Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Monday, December 3, 2012

Panel Event on Disability and Inclusion in the Humanities

One of two things I wrote for the ASAN November Newsletter.

On November 14th, shortly before the ASAN annual gala, there was a panel at Georgetown called “Disability and Inclusion in the Humanities.” Lydia Brown, ASAN intern, writer of Autistic Hoya, and Georgetown student majoring in Arabic and Psychology, arranged this panel. Four speakers were invited: Kassiane A. Sibley, a current pre-med student and associate editor of “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism”; Elizabeth J. Grace, an assistant professor in Diversity in Learning and Teaching at National Louis University and writer of Tiny Grace Notes (aka Ask an Autistic); Renleigh Martin Spencer, a member of the Disability Center planning committee at Georgetown; and Ki’tay Davidson, the Director of Ableism Awareness and Community Outreach for the Disability Rights Coalition at American University.
All four panelists were people with disabilities. Both Elizabeth and Kassiane are Autistic, and all four had personal stories to share above and beyond the discussion of the broad institutional issues that people with disabilities face in the humanities. Ableism–discrimination against people with disabilities–is a huge problem. Examples of ableism include making people get a more recent evaluation (We need to make sure you’re still autistic/dyslexic/using a wheelchair!) in order to get any accommodations, giving only the bare minimum of accommodations and that only grudgingly, insisting on viewing disability as a purely medical issue with basic accommodations that should mean the person now functions exactly as a non-disabled person does, and ignoring the existence of people with disabilities as people who are a part of the human condition. Kassiane noted that she needed to constantly remind her professors “that my … condition is the human condition. I am a person too,” and Elizabeth recalled that her fellow professors were the ones who had the most difficulty accepting the value of disabled perspectives on disability. Her students were excited to hear what disability was like from someone who actually experienced it, but her colleagues insisted that it was neither rigorous nor academic to use personal experience in this way.
The idea that disability could be an identity was also a big discussion point, both as something that is important and as something that still needs work. Kassiane told the audience about having to look up the sign for “Autistic” and how her American Sign Language teacher tried to correct her from saying “I’m Autistic” to “I have autism,” ending with Kassiane asking “You have deaf?” Of course he didn’t “have deaf”- the idea of Deaf and Blind being cultural identities as well as disability labels is more accepted than for most other disabilities, though even those communities are occasionally subject to others insisting that they are people with their disability, that they should “not let their disability define them.” While this separation from disability as a defining attribute was a step forward from concluding that a disability meant spending life hidden away from the rest of the world, it does not allow for a sense of group identity or for the inclusion of disabled people as a group in the same ways that other marginalized groups have aimed to be included–as a group of people that are different and whose differences are a part of their identity, not a medical issue that has nothing to do with who they are. Ki’tay noted that “We need to bring it (disability) into the cultural realm,” and Renleigh agreed, stating, “Any sort of identity studies should come first,” and talking about how we need to understand oppression in light of disability. These facets of disability studies are all important, and the panelists explained the importance of all these facets, their interactions, and the importance of proper disability studies in creating a culture of inclusion both in the humanities, and in society as a whole. Renleigh holds that promoting disability studies in the academic world will also promote disability culture in society, which is an important part of proper inclusion. Inclusion of a group should not depend on pretending that this group is exactly the same as everyone else, but on accepting and embracing the differences, and that requires more than a purely medical model of disability that ends at simply providing needed services.

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