Without knowledge and awareness of the impact of lack of social justice and the skills to combat social [in]justice, rehabilitation counselors (and other types of counselors and psychologists) will unintentionally support the status quo.Daniel Kelsey and Julie Smart (2012)
The service industry built up around disability and disabled people is vast and has a significant impact in terms of policy, practice, and the way that disabled people are defined and conceptualized. Perusing websites, descriptions of conference sessions, and topics on discussion lists reveals a discrepancy between professionals’ stated values and beliefs about disability and their service delivery practices. The delivery of services appears to focus on individual needs rather than on changing systemic practices. To make a sustainable difference in our institutions and communities, it is imperative that disability-related professionals develop their skills as influencers and change agents and attend to the environmental, structural, and system inequities.
Constantine, Hage, & Kindaichi (2007) advised:
- Become knowledgeable about the various ways oppression and social inequities can be manifested at the individual, cultural, and societal levels…
- Participate in ongoing critical reflection on issues of race, ethnicity, oppression, power, and privilege in your own life.
- Maintain an ongoing awareness of how your own positions of power or privilege might inadvertently replicate experiences of injustice and oppression…
- Develop system intervention and advocacy skills to promote social change processes within institutional settings, neighborhoods, and communities.
(Constantine, M., Hage, S., Kindaichi, M., & Bryant, R. (2007). Social justice and multicultural issues: Implications for the practice and training of counselors and counseling psychologists. Journal of Counseling & Development, 85(1), 24–29)
Read, Engage, Reflect
- Read The Disability Industrial Complex: Revolutionary Common Sense by Kathie Snow
- Watch the video Stella Young: I’m Not Your Inspiration (YouTube)
- Explore various websites and social media pages of programs outside of higher education that serve disabled people. What messages do you see about disability?
- What ways do stereotypical images of disabled people serve the work of professionals?
- In what ways do professional services perpetuate views of disability that are unhelpful?
Why Does this Matter?
Service providers who are change agents tend to:
- Promote disability as an aspect of diversity
- Seek allies to engage the campus community in resolving barriers through systemic change
- Include students in facilitating solutions to remove barriers and minimize the need for individual accommodations
- Actively seek ways to ensure that the experience of disabled students closely resembles the experience on non-disabled peers
- Focus on the design of environments to ensure planning includes diverse needs
Service providers who do not function as a change agent in their work tend to:
- Focus on providing individual services and accommodations without concern for sustainability
- Concentrate on eligibility for accommodation and services and the qualifications of the person writing the documentation
- Function as the expert voice on disability issues
- Pay little attention to design and diversity