29 September 2014

This is What the Empty Room Means

Today, the Georgetown University Center for Student Engagement (formerly known as the Center for Student Programs) hosted a Lunch & Learn training session aimed at student organization leadership. The goal of these trainings is to provide student leaders with knowledge and skills to assist them in running a student organization. Topics could range from strategies for bringing in outside speakers to budgeting for programs or partnering with other student groups. Today's training was to be on accessible and inclusive event planning.

About a month ago, CSE asked if I would be willing to present during a training on accessibility in event planning. I said yes, enthusiastically yes. The outline for the event included an introduction from CSE, a presentation from our disability support services office on Georgetown's policies for accommodation requests, and a presentation from me about the importance of accessibility and inclusion, as well as an overview of the great diversity of possible alterations and accommodations that planners might consider when developing an activity or program.

I arrived on campus today to find the CSE person and the disability services person sitting at one table of eight arranged to form a large square. From the other end of the table, I could smell the fresh pizza in three boxes beside three crates of different types of soda. The tables were clean and polished, so white and bright they made a stark contrast with the muted hardwood floor. The room could easily hold over 100 people, and around 30 or 40 at the tables in the arrangement we had.

But there was no one there. Not one student organization sent even a single representative to attend the training. CSE had received no RSVPs in advance (though they weren't required), and there were absolutely no attendees trickling in even as the clock turned past 12:30.

Photo: Me wearing a white button-down dress shirt and khakis, standing alone inside the Herman Meeting Room with several tables and chairs inside the Healy Family Student Center.

The room was vast and I was small. I was alone in an empty room.

Nothing demonstrates more clearly the utter disregard that disabled people face every day at Georgetown than this. That of literally hundreds of student organizations with hundreds (possibly even creeping into the low thousands) of students involved on their boards or other leadership positions, not even one person deemed it worth their while to learn about access and inclusion.

Of course I recognize that there are many legitimate reasons that people can't attend midday trainings. They have work; they have classes; they have prior obligations; something comes up at the last minute; they didn't know about the specific event. But even if you make the generous assumption that 75% of all students involved in leadership with some or another club would have been unable to attend for some such reason, let's say the remaining 25% could have come and either knew about it or could have been told by someone else in their club's leadership about it. And no one came. How plausible is it that an event run by CSE, the administrative office responsible for oversight of all student organizations, is somehow off the radar of every single club on campus? That every single student involved in any leadership position whatsoever is simultaneously unavailable to attend a one-hour training?

It's not deliberate malice or cold contempt. It's casual indifference.

It takes very little to drive home just how little we matter in the grand scheme of things. And this is what the empty room means. The empty room means that our existence continues to be largely unacknowledged. The empty room means that our ability to participate fully in campus life isn't worth anyone's time. The empty room means that when we talk about improving conditions for disabled people, it's little more than lip service. The empty room means that no one cared enough to figure out how to go or send someone else in their stead. The empty room means that we don't matter. The empty room means another reminder of that fact, clawing into our consciences until we can't forget it for even one second, one brief slip of time.

Georgetown never fails to disappoint me. I attend an elite educational institution that has literally no excuse whatsoever to perpetuate inaccessible environments. Yet for all the talk of cura personalis, community in diversity, being men and women for others ... we continually fail to show even the most minimal concern for the wellbeing or meaningful inclusion of a particularly invisible community on the margins of campus life. The empty room means that the road ahead will be tortuous and long, that my work will never be done, that an entire collective of seven thousand-odd students, and thousands more faculty and staff, every one of us, remain complicit in this complicated system of ableism.

The empty room means that our fight is less against willful hate and more against the easy ignorance cloaked in the privilege of never having to live a disabled experience -- the privilege of never being guilted and shamed into going to an event that you lost the spoons for but had requested an interpreter for beforehand -- the privilege of never having to decide days in advance whether you will go to an event or not -- the privilege of never having to wonder whether you'll be able to access the handouts, presentation slides, or speech of the presenter -- the privilege of not worrying whether other attendees' perfumed products will induce an allergic reaction, meltdown, or physical illness -- the privilege of not sitting on edge in case something triggers a seizure -- the privilege of not thinking about whether something will surprise you by triggering a panic, anxiety, or PTSD attack -- the privilege of not having to think about whether you can even get into the fucking building -- the privilege of being able to go to any event you like, anywhere, with little difficulty or inconvenience except perhaps finding parking --

The empty room means that this state of affairs, a state of affairs in which our completely avoidable and unnecessary yet routine exclusion from programming on campus is simply ordinary.



