The culture of disability

There are many students on Portland State’s campus who are faced with challenges just with attending classes.

Kathy Coleman, a social work student, is one such student. Coleman is in a wheelchair but does not consider herself disabled.

Coleman says that people with disabilities have their own culture, they have their own history, and that history is one of oppression.

When people discuss cultural issues, Coleman said, people with disabilities should be included in that discussion.

Coleman said it is important to recognize that there is not so much of a difference between those who have disabilities and those who do not. She said there should not be that division.

“Disability is not a bad thing,” Coleman said, “It is not a pitiful thing.”

Coleman said it is also important to be conscious of the physical space where activates are held. There are some places that are not accessible for people with disabilities.

There is nothing wrong with people with disabilities, but instead there is something wrong with the accessibility for people with disabilities, Coleman said.

Accessibility is an issue for many students on campus.

“There are certain buildings that I go to the bathroom and some I don’t,” Coleman said.

Since Coleman is a social work student a majority of her classes are in a building that is not very accessible for her.

Each class that Coleman registers for has to move to a room that she can access. She said this practice has worked out fine for her.

Coleman is an advocate for having a Disabilities Studies Program at Portland State University. A Disabilities Studies Program applies social, cultural, historical and philosophical perspectives to the study of disability in society. In addition, disabilities studies focuses on the economic and political forces that have been used in regards to people with disabilities.

Coleman said if people would like to become involved or to learn more about students with disabilities to start with the Student with disAbilities Union.

The Students with disAbilities Union office is located in Smith Memorial Center basement 47A. Or for more information call 503-725-5664 or email at [email protected].