Major Paper, Irene Andrade, Capitalism as a Disadvantage to the People

The recent trend and obsession over Squid Game, a Netflix original series featuring contestants who are in debt and play a series of deadly child games to win monetary prizes, has led some viewers to revisit the idea of how capitalism can affect peoples’ entire lives. For a stringent minority of people in the United States, capitalism affects them in a way where they have the privilege to attain various luxuries and some of the best living conditions, but this is not the case for the majority. An overwhelming amount of the majority in this position are historically marginalized people, who have since this country’s beginning seemed to have been disadvantaged by this economic system. Therefore, U.S. capitalism systemic profits off of and disadvantages historically marginalized identities such as people of lower socioeconomic status, people of color, and people with disabilities.

Capitalism was pervaded into the United States during its origins, and its developments have led to generations of oppression and discrimination towards people of color, lower class people, and disabled people. Capitalism is defined by the Oxford Languages Dictionary as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state”. It is a system the United States still follows today except to an even greater degree. Capitalist rhetoric has made it so that people stereotype marginalized people as people with individual problems instead of blaming the system itself. In David Braddock and Susan Parish’s chapter “An Institutional History of Disability”, they note how disabled people among other groups of people have always historically been discriminated against in the United States, “In the American colonies, and later in the United States, persons with impairments were often perceived to menace the economic well-being of the community.” (13). This early rhetoric has maintained since this time period, and has only grown since the industrialization period. You can see how these beliefs have affected groups of people today through the results of their poverty rate compared to White able-bodied people. Both Indigenous and Black people were at the highest poverty rate in 2020 (25.4% and 20.8% respectively) compared to any other racial minority and also compared to White people (10.1%), and in 2019 people with disabilities were at 25.9% poverty rate compared to the 11.4% poverty rate of people without disabilities (Poverty USA; Elflein). In 2002, authors Ravi Malhotra and Marta Russell in their article “Capitalism and Disability” stated that “In the US, 79 percent of working-age disabled adults say they would prefer to work, yet in 2000 only 30.5 percent of those with a work disability between ages sixteen and sixty-four were in the labor force and only 27.6 percent were employed” (2). Malhotra and Russell, through this quote, provoke us to think about how this may not be an individual issue as capitalist stereotypes may try to persuade, but rather a systemic one as proposed in this paper.  

Intersectionality, a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, can be used to see how disability and other marginalized identities’ experiences become “compounded” when added to other factors that implicate a person’s economic situation. For example, in The Right to Maim by author Jasbir Puar, they assert “”Hands up, don’t shoot!” is not a catchy slogan that emerges from or announces able-bodied populations. Rather, this common Black Lives Matter chant is a revolutionary call for redressing the debilitating logics of racial capitalism.” (xxiii). This quote encapsulates a challenge the Black Lives Matter movement arranged against police brutality which formed out of a historic use to protect private businesses, stop unions, and continually oppress Black people. However, it also captures an argument of the perspective of the way in which capitalism immobilizes minority groups such as Black people. It gives an intersectional scope of this systemic harm.  Additionally, in another article “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory”, author Rosemarie Garland-Thomson describes several facets of understanding feminism with an approach towards disability. Garland-Thomson describes both how one may view being a woman as disabling within a sexist society, but also describes other more intersectional consequences of capitalism, “Images of disabled fashion models are both complicit and critical of the beauty system that oppresses all women” (271). Likewise, authors Mitchell and Snyder in the introduction of “The Biopolitics of Disability” add to this argument by stating that the market and the consumers it makes out of citizens of this nation are what keep capitalism running, “Along with normalizations of racialized, sexualized, and gendered modes of being, neoliberal marketplaces produce modern formations of disability as an increasingly malleable form of deviance tamed for the good of the nation as a potential participant in the inflows and outflows of globalization.” (17). Ultimately, all intersectional identities experience compounding forms of oppression because capitalism can consume all that it wants out of each marginalized identity and in other cases it can immobilize massive groups of people. In this way, it is producing a great disadvantage to marginalized people by targeting the multiple identities they may have.

Institutions such as nursing homes and jails make money off of disabled people who “need their help” mostly justified through the medical model of disability. The medical model, coined by psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, explains how disabilities are a disadvantage to individuals and therefore must be pathologized in order to treat or cure them. Malhotra and Russell state, “disability is a socially created category derived from labor relations, a product of the exploitative economic structure of capitalist society: one which creates (and then oppresses) the so-called disabled body as one of the conditions that allow the capitalist class to accumulate wealth.” (2). Putting people into these institutions limits their agency and freedom in life, but it also limits their class mobility. Braddock and Parish recognize this issue and claim “developed nations also must confront…the continuing segregation of millions of persons with disabilities in nursing homes, institutions, and other segregated settings throughout the world” (53). A fact sheet by the Americans with Disabilities Act Participation Action Research Consortium (ADA-PARC) shows the amount of working age people with disabilities state by state that live in nursing homes, with the highest amount being 19,069 in Illinois to the lowest being 343 in Alaska. According to Frédéric Michas on Statista, the majority of nursing homes have been for-profit for the last decade, there has been a sharp increase over the years in for-profit jails, prisons, and detention centers where hundreds of thousands incarcerated and detained have disabilities, and other historic institutions like psychiatric hospitals which have also been mostly for-profit (Gotsch 9; Sarrett; Kim; Michas). These institutions have not only profited off of people’s disabilities, but have also ignored their disabilities, taken away their human rights, and have harmed them to various degrees. As author Douglas Baynton in their book Defectives in the Land notes, “Eugenic institutionalization, sterilization, marriage laws, even euthanasia were portrayed as benefiting not only the larger society but the affected individuals and their families.” (6). This adds on to how the discriminatory rhetoric discussed earlier realizes itself into harmful beliefs and actions through our society systemically.

U.S. capitalism also maintains a rigid power structure that enforces immobilizations of marginalized groups. For example, Puar theorizes that:

Debilitation as a normal consequence of laboring, as an “expected impairment”; is not a    flattening of disability; rather, this framing exposes the violence of what constitutes “a normal consequence.” The category of disability is instrumentalized by state discourses of inclusion not only to obscure forms of debility but also to actually produce debility a sustain its proliferation (xvi).

However, in our current day it is not within America itself that we see most of the debilitation through work, but rather in other countries where workers are exploited through international work trade agreements. Michael Davidson’s article “Universal Design: The Work of Disability in An Age of Globalization” supports this argument by stating “The increased presence of depression among female maquiladora workers along the Mexico/U.S. border or cancers among agricultural workers in the California Central Valley must be linked to labor and migration in export processing zones following the passage of NAFTA.” (119). Not only is it a “normal consequence” for people to become debilitated by work, but most inside and outside the U.S. are not supported if anything debilitates them outside of work. In 2019 David U. Himmelstein et al. published a study on how medical bills and illness-related work loss were two of the biggest contributors to bankruptcy for people with disabilities (432). There is also a risk of completely losing a job when someone becomes disabled, and this is also a listed argument in Malhotra and Russell’s article, “Industrial capitalism thus created not only a class of proletarians but also a new class of “disabled” who did not conform to the standard worker’s body and whose labor-power was effectively erased” (3). Persons with disabilities are in such low economic stance because they have been excluded from the work force for generations and/or exploited for low labor wages. This has only furthered their inability to gain better class mobility, get any sense of independence, or better living conditions within this system.

