Emancipation at 150 lecture addresses racial prejudice

Geneseo hosted Syracuse University College of Law professor of law Arlene Kanter for the annual President’s Diversity Lecture on Wednesday Feb. 27. Kanter is also the director of the Disability Law and Policy Program and co-director of the Center of Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies at Syracuse.

Kanter’s lecture “From Charity to Human Rights for People with Disabilities,” focused on the legal actions that need to be made in order to grant people with disabilies more rights. One of the presentation’s major focuses was on the Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities. According to its website, the CRDP is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

According to Kanter, the CRPD “has the potential worldwide to advance the rights for people with disabilities, not because it’s a law, but because, rather, of its potential to mobilize people with disabilities and their allies to demand change.”

Kanter discussed how one of the problems those with disabilities face today is the way society perceives them. 

“For most of history, in every country in the world, people with disabilities were generally invisible. People don’t think about them often, policy makers don’t talk about them,” Kanter said. “When they are viewed, they are often viewed as objects of pity or sick people who needed help or treatment or a cure. They were not seen as individuals, people with rights and the ability to contribute meaning to society.”

“Disability is the fastest growing minority in the world today. Unlike other groups, disability is different because we may all feel it. A colleague of ours calls it TAPs, or temporarily abled peoples,” Kanter said. She said that this idea of TAPs refers to the idea that at some point in our lives we may all be faced with disability, whether it is a broken foot or a mental disability. 

Kanter discussed how over the years people have worked to establish the human rights model of disability that states that people with disabilities should no longer be considered objects of the law and of pity but seen as subjects deserving of equal rights. 

According to Kanter, the social model of disability was created in reaction to the medical model of disability, which views disability as a problem that needs to be solved. The social model places emphasis on society to eliminate the negative connotations surrounding those with disabilities and to remove the many barriers preventing those with disabilities from living full and meaningful lives. 

According to associate professor of education Linda Ware, students interested in the topic of disability can inquire about the Geneseo student organization Students Eliminating Ableism through Advocacy, for which she is the adviser. SEAA is a student-run advocacy group that works to fight against ableism, the discrimination against people with disabilities.

Ware noted the importance of educating students about the necessity of obtaining equal rights for those with disabilities and said she feels that it is useful for students to know about the subject because it is somewhat new. 

“We don’t have any classes here at Geneseo except for the ones that I teach,” Ware said. 

Ware also noted one problem with the lack of human rights for people with disabilities: “In disability studies we say it is everyone who is not disabled that makes the problem of disability a problem,” she said.