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The Discourse of Disability in Communication Education

Narrative-Based Research for Social Change

Edited By Ahmet Atay and Mary Z. Ashlock

This book examines the ways in which communicative practices influence the lives of students and faculty with disabilities in higher education. Offering their own experiences as teachers and students, the authors use qualitative research methods, mainly narrative and autoethnography, to highlight the intersections among communication, disability, diversity, and critical communication pedagogy. While embodying and emphasizing these connections, each chapter defines the notion of disability from a different point of view; summarizes the relevant literature; provides suggestions for different ways of improving the experiences of people with disabilities in higher education; promotes social change; and in some cases, promotes policy change. Overall, the volume promotes more effective, mindful, honest, and caring interaction between able-bodied and disabled individuals.
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Chapter Five: Walk in Our Shoes: Bridging the Cultural Abyss


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Walk IN Our Shoes

Bridging the Cultural Abyss


The title of this chapter came from an old Native American proverb: “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” As a disabled student (I am legally blind) I have experienced many of society’s norms over the years (i.e., blind people cannot function in society, they should be taken care of; or “poor blind person”; and even “shhhh don’t talk/ask him anything”). In many cases, I felt I was draped in Harry Potter’s invisible cloak, surrounded by a crowd but not seen. As I walked with my cane one day I heard a little girl exclaim, “Daddy, Daddy, is that man metal detectin?” Before I could explain I use the cane to see, her dad whisked her off, shushing her, telling her it was not polite to say those things. From a person with a disability’s point of view, most of the members of the disabled community would prefer people to ask. It gives us an opportunity to explain how we function in an abled world. I have had wonderful teaching moments in the checkout line at a store when the parents are trapped and cannot run away and their inquisitive children ask about my cane. I love the chance to explain my disability and when I have time I try to talk about others as well. This project, “Walk...

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