Understanding the many facets of living with disabilities means listening and letting go of preconceived notions. Tuesday night’s “Deconstructing Disability: Navigating Disability in Higher Ed” panel did just that as staff, faculty and students shared their experiences of living with disabilities. The following Q&A from the panel, which was moderated by Disability Services Executive Director Daniel Newman, has been edited for length and content. The full video with transcript is available to Lesley community members.
When you think about your educational journeys prior to higher education what stands out?
Reese Hogan ’23 (special education and history major with ADHD): I was put on an IEP (individualized education program) in elementary school. I had that IEP taken away from me twice. I’ve always had the sense of not being disabled enough to get services, however being too disabled to reside within the “normal” student population.
Holly Aldrich (assistant director of Disability Services, has cerebral palsy): I didn’t think of myself as a disabled person prior to higher education. Because of this, much of my time as a student was shaded by masking or downplaying the more physical aspects of my disability. Connected to this was this need to compensate. If I had to be disabled, I had to be smart and disabled. There was so much internalized ableism in that.
Sara Lorraine Snyder ’25 (expressive arts therapy major, has a connective tissue and mitochondrial disorder): In elementary school, I really accepted that I had a disability…but then in my high school years I had to use a wheelchair to get around. My disability was shared without my telling it verbally. It was really isolating at times.
Bill Porter MFA ’15 (adjunct professor in animation and motion media, has a progressive vision disorder): I knew I wanted to be an artist my whole life. It never came into my mindset that my vision could impede that. I saw a specialist when I was 18. He told me not to pursue art and give up on it. It’s been something I’ve been trying to prove wrong my whole life since then.
How was your college experience?
Hogan: I feel as though I fit in a lot more. I am not only allowed to academically excel in college, but I have a sense that I socially belong with people.
Aldrich: I was lucky to be able to center disability in my studies in college and graduate school. It was the first time I learned about disability as a social identity. It allowed my intellect and my disability to coalesce.