A few weeks ago, I was honored to guest lecture on Disability and Discrimination as part of a Human Rights course with students in the Master of Social Work Program at Azusa Pacific University.
We discussed how discrimination based on disability manifests itself in social work and community outreach programs. The students learned there is considerable work yet to be done to shift mindsets from a charitable and medical approach to disability inclusion to understanding the constructs, importance, and impacts of shifting to a social model of disability. Ultimately, we want to employ a human rights approach where individuals of all abilities are fully contributing equal members of society and respected for their inherent dignity.
During activities, the students discovered how difficult it can be to convince a biased person (implicitly or explicitly) against people with disabilities when those beliefs are deeply ingrained as part of thinking due to personal experiences. We discussed how disability-inclusion advocates and social workers need to be mindful to meet people where they are – and understand that adopting a social model of disability and human rights approach requires a change of the decision-makers and people of power, which is the most challenging part to change.
The students saw how charitable and medical models of disability are easier for people leaders, educators, and others to accept because those methods require “giving” something, be it time, resources, medicines, or other support to the impacted individual to improve the outcome. In the social model of disability and human rights approach, the change needs to happen with the leaders, the teachers, the people of power. They need to examine how their thinking and current practices create systems of oppression and perpetuate the exclusion and belief that people with disabilities are somehow less than and other than the typical person.
The presentation I used to discuss these concepts regarding disability and discrimination with the students at Azusa Pacific is available for you to use. Let’s continue to openly share our knowledge and educate one another on issues of disability discrimination, implicit bias, and the importance of human rights. We need to continue discussing these issues and keep front and center to make necessary and meaningful changes in communities worldwide.
Those unfamiliar with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are strongly encouraged to visit their website at https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/
Many thanks to the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for creating free source education materials and activities to promote education and awareness of protecting all human rights.