Beyond Awareness: Disability Awareness That Matters Podcast
Selecting Books for Your Beyond Awareness Classroom Library
Diana Pastora Carson, M.Ed.
Welcome to the Beyond Awareness: Disability Awareness That Matters podcast. Here, you will find a safe space to learn and grow with leaders in education, Disability Studies, disability advocacy, and diversity, equity and inclusion conversations. Specifically, we look at how disability fits into diversity, equity and inclusion, and how to frame disability awareness. In the context of educating K through 12 communities, this podcast serves educators, parents, and community members who strive to learn and or teach about disability in a research-based and respectful way. Moving beyond simple awareness and diving into inclusive and socially responsive conversations. Thank you for joining us today. Now let's go Beyond Awareness.
Do you have a burning desire to have a more equitable and inclusive school culture?
Are you a person who understands the importance of Diversity Equity & Inclusion work in schools, but when it comes to disability, you want to make sure you know what you’re talking about!
Maybe you’re a special education teacher, or a general education teacher, or an administrator, and you may know a lot about disabilities, but not necessarily about the experience of being disabled by society. You’re interested in disability awareness that will actually make a difference, but you feel stuck.
You’re still experiencing
* Lack of guidance and lack of research-based disability awareness materials and strategies
* There is still segregation on your campus, and a lack of belonging for all students. So diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a priority.
* You feel frustrated due to district resistance to inclusion
* And you’re afraid that you are not qualified to lead the charge for disability inclusion in your DEI work
* You know there’s got to be a better way, but you aren’t sure what it is.
If this is you, then I invite you to take advantage of my free resource called “The 5 Keys to Going Beyond Awareness.” All you have to do is go to GoBeyondAwareness.com/keys and I’ll send you my important tips for starting your journey toward a more inclusive school.
School Bell Rings
As you are hopefully recovering and feeling refreshed from last year’s teaching journey, I know many of my listeners on summer break will soon have to pivot back to their professional realms of planning, organizing, creating, teaching, coaching, and so much more, while at the same time, preparing your families for this transition back into your work and school realities. I know that many of my colleagues and friends are already posting lots of exciting pictures on social media of their first days back at school.
In the last episode, I shared my thoughts on getting ready for back to school in terms of self-reflection and evaluating our own perceptions of disability, and what the impact of our own mindset is on our students and our learning communities. As educators, we are the ultimate influencers, and so our mindset matters when it comes to going beyond awareness, and promoting disability awareness that actually makes a positive difference. If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, you’ll want to go back and listen to it.
For today, I’m going to cover the topic of how to screen or select books to promote positive disability awareness that aligns with a Disability Studies in Education framework. I’ll also list the titles of some of my favorite books that meet these criteria in today’s show notes.
Now, if you’re stressing out already, and thinking oh my gosh, I have so many books, I’ve spent so much money on books, or some of my favorite books are probably not going to make the cut, and I’m not sure I want to know, I hear you! Most likely, especially if you’re a newer teacher with newer books from big publishing companies, you should be ok for the most part. But if you have independently written and published books, or older books in your classroom library, you definitely should be checking to ensure that you’re sending the messages you really want your students to receive. Sometimes, we do need to be brave, if we want to be the change we wish to see in the world. Right?
We know that books are powerful tools that inspire literacy, as well as reaching the hearts of our students. Robin Williams said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” So we want our books to reflect a mindset that will teach an appreciation for human diversity and that is conscious of disability visibility and inclusion.
That said, I don’t want anyone to feel bad if you didn’t know what I’m about to share with you. Maya Angelou said it perfectly when she said, ““I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” So now’s our time to do better, without remorse, without guilt, but with curiosity, and hopefully with joy and excitement.
Since many of my colleagues have been asking me about what types of books they should be sharing with their students, I decided to create a checklist for educators, that I’m going to share with you right now:
So let’s get started. First of all, as you screen your books, you want to use these guideposts to determine whether you will buy a book, keep a book, or put it in the recycle bin.
1. Disability is portrayed as normal and natural, and a valuable part of diversity
1. Are the characters treated as normal
2. Is disability perceived as extraordinary, a blessing, or a curse
2. Embraces & celebrates diversity, including disability
1. Is disability included or omitted as part of diversity
3. Comes from the social model mindset of disability and addresses ableism and allyship
1. The social model says that there is nothing wrong with a person who has a disability, but there is something wrong with societal responses to disabled people
4. Does not equate disability with burden, suffering, pity, or inspiration, solely based on a person having a disability. But emphasizes societal barriers that are disabling to people.