--
Author's edit: Since 2012, I have been working in various ways to advance disability justice at Georgetown. I formed a committee of students advocating for the creation of a Disability Cultural Center. I am the first person ever to serve in GUSA (our student government) doing work on disability within the diversity section, and am currently serving a second consecutive term in that role. I have organized several events on different disability rights topics. I'm collaborating with faculty who are proposing creation of a Disability Studies minor. I am agitating all the time for better physical accessibility and accommodations policies for students with disabilities. I've interviewed dozens of people with connections to the university, past and present, on their experiences while disabled. Back in January 2014, I organized a conversation under hashtag #BDGU (Being Disabled at Georgetown University) in the footsteps of other such conversations on experiences of different racialized groups on elite college campuses.

I'm currently organizing a Lecture & Performance Series on Disability Justice. The first event was September 23, when Kassiane Sibley came to campus to discuss abuse of disabled people by caregivers/family members. The next event is October 21 and 22, with Leroy Moore from Krip Hop Nation and Sins Invalid, performing and speaking on police brutality against disabled people, especially disabled people of color.

So there has been progress, just very incremental and largely invisible to the larger community.

71 comments:

  1. the empty room also means that people had other things to do at 12:30 on monday

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    1. And in that answer lies the privilege of the un-disabled. There is always something else to do, and there always will be... Because you have the ability, the privilege, to do it and not worry about how it will impact you or someone you love.

      Until you make it important, not just to those around you, but to yourself, you won't learn

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    2. SOME of them, yes. WHICH LYDIA ACKNOWLEDGES. But. ALL of them at once? ALL out of hundreds/thousands of potential participants? Um. No. Some portion of these people had the time, they just didn't have the commitment.

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    3. It also means in the context you have established: that YOU are a guilt-ridden meme.

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    4. "Of course I recognize that there are many legitimate reasons that people can't attend midday trainings. They have work; they have classes; they have prior obligations; something comes up at the last minute; they didn't know about the specific event. But even if you make the generous assumption that 75% of all students involved in leadership with some or another club would have been unable to attend for some such reason, let's say the remaining 25% could have come and either knew about it or could have been told by someone else in their club's leadership about it. And no one came. How plausible is it that an event run by CSE, the administrative office responsible for oversight of all student organizations, is somehow off the radar of every single club on campus? That every single student involved in any leadership position whatsoever is simultaneously unavailable to attend a one-hour training?"

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    5. Maybe people are just getting a little tired pc guidelines and making sure every single last person on Earth is made to feel included.

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    6. I'm on the board of two clubs and still am not sure what these lunch and learn sessions are- the majority of student leaders probably were not aware these were even taking place.

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    7. Holy Shit I can't believe all the bullshit excuses...how was it marketed...nobody knew...Georgetown as a whole should be ashamed...if it was a luncheon for your precious sports team you can bet your ass the room would have been filled.

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    8. The sports team is awesome though.

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    9. When an event fails it is ALWAYS the organizer's fault. From what I hear the event was poorly promoted. Take some ownership of your mistakes Lydia. When disabled people don't show up to events you blame the organizers for not making it more accessible or not promoting it right. Ask yourself what you're did wrong and learn from it for next time, don't write pity-party articles that will further turn off people from learning and promoting d-rights. Maturity and accountability, that's how things get done in the real world ;-)

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    10. - The first part of your comment would hold merit, except that I wasn't the event organizer for this event. CSE was. There was an event that I had organized within the past month or so separate from this one, which also drew very low attendance, and that was my fault because I didn't market properly. But the event that this post is about, yeah, I wasn't in charge; it was not my responsibility.

      - By the way, it's supremely ironic how an anonymous commenter is condesplaining about accountability and ownership.

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    11. Then blame the organizers, work with them to make sure future events are better promoted and that all those who can attend know about it. Guilt-trip writing like this article does nothing to benefit the situation, in fact it just serves to enforce some of the reasons students might have chosen not to attend.

