article called “I
Won’t Pretend That Disability Simulation Works” struck a nerve;
but I didn't really want to confront it. You see, I have led disability
simulations and have believed them to be effective, so this article put me in
the position of needing to reflect and potentially rethink my practice.
And that’s a good thing.
I have written often about the importance
of reflection in improving our inclusive practice. It would be hypocritical
if this didn’t apply to me, too.
Emily writes, “Herein
lies the problem with disability simulation. It may make a person more aware of
another person’s experiences, but it doesn’t dig deep to the root of
discrimination against people with minority identities. Instead, it’s more
likely to evoke empathy or pity than true acceptance.”
I have written a lesson
for teens that engages them in multiple, short simulation activities followed
by discussions of the experience grounded in Jewish text. We have run this
program for the past few years, and each time it has led to insightful
conversations and an opportunity for one or more of our teens with disabilities
to share their own experiences. I have believed it to be a powerful and
significant learning experience for our students.
But Emily’s post has me
wondering what long-term impact such a program has, if any.She argues, “You can be “aware” of me all you
want. You can attempt to roll a mile in my wheelchair. You can analyze and
discuss and dissect the experience from a million different angles. But we must
move away from equating empathy with acceptance. We must embrace differences as
a fact of human existence without first needing to imitate them, for these
kinds of activities are not effectively contributing to long-term advancements
in the disability rights movement.”