Sometimes, it is easy to get lost and feel so small against issues as big as the systemic oppression of American capitalism. It is hard to think of its effects on our communities, and how we can move forward when something is so ingrained in our day-to-day life. There is no immediate solution, and any activist could tell you that. However, there is a greater hope and sense of clarity when one can join with their community and fight against their daily oppressors together rather than fighting each other.  

Works Cited

Baynton, Douglas C. Introduction. Defectives in the Land: Disability and Immigration in the Age            of Eugenics. Chicago, Ill: U of Chicago, 2016. 1-10. Print.

Braddock, David & Parish, Susan. “An Institutional History of Disability.” Disability at the         Dawn of the 21st Century and the State of the States. Ed. David Braddock. Washington             D.C.: American Association on Mental Retardation. 2002, 11-54 . Print.

Davidson, Michael. “Universal Design: The Work of Disability in an Age of Globalization.” The             Disability Studies Reader, 2nd ed. Ed. Lennard Davis. New York: Routledge, 2006.          117-130.

Elflein, John. “Poverty Rate Among People With and Without Disabilities in the U.S. from 2008             to 2019.” Statista. Ströer Media. 19 Mar. 2021. Web. 23 Nov. 2021

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory.” NWSA    Journal. 14. 3 (2002): 257-271. Print.

Gotsch, Kara & Basti, Vinay. “Capitalizing on Mass Incarceration U.S. Growth in Private            Prisons.” The Sentencing Project Research and Advocacy for Reform. Web.

Himmelstein, David U et al. “Medical Bankruptcy: Still Common Despite the Affordable Care             Act.” American journal of public health vol. 109,3 (2019): 431-433.             doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304901

Hwang Dong-hyuk. Squid Game. Netflix, 2021,

Kim, Sarah. “The Forgotten: Disabled and Detained at the Border.” Forbes. 28 Jun. 2019. Web.

Malhotra, Ravi & Russell, Marta. “Capitalism and Disability.” Socialist Register. 38. (2002): 1-   11. Print.

Michas, Frédéric. “Distribution of Nursing Homes in the United States From 2003 to 2019, by     Ownership Type.” Statista. 23 Mar. 2021. Web.

Michas, Frédéric. “Number of Psychiatric Hospitals in the U.S. in 2019, by Operation Type.”       Statista. 20 Oct. 2020. Web

Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. Introduction. The Biopolitics of Disability:       Neoliberalism, Ablenationalism, and Peripheral Embodiment. Ann Arbor: U of      Michigan, 2015. 1-32. Print.

“Percent of Working-Age People with Disabilities Still Living in Nursing Homes.” Americans     with Disabilities Act Participation Action Research Consortium. Americans with          Disabilities Act National Network, Jul. 2020. Web. 23 Nov. 2021.

Puar, Jasbir K. “Preface: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Preface. The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. Durham: Duke UP, 2017. x-xxiv. Print.

Sarrett, Jennifer. “US Prisons Hold More Than 550,000 People With Intellectual Disabilities –     They Face Exploitation, Harsh Treatment.” The Conversation. 7 May. 2021. Web. “The Population of Poverty USA.” Poverty USA. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2021.

Discrimination and Disability

The direction I decided to take my major project was that of mixed media and poetry. Throughout this course, we have discussed a great deal about disability and discrimination, which I have witnessed since some of my earliest memories. Because of this, I wanted to create poetry about these different experiences. As someone who has not ever been drawn to writing poetry, I found myself enjoying expressing my experiences in such a manner. This project aims to show that no matter what kind of disability a person has or how someone came to be disabled, discrimination does not pass over anyone. Further, no matter how old you are, there is no age limit to partaking or witnessing discrimination. I was inspired by Simi Linton’s “Reassigning Meaning” work. Focusing on the “Nasty Words” portion and having these words, as well as others we’ve heard throughout this course, surround the poems. 

The Process

Going in chronological order to the discrimination towards disabled peoples that I witnessed, I wrote: “Full Grown.” As a child, I was at a local market, and we passed by a couple who both had dwarfism. My little sister, not understanding what was wrong in the situation, shouted a name at them, and the mortification I witnessed from my parents and the couple’s reaction resonated with me. This is the earliest recollection I have of experiencing discrimination towards disabled peoples. The discussion my parents had with my sister and me later about never calling people names that you would not want to be called impacted me. However, as I got older, I became aware that not all people were raised similarly.  

            In the first grade, there was a teacher that everyone would talk about, and as the school was designed in resemblance to an outlet mall, everyone saw all the teachers. In “Childish Fears,” I wrote about such a teacher whose arm did not reach past her elbow. When interacting with other children while this teacher was in view, there would always be stories about how she lost her arm and the horrible things she would do to children. This instance reminded me of this course’s discussion on viewing people with disabled bodies as monsters. Children have very imaginative minds, and when one tells a story, it often gets passed on to others. However, in this case, it turns a woman into a monster. This carried on for two years of my childhood, always confused when seeing this teacher talk to my teacher and having other students tell more rumors. However, by the end of second grade, my parents encouraged me to ask the teacher what happened, knowing these were nonsensical fears. Looking back with the knowledge I have now, once I was informed of the reality of the situation, all these fears seemed meaningless. This was simply a woman with a history, and children filled an empty story with a monster tale. 

The poem “Taken Senses” is about my third-grade teacher who had melanoma on her nose, this caused her to lose her nose, and the process was a very long one. My class was the last one she taught throughout the majority of the year for the next three years, and in turn, I got to witness one of my favorite teachers be talked about in a bad light. These students did not know her when she was healthy and always present, and due to her always being in the hospital, I heard students and parents alike complain. However, what astounded me was during parent-teacher nights, she never had any parents present to say good things, and the only students who would visit were prior students of hers. In passing, you could hear students talk about her prosthetic nose, and there would be the occasional few that asked to see underneath. At first, she would show students, but this allowance was quickly gone after seeing their reactions. This experience is something that I never genuinely analyzed until this course. The impact that having a disability can have on someone who has lived their whole life healthily. 

Growing up, I knew many people who were color blind; however, I only knew one person who was partially blind. Except in this student’s case, he did not advertise that he was, and most students thought him odd, but he could see little to nothing. “Spilled Water” is a poem about this student and the fact that he was bullied since people could not see his disability. Most of the time, Collin did not participate in group activities, but this day he did; everyone was excited, and we all were assigned our own tasks, and we all rushed to complete them. However, as the poem depicts, not all tasks were assembled perfectly. The teacher we had for this course was not the most understanding of when mistakes occurred, and when water was spilled, she lashed out at Collin. Even though Collin did not advertise that he was visually impaired, it was something that the teacher was privy to. I related this poem to that aspect of this course’s curriculum. When someone is not viewed as disabled because of their appearance, they face discrimination of a different kind as there is no accommodation. 

