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Sep 10, 2012

An Inclusive Dialogue

Welcome to the new MCIE blog! I’m Sheila, Communications Coordinator at MCIE, and I’ll be curating the blog as it moves forward. I came to MCIE nine months ago with a lot to learn. I had studied the disability rights movement as a Political Science student who focused on issues of social change. But having never worked at an educational organization before, many of the specific terms and practices I faced were foreign to me. With all that I didn’t know, I was surprised to find that the most illuminating lessons had nothing to do with educational jargon or the details of evidence-based practices; they concerned what I had already learned, but hadn’t fully appreciated before. The most notable example?

On May 2nd, USA Today hosted a live Twitter chat on autism. They said they had a panel of autism experts on hand to answer questions. The panel included doctors, therapists, researchers and professors. It included individuals who had devoted years of their professional lives to understanding autism. What it didn’t include was a single autistic person.

Several months ago, before I started working at MCIE, this might have seemed vaguely strange to me. Like bad planning, maybe. Or a small oversight. But after months of reading self-advocate blogs and following thread after thread of back-and-forth between members of the disability community, I knew better. This wasn’t an oversight, small or otherwise. It was just another example of the historical tendency among well-meaning activists in civil rights movements to speak for, rather than listen to, the people most affected. I had known about this tendency, of course, but knowing and witnessing are two different things, just as studying and experiencing are.

It seems self-evident that the only people who can tell you what it’s really like to have disabilities are the people who actually have them. And yet, their input is frequently excluded from conversations about interventions, services, and supports. Whether discussing how research funds should be distributed, debating how we talk about disability, or reflecting on tragic crimes committed against disabled individuals, self-advocate opinions and stories are commonly left out, often with serious consequences. When it comes to disregarding the voices of rights holders, the USA Today live chat was only a drop in the bucket.

Coming to fully appreciate the barriers that disabled self-advocates face in getting their voices heard was pivotal for me. But what does it have to do with inclusive education, MCIE or the launch of our blog? Well, for one thing, an appreciation for all actors in the disability rights community plays a large role in informing our organizational perspective. It’s also how we’re hoping to approach this blog.

We have relied heavily on varied perspectives to help develop our foundational philosophy. Our “panel of experts” - the people whose voices form the basis of how we approach all aspects of our work - includes both professional experts and personal ones. We would like it to stay that way. We would also like these varied perspectives to be reflected in the posts we feature on our blog.

That’s why we not only welcome, but seek topic suggestions, feedback and - above all - guest posts. In this blog, you will be hearing from friends of the organization and staff members, but we would also like to feature stories and opinions from family members of individuals with disabilities, professional experts and, of course, self-advocates.  With that in mind, we look forward to working together to grow the MCIE Blog into an insightful voice in the inclusive education and disability rights conversation.

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  • Re: An Inclusive Dialogue

    Welcome to the MCIE Blog! - Sheila, we are so glad to have you on the MCIE team. Looking forward to more posts in the future!

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