Disability is Everywhere, Specialist Says

Nirmala Erevelles speaking at the symposium on disability on March 30.


NORMAN, Okla. – What is the connection between the Flint water issue, the Ferguson shooting and transnational labor? Disability.

Flint water lead poisoning targeted poor people, mostly black already made vulnerable by a school-to-prison pipeline system. The Ferguson shooting of a young black by a white policeman was one more of a long series. People working in Bangladesh at oppressive rates with no right for occidental companies, or Mexican illegal immigrants working in U.S. farms at the mercy of their master.

These examples were discussed by Nirmala Erevelles, a professor of Educational Leadership & Foundations of Education at the University of Alabama and one of the guests present at the symposium on disability studies organized by the University of Oklahoma Humanities Forum on March 30.

Erevelles, who has been studying disability for 20 years, said she began studying disability when she learned about her diabetes.

“Now I have a disability,” Erevelles said. “Therefore I saw disability not anymore as a cause but as a logic.”

She added that disability can be seen everywhere such as a child going to school to learn, and therefore disability doesn’t only correspond to our body but also to a perception of how we are seen by others and the society.

“The context is important in how we see disability,” Erevelles said, adding some context cannot tolerate any type of variance.

Telling the examples of the women body, Erevelles said in some cultures women with more form are seen as the norm when in Occident, skinny women are the standard used by fashion.

The professor Erevelles said today society has a need to measure and standardize everything and everyone such as Erevelles’ daughter who on her first day at school had to pass some tests.

Then, Erevelles said disabilities are becoming a real business, companies using data and personal information to sell products and services such as to conform your body to the norm by doing fitness and eating specific foods to lose weight. Therefore manipulating and forcing people to buy products they don’t necessarily need.

“Because I am diabetic I am considered obese, but my diabetes has nothing to do with a weight problem,” Erevelles said. “We are never normal enough.”

Further, Erevelles said disability has national consequences wondering if “People are still independent?”

A subject that has certainly various important repercussions not only on the society of today has it been observed by Erevelles but also in the past such as during World War II and the massacre organized by the Nazi toward Jewish, Gypsies and gay people who were not considered as Aryan.

It is difficult after listening to Erevelles’ lecture to not think about our dear president Donald Trump who has set the new American’s norm as White and Christian, a norm already informally in place due to the White Christian majority of this country. What will be the consequences of such decision? Will people have enough courage to not let itself be swayed and accept differences?

By: Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report

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