            The poem “Senseless Noise” is about an experience that would make anyone-knowledgeable about disabilities or not- livid. In high school, the few who lived near me rode the bus with the disabled student’s home as no other bus came to the area. One afternoon, another student brought a friend with her on the bus, and they both began to mock and antagonize the nonverbal student in a wheelchair. This went on for a minute, and then they moved their attention towards another nonverbal student, and that was the end of it after a few harsh words were said to them. This relates more to autism than it does to the disabilities that we have discussed thus far in class. However, this instance was one of the most vocal I have heard in terms of “nasty words” being said to disabled people. The mockery and scorn that these girls had towards these two students demonstrated just how much they were impacted by being around other people they viewed as abnormal.

I hereby declare on my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. 

Lauren Lemon

Word Count of write up: 1,062

Linton, Simi. “Reassigning Meaning.” Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. NYU Press, 1998, pp. 8 – 33. PDF, Accessed 11 November, 2021. 

Major Project – Alex Huber

Word count: 547

For my major project for this course, I wanted to tackle one of the texts we read this semester, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and one of its most iconic disability-aligned characters, Arthur “Boo” Radley. Throughout the novel, Arthur is portrayed as a phantom hanging over the town of Maycomb, to the point where Scout, Jem, and Dill see him as an inhuman bogeyman. This is further punctuated by the nickname he is referred to as throughout the story: Boo. However, at the end of the story, Arthur is revealed to be a normal person, just like anybody else, and his implied disability (as the nature of his disability is never explicitly named or revealed) does not change that. As part of this project, I wanted to include both depictions of Arthur and show how they mirror each other, as although he is not a monster or bogeyman the rumors and stories are a part of how the people of Maycomb perceive him, especially the children.

At the start of the novel, Scout, Jem, and Dill have never seen Arthur, and as such they can only imagine what he looks like. In the first chapter, Jem describes him as being “about six-and-a-half feet tall,” “[dining] on raw squirrels and any cats he [can] catch,” having “blood-stained” hands, with “a long jagged scar that ran across his face,” and teeth that “were yellow and rotten” (Lee 14).. While I kept this description in mind as much as I could, ultimately I decided for a more abstract approach with the two depictions of Arthur. The Arthur at the bottom of the image is the bogeyman Boo Radley, colored entirely red with the blood staining his body from the animals he supposedly eats and holding the pair of scissors he is said to have stabbed his father with. His eyes are hidden by shadow, aside from the light shining from the one eye not covered by his hair, further pushing the imagery of Boo being a monstrous figure haunting the minds of those in Maycomb.

In contrast, the Arthur at the top of the image represents the Arthur described in the final chapter of the book, when Scout properly sees him for the first time after he saves her and Jem from Bob Ewell. In this description, Scout notes how his “face [is] as white as his hands, but for a shadow on his jutting chin,” how “his cheeks [are] thin to hollowness,” and how “his gray eyes [are] so colorless [she] [thinks] he [is] blind” (Lee 310). Once again, while I kept this description in mind as much as possible with my piece, I took an abstract approach and instead colored the entire Arthur a pale grey, depicting him smiling gently at the viewer with clasped hands. This depiction of Arthur, the true Arthur, is far more gentle than legends would have one believe, and while he does ultimately kill Bob Ewell, he only does so to protect the children he considered his friends.

Arthur Radley is far from the only example of a disability-aligned character in literature with a dramatically different reality from his reputation, but he is perhaps one of the most iconic, and certainly he is one of the most memorable characters from Lee’s novel.


Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. HarperCollins, 1960.

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. Alex Huber.

Major Project – Melissa Madsen, Kelly Brown, Lisa Gisselquist, and Rebecca Visger – The Impact of Therapy

While the four members of this group project all enjoyed reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, we argue that there was more potential for this book with regards to its disability themes. The Secret Garden focuses primarily on physical disability, with three of its main characters – Mary, Colin, and Mister Craven – being disability aligned, or in the case of Mister Craven, explicitly disabled. These representations become problematic, however, as the book becomes a cure narrative for Colin, and to a lesser extent, Mary. The Secret Garden also begins to engage with mental health as well. Chapter XXVII “In the Garden” opens with the narrator discussing human discovery, and how “In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before” (Burnett). Assuming the setting of the book is contemporary with its publishing date of 1911, the narrator is referring to the discoveries of the 19th century. One of these discoveries is that “thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison” (Burnett). The book does not delve much further than this binary of “good and bad thoughts” and that good thoughts make a “healthy mind.” Burnett was limited by writing in the dawn of the mental health studies, which had only really begun in earnest just three years earlier in 1908 (Mandell). With the benefit of over 100 years’ more research into the mental health field at our disposal, we wish with this project to expand upon themes of mental health already present in The Secret Garden. Through a triad of short creative stories, we examine how the depictions of the mental states of the characters Mary, Colin, and Mister Craven, if written in the modern era in a modern setting, would differ from their original depictions.

Our creative writings are in the format of therapist’s forms and notes describing the interactions and “professional” assessments of two mental health professionals concerning the characters of Mary, Colin, and Mister Craven. This format not only reflects a more experimental approach to form more common in the 21st century than the early 20th, but also how in the 21st century mental health is a specialized field of study and practice, carried out by licensed professionals rather than a general doctor or going wholly unacknowledged. Research for these pieces was carried out on an individual basis by each author, with advice on starting points provided by Melissa’s father, CDR Clifford M. Madsen. Research mainly consisted of investigating potential diagnoses of these characters and how they may be accurately and sensitively represented and written. Melissa’s piece focuses on Mary, addressing the trauma Mary would have felt and experienced after losing both her parents and the servants who raised her to cholera that goes unacknowledged in the book. It also explores the implications to Mary’s character if she had had an adult who understood and supported her as soon as she had arrived at the manor. Kelly’s scenario focuses on the implied mental difficulties Colin experiences that, in the original novel, like his physical condition, are miraculously cured by the garden. Lisa’s work contemplates how a therapist might have reacted to Archibald if he had been able to seek out professional help rather than isolating himself after his wife’s death. (Rebecca is the author of this write-up.)

The goal of this project was not to disparage Burnett’s approach to mental health in The Secret Garden; her inclusion of mental health at all proves she kept up to date with the findings of her time. She was writing from the metaphorical cutting edge, and we wanted to revisit her characters and vision from our new edge. These creative writings reveal not only how far the field of mental health has come since 1911 through acknowledging the toll these characters’ collective life experiences would have taken on their psyches, but also that they would have benefited from more tangible help than the moor air or the secret garden could supply. In writing all that was known about at the time, Burnett revealed how much was left to be explored, and no doubt our work in the future would be viewed similarly. The format of our works and writing from therapist’s perspectives is indicative of, for better and for worse, the heavy emphasis on medicalization mental health receives in our time. Burnett’s work was progressive for her time, and maybe ours is too, but progress will keep going, and our writing will remain right where it is.