1. I’ve seen older books, and books written by siblings or parents or “experts” on disability, that have good intentions, but that are ultimately patronizing or even dehumanizing, and warranting pity. We want to stay away from any books that write about others in a way we would not want written about us.
2. Focus on books that address societal disadvantages, barriers, and disabling conditions that stem from ableism.
5. Does not use stigmatizing or ableist language (i.e., "wheelchair-bound," "suffers from," “problem,” "inspirational” based on disability, etc.)
6. Does not use euphemisms such as "differently-abled, challenged, special, diffabled," etc. But instead uses “disability” and “disabled” with pride
1. There is a strong movement within the disability community to just “say the word: disabled,” and “disability is not a bad word.”
2. Euphemisms are terms that are used to “soften the blow” of terms that are perceived as negative. They are attempts at making disability more palatable.
3. But if we do not equate disability with tragedy or negativity, then there is no need to come up with softer terms.
4. Books should not be afraid to say “disability” or “disabled.”
5. Clarification: I’m not saying that we should judge someone who chooses to identify with one of the terms I just mentioned. That is their choice and we should honor each person’s identity preferences. However, if we want to take our libraries and our students beyond awareness, we don’t need to avoid the word “disability” or “disabled.”
7. Illustrations accurately depict the physical features of characters with disabilities, and any assistive technology devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, scooters, communication devices, etc.
1. Again, we want accuracy when it comes to physical features as a means of normalizing different ways of looking and being.
2. We also want accuracy when it comes to assistive technology used in people’s daily lives for the same reason.
3. Different is not deficient or weird or abnormal. And we want that reflected in our books. It’s ok to be different, and to have differences be celebrated.
8. Normalizes, presumes competence of, and values characters who use non-verbal communication methods
1. More and more people who are non-speaking, are speaking out in their writings, and demanding access to communication and access to representation
2. We too often presume incompetence of people who have not been given access to communication in a way that works for them.
3. Our literature should include stories that include diverse ways of communicating
9. Promotes dignity and respect and equity for all people, including people with disabilities
1. This is a general way of stating all that I’ve said so far
10. Promotes inclusivity and belonging for all people, including disabled people from diverse and marginalized communities
1. Oftentimes in our discussions of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have limited understanding of ALL the different ways of being diverse, and how best to be inclusive.
2. Representation matters. We should strive to include books from a truly diverse array of cultural experiences, socio economic experiences, life experiences, disability experiences, and especially those of voices that are underrepresented in politics, education, the media, and so forth.
11. Provides a framework for analysis of access, civil rights, or justice for disabled people. I love this one. This is the reason why I wrote my book, Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights.
1. There isn’t enough in our books about the history of the disability civil rights movement
2. Students need to know that disability rights are civil rights
3. They should be empowered with foundational information to connect social justice issues with disabled people
12. Finally, books are written by and centered around disabled perspectives and voices, including people with disabilities from diverse and marginalized communities
1. Representation matters
2. The cry of the disability rights movement: Nothing about us without us
3. Who are the real experts?
4. We need to keep this in mind as we select our books
5. We want to have libraries that represent people in authentic ways.
Everything that I’ve mentioned here are guideposts for selecting your classroom books. But I should note that most books will likely not meet all these criteria. However, as you pay attention, you will begin to notice that not all books are created equal, and you want to be diligent in selecting books that will meet more and more of these standards, taking students Beyond Awareness. Remember to check out the show notes to see a list of some of my favorite books in my own Beyond Awareness classroom collection!
School Bell Rings
If this was helpful to you, this is an example of the things you’ll learn in my compact, convenient, Beyond Awareness Digital Course. In it, you’ll learn the foundations of disability awareness strategies that align with research, so you can feel confident in your diversity, equity, inclusion, and disability awareness endeavors. All you have to do is go to GoBeyondAwareness.com to sign up for my digital Beyond Awareness Course.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of Beyond Awareness: Disability Awareness That Matters. If this was helpful to you, be sure to subscribe, rate, and review this show on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. You can also follow me, Diana, on Instagram @dianapastoracarson and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/GoBeyondAwareness. Or you can go to my website for more information at www.DianaPastoraCarson.com. My books include Beyond Awareness: Bringing Disability into Diversity Work in K-12 Schools and Communities, as well as my children's book, Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights. They can both be found on Amazon. For your free Beyond Awareness resource called the "5 Keys to Going Beyond Awareness," simply go to www.GoBeyondAwareness.com/keys. This podcast transcription and podcast guest information can be found in the show notes. Intro and outro music has been provided courtesy of Emmanuel Castro. Thank you again for joining me. Be well, be a lifelong learner, and let's be inclusive. See you next time.