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    12. Fuck off condesplaining abled Anons, it's Lydia's blog and even if she was "guilt-trip writing," she can write what she wants. The fact that this one post got so under your skin shows how much the implication you might be part of the problem bothers you. Examine your assumptions.

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    13. By making her writings and discussion public she is inviting criticism and feedback, which is what I was offering. I do wish Lydia well, but she tends to lay it heavy on the shaming and guilt-tripping aspect of activism, this is not the first time I've noticed this. The fact that you react so defensively when presented with a contrasting perspective suggests you know I'm right.

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    14. BTW, why would you assume I'm Abled? That again is very telling of your defensive, angry stance.

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    15. "Maybe people are just getting a little tired pc guidelines and making sure every single last person on Earth is made to feel included."

      Just this response demonstrates the obvious ignorance the poster has- difference between "everyone has to feel included!" SMILE... and accessibility. It is so rarely on par with making the shy five year old in the corner feel like he is part of the circle. It's more about ensuring people literally have the option to actively participate, not just sit there and appear to be a part of the activities or events or project. Go to an important meeting- tell everyone else to sit on stage and you sit in the audience. Now participate fully while everyone else speaks at a normal level, including you. You don't get notes. Hope no one decides to get "all pc" for your benefit, right?

      It's not about feeling special or that "everyone is a winner" crap. Get over yourself.

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  2. I am applying to Georgetown's MA Programme in English to begin next fall, and for the first time I am having doubts. I have POTS and your article struck an anxious chord. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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    1. Somehow I doubt this is unique to Georgetown. I suspect it's going to be a question of giving up on the MA (which I would absolutely discourage, because it lets those who don't care win) or face similar problems elsewhere. At Georgetown you will have someone highly articulate (Lydia) on your side!

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    2. A general apathy toward disability community events is certainly not unique to Georgetown. Ableism pervades higher education and academia. I'm actually presenting on this at the Syracuse Disabled & Proud conference this October.

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    3. It's not unique to higher education and academia. I think ableism may be more obvious there, but it's endemic in our respective societies. There is a reason why autistic employment rates are no higher than around 15%, for example.
      (Same Anonymous)

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  3. This is incredibly distressing. I, as a student leader, initially wrote off the lunch and learn series, as all the sessions occur when I'm in class. It never occurred to me before now that one of my roles as a leader can and should include connecting students I work with to resources and information such as the presentation scheduled for today. I, and other student leaders, can and should strive to be better about both engaging with opportunities such as this one, and encouraging the students we have influence over to engage.

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    1. Great response and way to show accountability. #LessonsLearned

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    2. As a graduate of Georgetown and professional event planner, I'm curious to know how the event was marketed. Only email? Any follow up/reminders? How in advance were they invited? Were people informed why it's important and/or if this has been an issue for former/current people with disabilities at Gtown? Did the invitation to this event show as much passion about this subject matter as this article did? With over seven years of experience in the field of event planning, lack of attendance at any event usually is a direct result of lack of marketing/outreach. Please know that I absolutely agree that this session is important and could have been (and still can be if rescheduled) beneficial to all gtown organizations. I'm sure many students were "too busy" "something came up" and had other excuses but I hope this event gets rescheduled and organizations get educated on this subject matter because it is the right thing to do.

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  4. I'm so sorry this happened and thank you for writing it. Much to think about here.

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  5. It never occurred to you! Well, at least you're honest, but shame on you. Leaders lead by example, I only hope that this 'can and should' that you mention turn into 'willing and present'

    Fantastically written article, glad I found it. Shame that it had to be about non-engagement and such inherent discrimination, but this is a great continuation in your work to jolt people out of their able-ism...here's hoping it's face to face next time!

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  6. Wow. Good for you for writing this article.

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  7. As a student leader, I saw the word inclusion and knew my 12:30 would be better spent doing work rather than hearing someone blather on about how to get people involved.

    Obviously, you really know what you are talking about since your event was so well attended.

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    1. Based on your attitude, I bet your student organization is made up of about 95% of people with the same racial/economic/ability background as you. You might be a student, but you are not a leader.

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    2. Inclusion is not just about getting people involved -- it's about making it possible for them to be involved if they're disabled. If that's not worthwhile work in your mind, I feel bad for any disabled people who actually want to be involved with your organization.

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    3. That is an extremely impressive CV.

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    4. "As a student leader, I saw the word inclusion and knew my 12:30 would be better spent doing work rather than hearing someone blather on about how to get people involved."