From the Office of Dr. Janice Gardner

Patient: Mary Lennox
Age: 10
Treated For: Childhood Trauma
Office: At-Home Visits
Alternate Address: Misselthwaite Manor, The Moor, England

Entry 1
I received a call from Mrs. Medlock last night. I was surprised that her focus was not on my usual patient, but on a girl who moved into the manor a few weeks ago. Apparently, Craven’s brother adopted his niece, Miss Mary Lennox, after an undisclosed event related to her previous home. While Mary’s physical condition had slightly improved since she arrived at the manor, she has developed a disagreeable disposition and a habit of acting out of line, which prompted her maid, Miss Martha Sowerby, to ask the housemistress to call me. Because of the girl’s history, Martha was afraid that the situation would deteriorate without my intervention, so Mrs. Medlock urged me to come to the manor for an introductory visit as soon as possible. I have learned to always trust the intuition of a Sowerby, so I accepted the invitation.

I arrived at the manor this morning to find a stubborn Miss Lennox sitting at the window with her arms crossed. The girl looked thin for her age, and glared at me when I walked into the room. We exchanged stilted introductions, then Mary promptly informed me that she does not want a governess. I promptly informed her that I am not a governess, but a therapist who was called to help her. Mary started to yell at both Martha and I about how she wasn’t crazy and that she didn’t need a therapist! She didn’t need help! She didn’t need anyone!

It took about ten minutes for Martha and I to calm her down. Once the dust settled, I asked Mary why she said she wasn’t crazy. She looked to Martha, who gave her an encouraging nod. Mary proceeded to tell me about what happened: how she heard someone crying in the night, how it became louder in the corridor, how Mrs. Medlock stopped her from going any further…

“I tried to ask Mrs. Medlock what was going on. I tried to tell her about the crying, but she said it wasn’t real. But there was someone crying – there was – there was!”

When I told her I believed her, Mary stared at me in shock; she hadn’t expected that answer. I proceeded to tell her who I am and what I do for a living – help people heal from or deal with mental wounds, trauma, and disorders. I reassured Mary that she can tell me as much or as little as she wants; I am only here to figure out if there is something deeper going on and help her as much as I can if that is the case. However, I made it clear that I would not pry or continue if Mary did not want my help. She looked over to Martha again, who gave her another encouraging nod. She accepted, and we agreed that I would come back to the manor in two days’ time for a proper appointment.

Judging by the minimal information I received from Mrs. Medlock and my meeting with Mary earlier today, Mary may be dealing with unresolved childhood trauma. She’s showing many of the indicators in her demanding and possessive behavior, the way she carries herself, and how she interacts with others. I will not know for certain until I talk with her at our first appointment, however, if this is the case, I may have a technique that can help her.

Entry 2
I came into Mary’s room today to find her waiting for me next to the fireplace. She still seemed hesitant, but more comfortable than before in speaking with me, so we wasted no time and immediately got to work. I started the session by asking her various questions about her life. What is her life like at the manor? Does she have any friends? What is her relationship like with Mr. Craven and the other servants?

Mary hesitated at first, but once we started talking about Martha and the gardens, her eyes lit up and her entire demeanor changed. She started talking about the manor as a positive experience so far and how her favorite activity is walking around the gardens and enjoying the moor air, something that she was not able to do back in India.

Using that answer as a segway, with her permission, I then moved on to asking questions about her past. What is her relationship with her parents? Did she previously live in India? How did she like living there? And what happened in her previous home that caused her to come to the manor?

The answer is not a pretty one. Mary used to live on her parents’ estate in India. As soon as Mary was born, Mary’s mother entrusted her care to an Ayah, an Indian nanny, who kept Mary out of her parents’ sight as much as possible and catered to her every need. However, a few months ago, most of her family’s household fell victim to an Indian strain of cholera, including her parents, her Ayah, and most of the servants. The few who survived forgot about Mary and left her alone in the estate. She was found days later by a group of officers. While she spoke of her experiences, Mary’s face shifted from impartial to fondness to discomfort to something unreadable. The rest of her body became more and more tense as her story went on. Despite her independence, her experiences have affected her more than she’s willing to admit.

Not wanting to get too deep into processing yet, I guided Mary to start talking about our plan of action. I introduced her to EMDR and how the technique allows her brain and body to process trauma by giving her eyes two moving dots to focus on while she reflects on her experience. We discussed at length what memories Mary wanted to target and in which order, and agreed that we would start with her early childhood next session.

In the meantime, I guided Mary in establishing her safe place so that she had a tool to use in between sessions to handle any annoyance or surfacing trauma brought on by the processing. I asked her to think of a place where she feels safe and, if she felt comfortable, to describe it to me. She chose a peaceful, quiet, secluded garden with tall walls made of ivy and many different flowers growing around the area, all connected via a cobblestone pathway. The rose bushes grow the tallest, almost rivaling the ancient trees that provide shelter to birds native to the moor, most prominently red-breasted robins. A wooden door is the only way in or out, and is hidden from the outside world by a wall of ivy that covers the doorway, making it blend in with the rest of the wall. Mary keeps the only key to the door on her person, allowing her to come and go whenever she pleases and unlock the door whenever she likes.

“…I can unlock the door whenever I like…”

Mary paused after that last sentence, as if she was pondering something. She put her hand in her pocket. I could see the realization slowly dawn on her face as the seconds passed. I asked her if she was alright, but she only replied with a simple yes. I decided to not push her any further, not wanting her to lose the progress she’d made so far. I asked her to think of a word that best describes this place in her mind, a word that would trigger her recollection of this place and how good she felt in this moment. Her response: garden.

Entry 3
This house continues to surprise me.

Mary has made excellent progress on processing her trauma. She has successfully processed much of her early childhood; the only events left are her abandonment following the cholera outbreak and her journey to the manor. It has not been an easy road, however. Mary has grown comfortable enough to let me see her most vulnerable side. In our last session alone, she expressed how she felt betrayed by the servants who left her, how she felt angry at her parents for not spending time with her, how she felt so alone in the hut after everyone had left with only a snake to keep her company. Some sessions have ended with warm feelings and closure; others have ended in tears and fluffy blankets. I was informed that this same effect has spread into the rest of Mary’s life; some days she feels joyful while others she just wants to curl up on her bed and cry. Mary has been utilizing her calm place in those moments to help her, and I can see the positive effects of our treatment finally shining through.

Mary and Martha have become close friends over the past few weeks. Mary has become comfortable with Martha helping her through her troubles; sometimes she specifically calls for Martha to be in the room during our session so she can provide moral support. I am also told that Mary has made friends with one of the gardeners and Martha’s brother, Dickon. This is wonderful news; Mary finally has a stable social circle!

At the same time, Mary’s physique has also greatly improved since I first met her. She spends every day she can out in the gardens, building her strength and developing a healthy appetite. She now has so much energy that her positive attitude almost becomes infectious. In our last session, she proudly informed me that she can now do one hundred skips and is aiming for two hundred.

Mary’s vast improvement is wonderful, of course, but it makes me wonder – what exactly is happening in that garden? If there is some sort of secret trick to all of this, Mary is certainly benefitting from these positive effects. And if Mary has shown this much improvement in so little time, is it possible for her to inspire another to do the same?

…I should introduce her to Colin.


