disability, language, and popular culture

Language, disability, and pop culture may seem like three disparate issues, but the connections between them are palpable and real. Disability rights leader Justin Dart once said, “You cannot be responsible for your own family without being responsible for the society and environment in which you live.” Contained within this statement are ways to connect the ideas of disability, language, and popular culture. Disability may be seen or unseen, it may be physical, mental, or emotional, but it is never just about one person; it is about the social reality that everyone lives in everyday.

Scene from Glee

Language and pop culture are ways that we understand our social reality. It is how we talk about ourselves and others and the ways we interact with media such as television, movies, and the internet. These are ways we normalize certain bodies and minds while at the same time limiting others.

Glee wheelchair dance

Currently, the television show “GLEE” is in the spotlight for addressing issues like a student who uses a wheelchair, a deaf choir, and even more transient (though truly many disabilities are fluid) ideas of disability such as pregnancy and an assumed stutter. While this show may have growing pains as it addresses disability, it is a coming together of the ideas of disability, language, and pop culture to make a wide audience think about what it means to experience disability and challenge the ways we talk to each other about these ideas. The science fiction author Ursula LeGuin tells us, “together we can try to hear and speak that language in the world, we who speak for a world that has no words but ours” (p. 159).

Glee defined

Language helps define our social reality and being understood in the world is mediated by accepted definitions of pop culture and disability thus a critical reading of the three of these issues together brings a more nuanced insight to the ways they work together and individually.

Glee characters: clip illustrates many of the problematic issues

Our group  is concerned with the construction of the disabled/abled identity through and within language and popular culture and the implications of that construction on education, educational institutions, and access to education.  “We all regularly use tools– physical and social privileges– in our teaching and learning, but we expect them to the degree that we do not even really see them,” asserts Kristina R. Knoll in “Feminist Disability Studies Pedagogy” (2009).  Our goal as a group aims to raise awareness of the privileges experienced or denied within education based on an identification of ability or disability.

This clip highlights the problematic nature of simulations,
yet the possible power of simulations

Our Readings

Here are our readings for class, and other suggested readings that we considered (all are PDF files):

Emergence of Disability Pedagogy

Spiderman and Superheroes

Redefining Disability


People First Language

A New Way of Thinking About Disability

Emergence of Disability Pedagogy

The Hegemonic Implulse for Health and Well Being

LeGuin BrynMawr Address

Feminist Disability Studies Pedagogy

Carnal Acts


2 Responses to disability, language, and popular culture

  1. Kristine Paterson says:

    Good introduction to the topic using visual aids.

  2. Kristine Paterson says:

    I’m having a hard time getting to the link for the group members that appear at the bottom of your list because of the way that the title bar is situated. When I try to click on William’s for example, it goes to the group below instead. Just an fyi-perhaps you want to revamp the layout a little.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s