      Translation: "As a student leader, I saw the word inclusion and immediately felt the need to demonstrate my desperate need to attend this meeting by making it clear that I have no idea what "inclusion" actually entails."

      PROTIP: You can't get a student "involved" if they are barred from participating in the first place. "Inclusion" deals with making participation *possible.* Only when inclusion needs are met can attempts to "involve" students have any effect at all.

      If you are going to continue leading anything, on any campus, ever, please learn the difference.

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  8. Could it be that student leaders didn't have any faith that the program would be of use to them? When I was an undergrad, I routinely found that campus administrators just didn't have anything to say that I found helpful on any subject. Recently, I was reminded of this when I dated a disability administrator at a college in my area. Although he had a degree in that topic and had been in that job for several years, he was not smart enough to be able to perform some very simple tasks of his job. I think the college that hired him was actually transmitting a message to students opposite of the one they wanted to - in essence, if you have a disability, perhaps you can get a kindly institution to hire you as a token. It made me think of the old saw: "If you can't teach, administer." This particular program might have been helpful, but the empty room may have been a symptom of students' distrust of administrators generally.

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  9. I have several disabilities, both mental and physical. It makes everything harder for me every day, and sometimes it can be tough seeing people complain about things that are so much easier for them than for me. I can understand the frustration, and I also wish people would be more inclusive and facilitating for people who can't function "normally." But I think it's a mistake to expect others to make concessions and actively work to make our lives easier. Yes we face challenges that others don't but that's our burden to bear. I often find that people, whether they have disabilities or not, expect too much help from others. Whenever I am challenged, I know that nobody but me will help me, and I expect the same from everyone else. The unfortunate truth is that we just have to work harder and make more sacrifices than others. Yet I acknowledge that there are a spectrum of disabilities and they affect us all differently, so perhaps I shouldn't try to speak for all of us.

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    1. I'm sorry you've had to deal with so much, but you need to understand that not everyone has the same level of need as you, and some people actually cannot just struggle through it on their own. For example, when someone has days with such bad muscle pain or such shaky legs that they can't walk, they need a wheelchair, and ramps, and elevators. No amount of willpower is going to change that fact.

      For a long time, I had very similar feelings to yours. I wanted to be as independent as possible because I didn't want to feel pitied or to be stopped from doing things that I wanted to do. But I've learned more recently that in refusing help - medication, accommodation, etc. - I was actually just making it even harder for myself, unnecessarily. Because we live in an ableist society, we internalize the idea that we have to be independent and struggle through on our own if it seems at all possible. The truth is that humans evolved to be interdependent, and in fact few people, if anyone, live truly independently. Once I started giving myself - and then other people - a break and cutting them more slack, I got a lot less stressed and found myself a lot happier in general.

      Internalized ableism is a hell of a drug, but here's hoping you can kick the habit.

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  10. I'm a Hoya who has several disabilities, and I have to say I've never gotten the same impression from the general Georgetown community with regard to a lack of respect or compassion. I've been met with absolutely amazing student leaders who have gone so far above and beyond what they were required to do to make sure my needs were taken care of, understanding friends and classmates who take the time to repeat themselves when I can't follow and ignore my other symptoms as they appear. I don't think lack of attendance at a meeting at 12:30 on a Monday is an indication of the general Georgetown climate. It's an indication of undergraduates being unwilling to attend another training session, as I've been guilty of on several occasions. As frustrating as it must have been, having planned and prepared for it, I think it had more to do with the nature of the meeting (a training session) than the content.

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  11. Lydia, you are a remarkable woman and a role model for all students at Georgetown, disabled or not. I truly applaud what you do, and support you whole heartedly, but I think you might be a little off the mark here.

    The "Lunch and Learn" series has universally been scorned by student leadership, not just the session concerning inclusion and disability. What's more, CSE events have historically been more useless than not. I'm not saying that the event you were to attend was useless, indeed it seems most necessary, but I think you must view it from the historical perspective. Most students blithely delete the CSE emails before even reading them, let alone rearrange schedules to attend a lunchtime lecture series included in a larger list of events.

    I don't believe that you should take this as an affront to disabled students at Georgetown, but rather learn from the disregard that the larger student body expresses for administrative groups such as CSE.

