On one autumnal October evening, in a room full to capacity, over 45 interested individuals – including academics from various faculties and Disabled Student Support staff, Sheffield Hallam University; academics from the University of Sheffield, members of autism and disability communities – came together, in wisdom and wonder, to explore ‘disability’ with Tanya Titchkosky and Rod Michalko (University of Toronto, Canada).
Below is an account of the day written by Helen Gibbons, a third year student on our BA (Hons) Education and Disability Studies. She recounts the evening seminar (part of the Education Research Seminar Series) as well as the afternoon class Rod and Tanya attended.
Rod Michalko and Tanya Titchkosky Come to Town ~ by Helen Gibbons
On Tuesday 16th October we (the third year BA (Hons) Education and Disability Studies students at Sheffield Hallam University) were extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to meet Rod Michalko and Tanya Titchkosky. Since starting the course three years ago we have read different journal articles, books and reviews written by Rod and Tanya so to meet them in person was a real treat.
During the day, Rod and Tanya attended our Critical Disability Studies module session where we were given the opportunity to chat, discuss and ask questions regarding their professional and, in some cases, personal experiences of living with an impairment and how they are “accepted” in society. During this session I became inspired at how amazing and influential these two individuals are by expressing and sharing their views of impairment and disability within society. During the session, I know I am not alone in saying, I learnt, understood and viewed a number of different ideas and theories through a fresh approach thanks to their brilliant explanations and examples. The highlights include…
- “Different words have different meanings” Rod Michalko
- “The one thing that interests me more than blindness is sight and eyes are used for a lot more than just seeing” Rod Michalko
- Disability is the assumption that everyone knows what it means, in many cases broken/abnormal. “We’ve been protected against the term disability” as “Disability is seen as a problem” Tanya Titchkosky
- “What we see isn’t necessarily correct” Tanya Titchkosky
In the evening Rod offered an examination of the ‘expert’ while Tanya offered suggestions on what a disability studies perspective could offer a critical study of education. In her newest piece of work, “Towards a Politics of Wonder”, Tanya described an experience where a group of people weren’t considered during a fire evacuation and how a number of obstacles caused many of the individuals involved to be put at unnecessary danger. This lead to many interesting and eye opening views and theories including…
- by not recognising and supporting people with disabilities we are adding and increasing dangers
- it isn’t a lack of awareness, the fire fighters involved had been trained and given procedures and ways of supporting people in such situations but this is often interpreted as “it’s such a problem, it is easier to stay away” Tanya Titchkosky
To conclude I feel that the opportunity has been extremely useful and many of the theories, views and experiences shared and discussed will stay with me for many years to come. The messages I received from Rod and Tanya have not only been extremely useful and assisted with my academic work but they have also assisted and made me view disability and the “problems” differently. This has been evident through the practical aspect of things. When working in a Special Needs school, when being out in the general public and while spending time planning and developing my career I have been able to view things differently by some of the extremely useful discussions with Rod and Tanya.
I found Rod and Tanya’s seminar so influential that I have since set my heart on becoming a Disability Studies lecturer within a University just like them. It has enabled me to see just how much is possible and how disability is still seen as a “problem” when it really doesn’t have to be.