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Disability Awareness and Simulation Activities

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:

  1. Attend a wheelchair sports event.
  2. Study disability art.
  3. Watch and discuss a movie like Murderball (http://www.metacritic.com/movie/murderball) or
  4. Lives Worth Living (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/lives-worth-living).
  5. Discuss disability activism and the disability rights movement. Check out these resources:
  6. Reflect on campus design and consider the impact design has on access and equity.
  7. Watch Aimee Mullins or Roger Ebert on TED.com

  8. Start a book club. Consider some memoirs: Emily Rapp’s Poster Child, John Hockenberry’s Moving Violations, Simi Linton’s My Body Politic.

In your event planning, consider inviting a guest moderator or convening a panel. The DRC has a library of books and resources. For more information, contact Amanda Kraus, Assistant Director, at akraus@email.arizona.edu or 626-0940.