From the Office of Dr. Janice Gardner

Patient Name: Colin Craven
Age: 10
Treated For: Conversion Disorder
Office: At-Home Visits
Alt. Address: Misselthwaite Manor, The Moor, England

Entry 1
Progress with the patient has been, regrettably, extremely lackluster. Colin is a bright young boy, but he refuses to even consider what he is capable of because of his mental disability. It truly holds him back, in more ways than one. He claims he will not live to adulthood, and worse, that everyone would be happier if he died. Time and time again I have encouraged him to rethink his fatalistic mindset, but to no avail. Colin simply sees no reason to improve, and should this behavior go on, I will have to end our sessions indefinitely. It would absolutely break my heart, but Craven needs to understand that I can only do so much for an unwilling client.

When I compare Colin’s treatment, or lack thereof, to that of Miss Mary Lennox, I notice a striking amount of similarities between the two. Both have extensive trauma that originates from the hostile environment they were raised in, but unlike Colin, Mary has gradually learned how to open up about what she went through. Colin has not yet found a sense of trust in me, because in his eyes, I am just another adult he can give orders to. That is why I wholeheartedly believe Mary, a child his age, can help. Normally I would never ask patients to get involved in cases besides their own, but I will make an exception, seeing as Colin and Mary live under the same roof. I have no doubt that, if nothing else, they are at least acquainted with one another. I plan to ask Mary for her assistance during our next meeting, and if she takes interest, I will lead her to Colin’s room. From there I will decide whether or not to continue holding group sessions based on how responsive Colin is, but let it be known that this is my last resort. In terms of outcome, I expect the worst, but hope for the best.

Entry 2
Prior to today’s meeting, I have kept my assumptions on the Misselthwaite staff to a minimum. How they interact with Colin, and therefore Mary, is entirely their call, and I am in no position to criticize or reprimand them. Despite that, had I known they were withholding Colin’s very existence from Mary, I would have intervened sooner. No matter how unbearable he is, Colin still deserves respect from the servants. It is unfair, and frankly insulting, to not give him the decency of acknowledgement. Hence why, upon seeing Mary’s confused expression, I realized she’d never heard his name before. I knew what needed to be done from there.

When the two children made eye contact for the first time, they were speechless. Quite literally, in fact: for a good while they just gazed at one another, in complete and utter silence. Finally, Mrs. Medlock broke the tension, asking what I had brought Mary here for. I explained to her what I had planned, and although reluctant, she conceded and left the room. We began with introductions and small talk, and once those fell flat, I prompted Mary to tell Colin about her calm place. That piqued his curiosity, but when he asked if he could visit, his smile faded. “Never mind.” He uttered solemnly. In all my time knowing Colin, never before had he seemed so excited to do anything besides wallow in lament. It was as though listening to Mary helped him forget about his disability, if only briefly. Our session ended shortly after, but not before Colin asked Mary to come back later without me. I can only imagine he wants to hear more about the garden.

Overall, I would call this experiment a success, but that does not excuse the circumstances surrounding it. It is no wonder Colin feels like a burden when everyone in Misselthwaite treats him as such, and the next time I see Craven, I intend to give him a piece of my mind.

Entry 3
Approximately three weeks have passed since I implemented group sessions, and the patient is showing various signs of growth. For starters, we moved our meeting location from his bedroom to the main corridor, and he no longer needs Martha’s help walking between rooms. Colin also has grown closer with Mary, as supposedly he does not “summon” her like he does with the servants. I have reason to believe she is his first real friend, and that is something the grown-ups in his life could never be.

Colin’s bond with Mary seems to have affected his trust in me, for I am the one who brought the two together. He is now a lot more honest during our one-on-one visits, and just recently he began opening up about his late mother. Because it is a very serious topic, I have sworn to keep everything confidential, and Colin may stop at any point if he starts feeling uncomfortable or upset. From what he has told me so far, his mother died shortly after giving birth to him. His father, Craven’s brother, never truly recovered from it, and has been neglecting Colin ever since. “I look too much like her…” Colin said, and did not elaborate any further.

The fact that Colin now feels safe enough to confide in both myself and Mary is a step in the right direction, and at the rate we are currently, I expect he will continue improving.

Entry 4
This will be my last entry for the time being, but that is not necessarily bad. Just the opposite: Colin is finally understanding how much potential he has. Of course, none of this could’ve happened without Mary; she has comforted him beyond our group meetings, and even introduced him to Dickon. I am very grateful to her, as well as Martha, who eventually realized how crudely the servants of Misselthwaite were treating Colin. “What do you suggest we do when Colin is upset?” She privately asked me after a visit. My advice was to not get frustrated: “Give him space to breathe, help him feel better once he calms down, and let him vent out any lingering emotions rather than bottling them up.” She shared my advice with the rest of the household, and by the time I returned for my next session, the hostility of the environment seemed to have declined. As for Colin’s health, he is no longer a pale and sickly boy who hates being looked at. He has managed to step outside the manor at least once or twice, and I think spending time outdoors will do him some good, like it did with Mary. He will likely need more time to learn how to properly walk, but I have recommended a physical therapist for him to try in the meantime.
Colin and I will be meeting on a less frequent basis from this point onward, but I still intend to check up on him at least once a month. Recovery does not happen overnight; for some people it can take years to properly heal, as is the case with Colin’s father. Still, Colin has come a long way since we first met, and I could not be prouder.

…Speaking of Colin’s father, Craven told me his brother is seeing a therapist of his own.


Year: 2021
Patient: Archibald Craven
Treated for: Depression
Psychiatrist: Dr. Peggy Blackwood

I met with Archibald Craven again today. Since his brother recommended him to me for treatment a year ago, we have not made much progress. He continues to struggle with depressive episodes, often leaving home for months on end to escape the reminders of his dead wife and his sick son. Any mention of his son or the garden is likely to trigger a new episode. He has been largely resistant to any attempts to relieve his depression.

During our session today, a strange event occurred. The appointment began as normal. He has been in one of the deepest depressive episodes I have ever seen him in for the last week. Dr. Craven contacted me, concerned for his brother’s safety, and we scheduled this emergency appointment. Archibald was very despondent and barely receptive to talking with me or to my suggestions.
With forward progress halted, I changed techniques and started him on a processing treatment called EMDR. It is typically used with PTSD patients to help them deal with their trauma, but I chose to try it with Archibald since normal methods and medications weren’t working. The goal of the exercise was to keep his eyes occupied with something visual on a screen while his mind had a chance to wander and process ­­the trauma of his wife’s death and the worry for his son’s survival in the ensuing months. I instructed him to pick a particular event to focus on.

At the beginning, he was resistant, as he is to most treatments. Then, he almost seemed to be drawn into the process, his eyes focusing on the two dots bouncing around on the screen as his mind wandered. I heard him mumble something about “a bubbling brook” as his face started to soften slightly. It wasn’t a smile, but it was as close to one as I had ever seen. His shoulders relaxed almost imperceptibly. As our session ended, I tried to ask him about the experience, but he just gave me a sad, half-smile and left the room.
I notified my assistant to schedule another appointment soon. Though Archibald was difficult to pin down with all his travels, I didn’t want this development to be in vain.

Since the breakthrough two months ago, Archibald has continued to progress, with only small setbacks. He has begun attempting the various exercises I put before him. His mental health has started to improve at a slow pace but a still moving pace. He has even begun to contemplate returning home, which is unusual. The last time he returned home, it was only because his brother needed him for a few days and Archibald left as soon as he could. He also admitted that he has stopped seeing his wife as often in every window and face that he sees.