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    1. I agree, thank you for writing this.

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  12. ...And this is why I left Georgetown.

    Quote: I don't think lack of attendance at a meeting at 12:30 on a Monday is an indication of the general Georgetown climate.

    I agree. The thing is, it's not just this. It's the fact people wouldn't talk to me. It's the fact people would sit as far away from me as possible. It's the fact professors lectured completely inaccurate and offensive information on my disability without including me, ignoring my raised hand for the whole semester. It's the fact I only had one person talk to me the whole time I went there, who was just trying to get in my pants, to see what banging someone with my disability was like.

    Maybe none of these seem all that bad alone. But it's all of the things together, at the same time. The fact these were such a part of the day-to-day experiences that make Georgetown feel at best unwelcome, at most hostile, for many disabled students.

    I won't speak for others, because their stories are not mine to share, but I will say that I've witnessed first-hand far worse treatment as well.

    You can come up with excuses but it is what it is.

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  13. This is an extremely well written, well thought out article that brings to light a very important issue that exists at Georgetown. I sincerely hope that current student leaders are not reading this and dismissing it by making personal excuses for themselves (didn't catch the email, had another meeting/commitment at the time). At the end of the day, even the busiest students will make time for the things that are important to them.

    One of the greatest flaws prevalent at Georgetown and other top universities is students' incessant need and desire to maintain an unhealthy schedule of activities. Another is that many students who have applied to and chosen to attend elite and exclusive universities are looking for exactly that -- elitism and exclusivity. Following this is a culture that breeds the opposite of inclusion.

    From my perspective as a former student leader, I couldn't help but realize my own apathy while on campus, as well as my tendency to fall into the flaws I mentioned. Georgetown students should be putting forward a conscious effort to bring the "empty table" discussion to the forefront after reading this article, not leaving a meaningless comment on their personal reason for lack of attendance.

    Georgetown was the best four years of my life. I think we owe it to ourselves and the university to make it that way for others as well.

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  14. I also wonder if the other clubs and/or organizations even understand what the meeting was for. If you are not in the disability world you probably have zero understanding of what accessibility even means. The onus is on us to approach our non disabled peers and figure out how to get them involved.

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  15. Sounds like some sort of protest of students' organizations is in order to raise their consciousness. If the 'student leader' who remains anonymous here had spent the same amount of time actually learning about access ... and pizza .... still no takers? It looks like contempt to me.

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  16. I'm not sure your CV is long enough

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  17. Part of me thinks, "Welcome to college presentations." Sometimes you're lucky to get more than ten people to come, so you can't get too disappointed if not enough people showed up. My mother did a presentation for a lecture series for a university this summer, and she had only one person show up (besides me, of course). I have not heard of a presentation where absolutely no one shows up, but I bet it happens more commonly than you think.

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  18. I have to say, I put a lot of blame here on the student affairs folks who invited you. To schedule a workshop like this with an invited speaker and then not do the groundwork you need to make sure that there are people in attendance is indefensible.

    Planning an event like this shouldn't just be a matter of sending out an email blast or putting up a notice on Facebook. You need to reach out one-on-one to the people you want there. You need to make sure that there are people in the seats, and if you haven't done that, you need to let your guest know in advance.

    To allow you to show up in an empty room without warning is an insult to you and a dereliction of the event organizers' responsibilities. They should be embarrassed, they should be apologetic, and they should be taking concrete steps to repair the damage that they've done.

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  19. I just expanded on my comment above in a blogpost. I hope the CSE staff make this right:

    http://studentactivism.net/2014/09/30/georgetown-student-affairs-staff-botch-inclusivity-training/

