To more authentically understand a diverse or underrepresented group, you might think to create a simulation or immersion activity. However, within the disability community, simulations are highly controversial. We do not believe that simulations can truly or completely replicate the disability experience. Focusing on only certain pieces of the disability experience, simulations tend to leave participants with increased negative perceptions of disability—feelings of pity for disabled folks or relief that they are not disabled, rather than engender a feeling of pride or respect for the community.
It is helpful, when planning an event, to ask yourself reflective questions. What do you want participants to gain, learn or appreciate as a result of having attended your program? How would you program around another cultural group? Rather than try to simulate a complex cultural experience, you may want to focus on one aspect, for example, accessibility, sports, or activism.
Here are some programming ideas:
- Attend a wheelchair sports event
- Study disability art
- Watch a movie like Murderball or Crip Culture
- Discuss disability activism and the disability rights movement
- Reflect on campus design and consider the impact design has on access and equity
- Watch Aimee Mullins or Roger Ebert on TED.com
- Start a book club. Consider some memoirs: Emily Rapp’s Poster Child, John Hockenberry’s Moving Violations, Simi Linton’s My Body Politic
DRC staff is here to help you think of creative and effective programming that will be respectful of the disability community and culture.
Lundberg, N. (2008). Using wheelchair sports to complement disability awareness curriculum among college students. Journal of Leisure Studies and Recreation Education. 23(1), 61-74.
French, S. (1992). Simulation exercises in disability awareness training: A critique. Disability, Handicap, and Society 7(3), 257-267.
Herbert, J. (2000). Simulation as a learning method to facilitate disability awareness. Journal of Experiential Education 23(1), 5-11.