As our session started, I started him on EMDR again. This time, his face started out gentle. After a few minutes, his head started to tilt to one side as if he was listening to a faint voice.

Suddenly, he sprang to his feet.

“Lilias! Where are you?”

Naturally, I was concerned. Hearing voices is a step in the wrong direction. This was a setback rather than the improvement I had been hoping for. Then again, he had never mentioned his wife’s name. He stood there listening for several long moments before speaking again. I waited, not wanting to interrupt his trance-like state lest I injure him. He appeared as one sleepwalking.

“In the garden! But the door is locked and the key is buried deep.”

Perhaps this was a good event after all. He had never mentioned the garden before. I only knew about it from Dr. Craven. Archibald appeared to recover from his dreamlike state and looked around, startled to see where he was. He quickly picked up his briefcase and began searching through it. Pulling out a piece of paper, he read it before returning it to its previous resting place. He grabbed his coat and briefcase, told me farewell, and left.

I must remember to follow up with Dr. Craven shortly. Leaving Archibald alone in such a vulnerable state was unadvisable.

I received the shock of my lifetime today. Since our last visit, I had not seen or heard from Archibald Craven. Dr. Craven had alerted me not to be concerned, but I was still apprehensive about Archibald’s mental state. I had reached out to him on multiple occasions but there was no response.

Today, he walked through the door, as tall as I have ever seen him stand with one arm wrapped around a girl and one around a boy. The boy looked too much like his father for me not to make the connection. However, the boy was healthy. I had been told that he was in imminent danger of death.

A smile burst from Archibald’s face as he shook my hand and thanked me for everything I had done. He flooded me with information about the miraculous recovery of his boy and the wonderful garden. He promised to return in the short future to check in. I watched in a daze as he left with his small family.

I would follow up with him shortly. This recovery was impressive, but I knew that only careful work over the next couple of months and years would ensure its permanence. I would also have to check out this magical garden. If it had cured all three of them, perhaps it could help others.

Works Cited

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. Project Gutenberg, 1994,, Accessed 16 Nov 2021.

CDR Clifford M. Madsen USN MC Sports Medicine Physician. Personal Interview. 4 Nov. 2021.

“Conversion Disorder: What Causes It and How Is It Treated?” WebMD, Accessed 15 Nov. 2021.

Dr. Mandell. “Origins Of Mental Health | Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health, 1995,

Dr. Amira Niori. Personal Interview. 12 Nov. 2021.


Word Count: 4620

We hereby declare upon our word of honor that we have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.
-Melissa Madsen, Kelly Brown, Lisa Gisselquist, Rebecca Visger

Katy Rose Price’s Major Paper

Racialized Notions of Ability in Special Education

Race and disability are assumed to be fixed and relatively obvious but rather are categories that are socially constructed and constantly contested and redefined. Historically, both have operated to define, oppress, and segregate. In 1972, legislation was introduced to Congress regarding the education of children with disabilities and in 1975, Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, then called The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. The passage of this act, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guaranteed students with disabilities a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment (Ferri and Connor 454). Despite this, many students with disabilities are placed in educational settings that distance them from their non-disabled peers. This is further confounded by the overrepresentation of minority students in special education, with Black students being overrepresented in nine of thirteen disability categories. Furthermore, Black students are more likely than their white peers to be placed in exceedingly restrictive and exclusionary education settings (Ferri and Connor 454). In education as a whole, but particularly the field of “special” education, which has frequently been recognized as a multifaceted and fraught area, race and class influences can significantly shape students’ experiences (Gillborn). Special education allows the larger educational system and broader society to function in the ways they do, in addition to upholding and reinforcing the social and cultural norms of said society. Special education has traditionally escaped critical scrutiny because it is understood to be synonymous with “benevolent humanitarianism” (Tomlinson, 2014: 16)—one that conceals and normalizes practices that impact different social groups in dissimilar ways. In this paper, I argue that, since the establishment of special education, the discourses of ableism and racism have become conflated with one another, thereby permitting forms of racial segregation under the façade of “disability.”

Until the implementation of IDEA in the mid-1970s, many students with disabilities were barred from any education based on the discretion of schools that could claim an inability to accommodate such students (Ferri and Connor 457). Prior to this, the first half of the 20th century saw the increasing number of separate facilities for children deemed as “slow” or “r*******,” with it being no coincidence that the U.S. eugenics movement was occurring simultaneously (Ferri and Connor 457). During the 1950s, there was a marked rise in standardized testing that operated to help institute a set of inflexible norms surrounding academic ability based largely on white, middle-class American understandings, expectations, and principles. This designated students as “normal” or “average,” while those who deviated from those labels were separated (Ferri and Connor, 457). Furthermore, the process of labeling students progressively increased during the 1960s with the advent of the term learning disability (LD), as well as the escalation of the usage of the term emotional disturbance (ED) in the field of education (Ferri and Connor 458). According to Christine Sleeter (2010), the category “learning disabilities” arose as a calculated move to shelter the children of white middle-class families from possible downward mobility through poor school achievement. In this way, this category can be seen as part of overt attempts to protect the scholastic privilege of white middle-class America who were unable to meet boosted academic expectancies of post-Sputnik era curriculum alteration. Additionally, this allowed families of white, middle-class children an alternate and less stigmatizing avenue to justify their children’s difficulties and to gain access to special services (Ferri and Connor 458).

Throughout history, the perception of disability continues to be elucidated as the “natural site of abnormality and fearsome difference—the ‘abject’” (Erevelles 83). Many scholars and theorists have traditionally thought of disability as a biological category, one that is founded in the “medical language of symptoms and diagnostic categories” (Linton 8). However, disability studies scholars have imagined disability as a socially constructed category, one that “derives meaning and social (in)significance from the historical, cultural, political, and economic structures that frame social life” (Erevelles 85). The social model of disability also considers that even the most marked so-called “impairments” only become disabling when encountered with socially constructed problems and postulations (Gillborn). As such, disability brings to light the intricacies and assumptions that are intertwined in our social hierarchy and social categories—thus, lending to the idea that disability “can be theorized as constitutive of most social differences, including race” (Erevelles 85). Implicit in the construction of disability is the compulsory able-bodiedness that asserts that what is both desirable and moral is essentially heteronormative and non-disabled (McRuer 2). As Erevelles argues, “In these contexts disability is required to be simultaneously hypervisible and yet invisible in the medicolegal measurement of social and moral worth, serving as the yardstick that resurrects social difference only to hasten its instantaneous disappearance” (82). Thusly, compulsory able-bodiedness is often employed to separate conventional society from those who are considered threatening outcasts (Erevelles, 89).

In conjunction with compulsory able-bodiedness, it is necessary to understand the implications of Foucault’s theory of bio-power. Bio-power is thought of as the “explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations” (Erevelles 84). One of these techniques is the use of the medical model of disability to vindicate the continued segregation and removal of disabled people to alternative schools, special education classrooms, and segregated residential institutions (Erevelles 84). This exemplifies how disabled people are constructed to be unworthy, undesirable, and needing to be removed from the gaze of society. The construction of inferiority and mental deficiency contains entrenched and entangled histories of ableism and racism that function to place Black and minority students in segregated special education classrooms, as they are perceived as dangers to the “normal” practices of schooling and to the general education population (Erevelles 92).