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  20. I am neither a GU, but I am in higher education and I can attest to a few things:
    1. Yes, your presentation is very important and it allows student leaders to understand many aspects to the community. I do not question this importance at all.
    2. As a higher education professional who has been invited to and has planned many events, I know that we have a hard time getting students to come to events. I am planning writing workshops for a population who DESPERATELY needs them. I have had students stop me in the hall and go out of my way to come to my office and praise me for holding these workshops. Guess what? Very few attend. NONE of aforementioned students who have praised me have attended, and I have held 5 so far. It's a reality that students just don't come in droves like we think they do.
    3. I agree with one commenter that low attendance does not equate not caring. OK, I get it, attendance would show a stronger position of caring, but refer to point 2, people just don't attend events. Leaders or not.
    4. I can't help but feel that, especially toward the end of the article, you make the article all about you, your struggles, and your burdens. This makes me feel that you are saying if we don't care about people with disabilities YOUR way, we don't care at all. I disagree completely. As I learned when I was a student leader, there are many ways to lead and many ways to show humanity. I am concerned that you made such an effort to write about what you do that you are taking an individual stance over a stand that mirrors opening a community dialogue, which is what I gather the thing you want. Your tone does not indicate this but is rather accusatory just because people did not choose to lead your way. Yes, I act like this sometimes, so I am no better than anyone else, but then I have to step back and say, "OK, how can I think from another angle to get people to understand this?"

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    1. This is about Lydia, though, as a disabled person. It can't not be personal, especially when the issues that this presentation was meant to address do affect Lydia and people who she cares about and has shared experiences with. Yes, this is accusatory. That doesn't make it wrong, or selfish, or over-the-top, or whatever is being implied here. How are accusations out of place when faced with insult (being ignored when one goes out of their way to provide information about how inclusion would be accomplished) added to injury (the initial, repeated exclusion of people with disabilities from full and meaningful participation)?

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    2. I think the point that THIS anonymous poster is trying to make is that if the focus is on an individual when addressing a problem, it can make it more likely to shut down a open dialogue about the problem. But avoiding introducing personal feelings of hurt and offense [actually shutting them down in some cases] can be difficult and, for me personally, sometimes make me feel as though I am sacrificing my personal feelings for everyone else.

      What THIS anonymous is forgetting is that this is also a personal blog. When someone is both an advocate and a self-advocate as well as an activist for something personally affecting, the line becomes blurred. You are advocating and working for things to be different for other people but also for yourself.

      It might be easier for other people [see those without a disability] if individuals did not engage in self-advocacy or did not engage in activist, awareness, or inclusion education activities which revealed that they, themselves, are a part of the population often excluded.

      I want to respond to a bit of what THIS anonymous wrote:

      I can't speak for anyone else, but part of being autistic is constantly having to adjust to everyone else- which can be very difficult. I am also often told how to communicate because it is easier for other people. I am told that how I speak- too fast, too slow, to quiet, like I'm grumpy [I don't even know...] -isn't acceptable. When I write instead of speak, it isn't convenient for others though this is how I most clearly communicate. I get that the message here is to meet people in the middle- but the blog writer is more than willing to talk to anyone almost at anytime, it seems. .

      This is a woman who [see previous entry] will subject herself to personal scrutiny by a total stranger in order to possibly have the opportunity to educate people. It is personal.


      When people tell others not to "take things so personally", it is often because they have taken things personally. One of the more effective ways to get across awareness and education is to make others understand that these are individuals, not one dimensional poster people. But that can be troublesome. I mean that can bother another person, knowing how much their willful ignorance, their indifference, their exclusion absolutely hurts and negatively affects individual lives.
      Could that possibly be why you have so emphasized that toward the end it was "too personal"? Did it actually bother you? [A lot of "our"and "us" in that last bit you say was all about her.]

      I understand, in some way, the point that if the issue is made all about oneself it can't get across. But I think she got everything across perfectly. I also doubt that these people who "DESPERATELY need" the writing workshops you offer so affect others lives as these school leaders do with their complete lack of commitment to- or even interest in- inclusion.

      Since you seem to have failed to read the post in entirety, I'll paste of bit of it here:
      "Author's edit: Since 2012, I have been working in various ways to advance disability justice at Georgetown. I formed a committee of students advocating for the creation of a Disability Cultural Center. I am the first person ever to serve in GUSA [our student government] doing work on disability within the diversity section, and am currently serving a second consecutive term in that role. I have organized several events on different disability rights topics. I'm collaborating with faculty who are proposing creation of a Disability Studies minor. I am agitating all the time for better physical accessibility and accommodations policies for students with disabilities. I've interviewed dozens of people with connections to the university, past and present, on their experiences while disabled..."

      ...but somehow that isn't working the problem a different way?

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  21. How many people came to the last few events in the series? That may give a good indicator of how much of the problem is the series, the advertising, the timing... it may well be bigger than that, but that's a good starting point.

