of my session. I’m not surprised to learn of your experience outside my session at the 2022 joint APC/ACPE Conference. Although I provided audio descriptions of visuals on my slides, there were no instructions telling me to do that from the conference. For another form of accessibility, I had also provided complete and correct captions throughout my prerecorded session, but at the conference, they overlaid my video with their automatically-generated captions, which were wrong, and their tech support person did not have the capability to turn them off. So they even interfered with some of the accessibility features I tried to provide in my session.
And as you heard in my session, they ignored my emails in which I asked about accommodations for myself and for attendees. So I’m not sure how I can help you directly, unfortunately, or I would be glad to do so. I’m especially sad to imagine the feeling you must have had anticipating hearing your name announced among the newly minted board certified chaplains, only to realize that even that was not accessible. I’m so sorry that happened to you. Ableism is exhausting. When it comes from organizations to whom you may have paid considerable funds in the form of membership dues and conference registration fees, being treated like this can feel extra. I’m so sorry.
I’m sure you know this, but you have legal rights to this access they are denying you. I’d encourage you to speak with a disability rights lawyer. Both the APC and ACPE websites are entirely inaccessible, which I also told APC about in my March 2022 email that was ignored, as was this conference, and as is their choice to ignore emails they receive from disabled chaplains inquiring about accessibility. We are the parties with legal rights in these matters not them, and I suspect there’s a lot more of us. In general, from what I understand, organizations that choose to blatantly ignore disabled people count on disabled folks being too worn down by all the ableism to have any time and energy left to fight for their rights. If you haven’t been worn down too far yet, I’d encourage you to talk to a disability rights lawyer. Their emails won’t be ignored like ours are.
Several chaplains who were in my session have shared their disappointment in the respective organziations, and so perhaps they might communicate something effective, but I don’t know for sure.
For learning more, the links on this site are all good starting points. I believe this website (I mean this exact single page we’re on right now) is properly coded and accessible but please let me know if I’m wrong so I can remedy anything that’s not.
Mostly, please know that you are not alone. I’m also going to send you an email.
Hi Erika, I really appreciate you reaching out to me here and via email. Even though you may not be able to help me directly regarding the APC conference situation, it is just simply helpful to have a somebody else at my table who understands, so to speak. I am hopeful that I can connect with other chaplains with disabilities. Sometimes that solidarity in itself is healing and offers some energy for the weary as well as validation and support. I have never reached out to a disability rights lawyer, so I’m not quite sure what that process would look like or how much it would cost. Also, your presentation was I think the only one I attended that specifically mentioned sight privilege and was so mindful of accessibility for non-sighted folks. I haven’t looked at all the links on your website yet, but as far I have found it to be very accessible and user-friendly. Thank you for connecting! Kelsi