In order to fully comprehend the confluence of race and disability in special education, first one must consider the status of both race and disability as socially constructed concepts by a society that values and aggrandizes whiteness. As Erevelles argues, “both disability/impairment and race are neither merely biological nor wholly discursive but rather are historical materialist constructs imbricated within the exploitative conditions of transnational capitalism” (87). This elucidates the concept that race and disability should be understood principally as interactive social constructs, not distinct biological markers as they are often thought to be. The U.S. rhetoric of race and disability are intertwined and interdependent and are employed to validate both exclusion and marginalization (Ferri and Connor 455).

When looking at the U.S. educational system, perhaps the most infamous ruling is Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), determining that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional. Brown paved the way for the passage of IDEA in 1975, establishing legal precedence and many of the same principles seen in IDEA. However, this ruling was implemented in a society “with a dominant ideology that racializes notions of ability and merit” (Ferri and Connor 455). As such, systems of power that rely on the maintenance of said dominant ideology shifted divisions of students based on racial “difference” to divisions according to “disability,” as it became more accepted. Disability has become a more socially accepted, perhaps even normalized, sort of marginalization of students of color. While IDEA requires that students be placed in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE), this can often not be the case. Though IDEA has been greatly successful in affording students with disabilities access to public and free education, many students, especially students of color, have been placed in more, rather than less, restrictive placements. As a result, some have called LRE a “loophole” that has aided in the establishment of two largely separate and unequal education systems—general education and special education (Ferri and Connor 456). There are disproportionate numbers of students of color, particularly Black and Latinx, who are identified as disabled and placed in highly segregated settings. For example, Black males are more than twice as likely as their white peers to be labeled mentally disabled in thirty-eight states, emotionally disturbed in twenty-nine states, and learning disabled in eight states (Parrish). When given these three labels, students of color are more likely to be removed from general education classrooms (Ferri and Connor 458). Parrish determined that white students generally are “only placed in more restrictive self-contained classes when they need intensive services. Students of color, however, may be more likely to be placed in the restrictive settings whether they require intensive services or not” (26). Furthermore, research suggests that the amount of time a disabled student is placed in their general education classroom is highly correlated to their race (Ferri and Connor 459). Above all, this exemplifies how intensely racialized notions of ability are engrained in our culture and society. They are so deeply entrenched that the segregation of disabled students has also meant segregating students of color. The label of “disabled” was and is employed to resegregate classrooms along class and race lines after the passage of Brown.

In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, advocates for disability rights began to lobby harder for more inclusive placements for all students with disabilities (Ferris and Connor 460). Their efforts resulted in the reauthorization of IDEA in 1997 to what it is today. They further argued that exclusionary schooling practices are indicative of larger societal patterns that continue to struggle against the increased inclusion of people with disabilities in schools and society (Ferris and Connor 460). The public reaction to inclusion for people and students with disabilities was somewhat similar to the reaction to school desegregation, as it was met with strong opposition. For instance, Albert Shanker, the former president of the American Federation of Teachers, declared that inclusion was “a recipe for educational disaster” (Ferris and Connor 460). As a result of pushback to inclusion in school and the widespread belief that implementing inclusion in schools across the country would be unwise, it was argued that a more gradual approach was required. This argument failed to take into account that twenty years had elapsed between the passage of IDEA and any serious attempts to facilitate full inclusion of students with disabilities (Ferris and Connor 466). The approach of gradualism, the same approach taken with racial integration in schools, has been shown, both with inclusion and integration, as possibly being more damaging in the long run, as they result in backlash, resegregation, and little to no real progress. The decision to proceed gradually with inclusion shows the lack of commitment to it and the little value placed on students with disabilities, as many school districts continue to exhibit apathy towards students with disabilities in general education classrooms (Ferri and Connor 467).

Special education, despite being created to meet the needs of diverse learners, has been used to produce and perpetuate the marginalization of individuals founded on the interrelated discourses of race and ability. Individuals who have been deemed undesirable as a function of their race or disability or confluence of both have been designated as the “abject,” as the “other.” These designations are maintained by the dominant groups or ideologies in our larger society which are at least white, able-bodied, heterosexual, and middle to upper class. The dominant group retains and establishes its power over disabled people and people of color (who are outside of the dominant group) by labeling them as unambiguously inferior. These perceptions are deeply entrenched in oppressive legislation, educational practices, and practically every system that has been built for and by the dominant group. Schools uphold and reinforce these dominant beliefs and, as such, are instances of racism and ableism in practice.

As is always the question: where can we go from here? Ferri and Connor conclude that “until the population becomes committed to sharing power on a more equal basis, true diversity within our democracy can only remain an ideal out of reach” (471). While this may be true, there are practices and strategies that can be implemented to help students already in the educational system and those that will enter before we have reached substantial change. Due to the conflation of disability with race and class indicators, some disability studies scholars question the practice of labeling students at all. They argue that it is not necessary to deliver remedial instructional services in segregated settings. In place of these harmful practices, they promote inclusive education that is grounded in constructivist and differentiated instruction, as well as universal design (Reid and Knight 21). In creating an educational system that values and respects each and every one of its students, we must commit to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and a better future for people with disabilities.

Works Cited

Blanchett, Wanda J. “Disproportionate Representation of African American Students in Special Education: Acknowledging the Role of White Privilege and Racism.” Educational Researcher, vol. 35, no. 6, 2006, pp. 24–28. Crossref, doi:10.3102/0013189×035006024.

Erevelles, Nirmala. “Crippin’ Jim Crow: Disability, Dis-Location, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada, edited by Liat Ben-Moshe et al., 2014th ed., Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 81–99.

Ferri, Beth A., and David J. Connor. “Tools of Exclusion: Race, Disability, and (Re)Segregation Education.” Teachers College Record, vo. 107, no. 3, 2005, pp. 453-74, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9620.2005.00483.x.

Gillborn, David. “Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, and the Primacy of Racism.” Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 21, no. 3, 2015, pp. 277–87. Crossref, doi:10.1177/1077800414557827.

Linton, Simi. (1998). Claiming Disability. New York: New York University Press.

McRuer, Robert. 2006. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: New York University Press.

Parrish, Thomas. (2002). “Racial Disparities in the Identification, Funding, and Provision of Special Education.” In D.J. Losen & G. Orfield (Eds.), Racial Inequality in Special Education (pp. 15-37). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Reid, D. Kim, and Michelle G. Knight. “Disability Justifies Exclusion of Minority Students: A Critical History Grounded in Disability Studies.” Educational Researcher, vol. 35, no. 6, 2006, pp. 18–23. Crossref, doi:10.3102/0013189×035006018.

Sleeter, Christine. “Why Is There Learning Disabilities? A Critical Analysis of the Birth of the Field in Its Social Context.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 2, 2010. Crossref, doi:10.18061/dsq.v30i2.1261.