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  22. I agree with your intentions, but ultimately it's your responsibility to fill the seats. If pizza and soda didn't work, you need to figure out what will. If the time sucks, then you need to pick a better one. Blaming the student body isn't the answer. I'm sure you haven't attended lots of other random meetings that were well-intentioned too.

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    1. You people with the excuses will only understand if you are blessed someday with one of these children...I hope you are.

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    2. No. It is up to the organizers of any speaking event to make every attempt to assure attendance. That is standard. If the event was empty due to the students' indifference or due to the organizers' [and ultimately the university's] lack of planning, then it also demonstrates a problem.

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    3. She wasn't the organizer, you dingus.

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  23. I find it interesting how most opposing comments are anonymous. It's fine to disagree but it's interesting how it is gone about...Anyway, I put a quote from this on my blog and also linked a couple of your articles for a different post I had that this fit nicely with. If you take issue with it let me know and I will take anything down that you would like. I did post links with it all. Also I did not include the word "fucking" in my quote of yours but instead inserted dot dot dot...not because i disagree with the words but I know a large part of my silent readers are very picky about language and out of respect for them and hope that they will finish the article, I took it out. I hope that is ok with you:) Let me know if there is a problem!
    Thanks Lydia for all you do on behalf of our very diverse community:)

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  24. There was free pizza. Therefore, either the event was not properly communicated, or all the students had other events at the time. Free pizza is the main attraction of college life meetings - who could possibly refuse? Free pizza is a way of life. #Students4FreePizza

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    1. That was my thought. Students are notorious for showing up to events for free food whether or not they care about the lecture topic. I don't attend Georgetown so I don't know the climate in terms of disability inclusion, and I'll take the author's word for it, but to have ZERO kids show up? During the day, with free pizza? This really makes me think there was an issue with marketing and communication.

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  25. If I did not live across the country, I would have been glad to have attended. Your blog has inspired me greatly over the years. I'm so sorry others do not appreciate you as you should have been.

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  26. Thanks for sharing, Lydia.

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  27. Iliana Rotker-LynnOctober 1, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    One of my favorite quotes of all time, from a Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode: "Causing people to suffer because you hate them is terrible, but causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care is really hard to understand." Apathy can be worse than outright hate.

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  28. As someone with an autism spectrum disability I'm unsurprised by this. Many people are unaware that disability exists outside the need for a ramp or two into buildings and some don't even think about that. That said, I'd never attend a meeting like this for the simple reason that it seems to serve little purpose, the sorts of people who'd go out of their way to attend are the sorts who don't really need to be there anyway. Rather than watch someone preach to the choir I'd prefer to do something productive with that time. Worth keeping in mind as a reason that even people who agree with your beliefs might not attend.

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    1. That's a real bullshit attitude. Worth keeping in mind that there are many who would, because it's worth educating people on this subject. The whole idea of meeting people in the middle is a valid and productive one. This is an arena where other people *reached out to her*, and a lot of people are either forgetting that or simply conveniently refusing to acknowledge that. It's bullheaded to assume that a meeting like this could serve no purpose- there are massive conferences built around the idea and purpose of these sorts of meetings. The fact that students didn't attend is a combination of failures on the part of several factors- not that the meeting itself or its aims would be a failure. Simply because you think this one avenue would be a failure- or you are too bitter or resentful or too burned out- doesn't mean it would be or is. Huge numbers of people have been affected, as I said, by this sort of effort.

      You don't have to agree or attend for it to be reality that others would. Reality is good. It keeps us prepared. Not everyone will agree, not everyone will join your cause.

      The assumption that reaching out and educating isn't productive is an ignorant one- it is a conference on a smaller scale. Maybe reassess what you are saying.

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    2. @Anonymous: You seem to be under the impression that the event was more of an ideological or ideas-based discussion (which would be true of the talks I usually give), but this was specifically a training session that would provide information about tools, techniques, and strategies to maximize accessibility at an event. (For example, explaining what a fragrance free policy is, discussing common seizure triggers like strobe/flashing lights, talking about seating for ASL users, etc.) People whose beliefs are fully in line with mine might benefit from such a training, as well as people who have very little shared ground with me politically. One's beliefs aren't relevant to one's ability to learn how to plan more inclusively.

