What is Disability Wisdom?
“Disability wisdom” has a double meaning. Wisdom is a synthesis of knowledge and experience. We can build this wisdom by learning about the experiences people have living with disabilities and combining that experience base with the knowledge that research gives us.
But disability wisdom has a second meaning. The sociologist Irving Goffman described “wise” people as those who treat people with differences in the same way they would treat “ordinary” people without differences. People with disabilities want to be treated wisely–to be respected as full human beings, to be included in the full range of human pursuits and to be empowered to make their own life choices.
Disability wisdom is a way of including people with disabilities that goes beyond following legal requirements. It involves building person-to-person relationships with them and learning from their life experiences as you build a culture of inclusion together.
I am a disabled activist and a social scientist who is passionate about improving public understandings of disability. This passion was kindled when, as a college freshman, I joined the National Federation of the Blind and became aware of the many misunderstandings about disabilities that exist in our society. I discovered two important things: that most of the challenges facing people with disabilities are correctable, and that most people want to include people with disabilities, but the inclusion they want to create is often blocked by pervasive misunderstandings and stereotypes. I made it my life’s mission to find and remove the unnecessary barriers keeping people with disabilities from reaching our potential.
As I followed my passion to create inclusion, I backed it up with study and experience. In 2014, I earned a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder. While there, I researched the origins and consequences of prejudice against people with disabilities. After earning my Ph.D., I completed a fellowship at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, where I conducted focus groups and survey research to learn about the lives of people with disabilities. I also developed training activities to educate health professionals about disability culture, identity, and etiquette.
In the spring of 2016, I founded Disability Wisdom Consulting. As principal consultant, I provide trainings on disability inclusion and etiquette; social science tools that facilitate involvement of disabled people in research and development; and technical writing services, such as preparing reader-friendly summaries of research on disability topics.