 Tomlinson, Sally. The Politics of Race, Class and Special Education: The Selected Works of Sally Tomlinson (World Library of Educationalists). 1st ed., Routledge, 2014.

Word Count: 2088

On my word of honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized help on this assignment.

Emily Malone’s Major Project

Transcript from art piece:

My heart was absolutely pounding behind those double doors into the chapel. What am I saying, it’s still pounding even now, but that anticipation before I took those steps down the aisle, unforgettable. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years, ever since I met him. Well, even when I was a kid I used to dream of my wedding day, the way most little girls do. The fancy dress, the bridal chorus, all that attention from your closest friends and relatives. It always seemed like a dream. 

The approach of my wedding did lead to some odd comments. Mainly about my appearance, which in what world is that appropriate? I’m sure people don’t even realize how rude they are being when they ask things like that. Most of the questions were along the lines of, aren’t I disappointed that I’ll need to carry my walker, do I think it will take away from the beautiful dress, didn’t I wish I had gotten those surgeries so I could stand up straight up on the altar1? They act like it’s a tragedy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, maybe I don’t walk the way everyone else does. I’m slow, and some people may say I wobble, but it’s my way of walking. My movements are simply my own2. My walker doesn’t take away from my beauty, it adds to it. And I get to hear the wedding song play a little longer which is obviously a plus. 

I look around at all the people looking at me. Every face I know so well, watching me make these important steps. I can barely look up at my soon to be husband. I know he’s crying, which I know will make me cry. We are both so emotional when it comes to this stuff, which is just one of the reasons why I love him. This is his first time seeing me in this dress. I picked it out with my mother months ago after visiting every shop in every town nearby. It’s perfect. It took longer than I would have liked for them to finish the alterations to ensure the perfect fit to my body, but in the end it was worth it. When I reach him, finally, and am standing across from him in front of the most important people in my life, I can’t help feeling lucky. In this moment, in this spot, in this dress, I feel entirely me. I feel at home, and I wouldn’t change a thing. 


1. Reference to Sheila Blacks poem “What You Mourn” 

2. Final line from Jennifer Bartlett’s poem “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY”

Write Up (613 words): 

Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” discusses the feelings of a disabled woman whose body was surgically altered when she was young to straighten her body. The speaker mentions how a doctor told her “now you will walk/ straight on your wedding day”(Black, 3/4). This really stood out to me, and inspired my idea for my project. In response to this poem, I created a painting of a disabled woman on her wedding day accompanied by a short point of view writing of how she feels on this day using language from the poems we read in class, including “What You Mourn” and “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY” by Jennifer Bartlett. 

For my painting, I chose to paint a bride using a walker on an abstract background. I did this because I wanted the focus to be on the woman and her thoughts, and to show that she is deep in thought in this moment. When I first started this project, I spent a lot of time determining how I wanted to draw her. I wanted it to be clear she had a disability, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I should do that. I remembered what Kenny Fries said when I saw him speak. He told a story about how he modeled for a drawing, but was told that the final project didn’t make it clear he had a disability despite him thinking it looked exactly like him. The person judging the art piece had an idea of what a disabled body should look like, so the person wasn’t able to see the image for what it was. I looked up photos of disabled women who used walkers on their wedding day, and used these images for inspiration. Many of them looked like any other bride, just with a walker in front of them, which was usually decorated and had the bouquet attached. The final image I created was of a woman using a walker as she walked down the aisle to go along with the moment she is thinking about in the written portion.

For the point of view writing, I had a few more decisions to make. As someone who doesn’t have a physical disability, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting words into the mouth of my character. Instead, I tried to pull language and themes from some of our poets from this semester that described their movements and the way they felt about their body and disability. The poems I mainly pulled from were Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” and “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY” by Jennifer Bartlett. I also didn’t want to focus entirely on her disability because a criticism of the poems seemed to be on others’ focus on aesthetics despite the speaker’s personal feelings. I also didn’t think her disability would be the only thing she would be thinking about on her wedding day. I wanted the focus to be on the happiness she felt in the moment and how good she felt in her body, in contrast to how the speaker in “What You Mourn” described how she felt in her body. I also wanted to make a reference to the comment the doctor made in this poem to point out the way people seemed to care more about her appearance than the way the speaker felt.   

My goals for this project was to respond the Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” and portray a happy disabled woman on her wedding day. Because the poem talks about people focusing on her appearance while disregarding how she felt, I wanted to both include a visual photo and a written portion of how my character was feeling. 


Black, Sheila. “What You Mourn.” dis/lit fall 2021, Accessed 2021..

Bartlett, Jennifer. “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY.” dis/lit fall 2021, Accessed 2021.

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. – Emily Malone

Tabitha Robinson’s final project write-up and video

Major project write-up

Revealing the Son: Disability as Narrative Prosthesis in the Gospel of John

For my major project, I chose to research disability in the Bible. After reading a great chapter by Anna Rebecca Solevag in her book Negotiating the Disabled Body, called “John and the Symbolic Significance of Disability,” I narrowed my focus down to the gospel of John. I chose John because there were only three instances of disability found in the book, but they all demonstrated the same point—that the purpose of disability is to be healed, showing Jesus’ power as God’s son. I did some research into the ancient world for context, which actually tied into another class I’m taking, Greek and Roman Religion. I applied the things I learned in that class about ancient views on disability and healing. I found that the ancient view of disability was rather complex. On one hand, babies born with some kind of disability might be seen as a bad omen; on the other hand, soldiers who were disabled in battle might be treated with glory. As I researched, I realized that the stories in John don’t strictly reflect either of those views, although there are aspects of the first. Instead, disability is something to be used by Jesus to prove his divinity.

I was originally going to write a research paper, but as I started to compile information, I thought visual aids would be helpful. I decided to create a PowerPoint and write a script for my presentation. I’ve made presentations this way in online classes and found it to be a flexible format—it feels like a traditional in-class presentation, but it’s a recording. (There’s less pressure on me as the presenter, and the audience can watch it anytime or however they want.) The PowerPoint turned out to be a good idea. When talking about the ancient world, it’s hard to visualize sometimes what is happening. I found examples of ancient art, statues, pictures of archaeological sites, and artistic renderings in my presentation. I also like using PowerPoint to emphasize important points and allow the audience to read important quotes for themselves.

I tied my project into our class material in a few different ways. First, I reached beyond the material of the class and used other works by authors we’ve read. Using Mitchell and Snyder’s Narrative Prosthesis, I defined the concept of “narrative prosthesis” and connected it to what’s happening in John. I used examples from our readings to help define narrative prosthesis, connecting it to “Cathedral” by Carver, Garland-Thompson’s writings on Freakery, and Weise’s “Nondisabled Demands.” I used Braddock and Parish’s “An Institutional History of Disability” to explain views of disability in the ancient world. That piece proved extremely helpful in my research, and I used it in my project quite a bit, expanding on their ideas to fit my topic. The topic I chose also fits into several of the larger themes we’ve explored in this class, such as the history of disability, how religious views affect disability, the representation of disabled characters in literature, and how to know if representation in a text is progressive or not.

I hereby pledge upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.        Tabitha Robinson

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Major Project video