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  29. Building Disability Justice in a college town is never easy. I know because I have been trying to build an autism student organization in small-town Missouri for nearly two years, with only one active regular attending member besides myself and my advisor. I've come to realized that though there are a lot of people who could benefit, they aren't really willing to come forward, so for me I had to learn the task of starting the trend of coming out of the autism closet with autistic pride memorabilia for autistic Warrensburgers and get the word out to gradually change the tone of the autism conversation to (or raise the volume of) one of friendliness, while at the same time giving others support to share their identity with others, whether through on-line resources or others, so autistic people can get involved and enable others to as well, which they wouldn't do if there were no autistic people. After all, we don't want to be like Autism Speaks.

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  30. Reading through your blog, I find your whole approach to your goals in disability issues ineffective and unlikely to get others who are not familiar with disability issues interested or motivated. I am autistic, and I am not motivated by your posts, many of which complain about people and try to shame people. I am much more motivated by positive actions that serve practical purposes, so if you and other disability advocates went more in this direction, I would be interested and motivated to contribute what I can. I have worked to improve educational opportunities for autistic students in K-12, and it is concrete ideas and positive actions with tangible results that school officials were interested in, not the disability ideas usually posted on this blog and others like it. By doing the right things, there will be implicit shifts in people's perspectives that are greater than explicit attempts to make their minds match yours.

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    1. Lydia's been able to make a mark with her perspective and way of doing things just fine as far as I can tell. She's been appointed the DD council for Massachusetts, been named the 2013 White House Champion of Change, and done trainings, keynotes and lectures across the country, and this just in the last year or so. There's nothing that I can see that shows she's not been "doing the right thing" just by virtue of her outlook not being the same as yours.

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    2. Dear Anonymous:

      What exactly constitutes "positive actions that serve practical purposes"? Would you consider the deliberate misrecognition and denial of disabled students' need for academic accommodations and services, which are protected under ADA, positive and constructive for university communities? Regrettably, this happens all too often at universities, and keeping quiet about the careless mismanagement of accessibility needs won't help any of us, and it certainly won't yield all-inclusive, diverse campuses. I was a graduate student at Georgetown, and I considered my disabilities undue burdens until I met Lydia. Because of Lydia, I now apprehend that their is such a thing as an empowered disabled identity. We as disabled students, alumni, faculty and staff are valuable members of our university's community as disabled people, not in spite of our disabilities. It's heartbreaking to see someone who identifies as autistic attempt to undermine the significance of self-advocacy, the only movement I've seen generating "tangible" and meaningful results for disabled persons. Quite frankly, I don't consider your comment the least bit empowering. If disabled university students don't unite to actively contest societal misrepresentations of disabilities, then who will? Those "disability ideas" that you write about with such a disparaging tone are inducing positive change on college campuses. Because of young disability activists like Lydia Brown, disabled students have a real opportunity to not only attend college but also thrive and fell welcomed at universities. Lydia's effect on my life has been unequivocally positive, and I know fellow self-advocates concur with that sentiment. WE LOVE YOU LYDIA BROWN! :D :D :D ^_^

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    3. Anon, no matter how much you are nice to ableist people and try to explain things in honeyed tones and never get angry, they will still be ableist people and someone will still need to call out their behavior.
      They're still not going to let you in the car.

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  31. I am sorry that no one showed up - I would like to make a suggestion though. Today's college kids seem to have trouble showing up in person, but no trouble in showing up electronically. Have you considered taping your presentation and making it available online or through a podcast? That would allow interested people to view/listen to it on their own time and then they could email you any questions.

    There are a lot of other methods of delivering your important message - you may need to consider using several of them to get the message to the people you want to reach.

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  32. Seen too much fraud with the disability parking where I live. I'm sure the parents of the autistic kid next door who is marginally autistic used every ableist word in the dictionary to get permanent family advantages that others will never see. We are talking about people who don't need the money but want more money. Sorry, this message is not intended for those families who are in true need. Just the greedy, lying neighbors who live next door to me.

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    1. I'm "marginally autistic" (what the hell does that even mean) and got diagnosed with MS this year and don't *seem* disabled, but walking distances has been tough for me and I've had a lot of fatigue problems. I don't have a handicapped sticker thing and neither do my parents, but there's already been issues around parking and not being so far away from things that my legs are ready to collapse when I get there. You can't tell who has what needs just from looking at them. Also, this was so not the place for this crap.
      Kindly eff off.

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