Multiculturalism and Disability

By O'Connor, Susan | The Exceptional Parent, March 1993 | Go to article overview

Multiculturalism and Disability


O'Connor, Susan, The Exceptional Parent


The word multiculturalism has become a buzz word lately gaining wide recognition in most fields, yet how the term has been interpreted varies greatly. Multiculturalism is often understood as simply the study and understanding of a variety of ethnic groups with the belief that by studying their different characteristics and traits we (the dominant culture) will be better able to work together with these differences (Suzuki, 1984).

Many, however, believe that taking a multicultural perspective means going beyond this sole focus and looking at the other social forces that shape our lives (Banks & McGee Banks, 1989; Gollnick & Chinn, 1990; Goodenough, 1987). In this view, multiculturalism includes the study of the effects of race, culture, class, gender and disability to name a few. A multicultural perspective then provides a way of understanding ourselves and encourages all of us to look at how our own values and perspectives affect our view of the world and influence how we interact with those that are different from ourselves. It also acknowledges the existence of a dominant culture, characterized by what can be called white, middle-class assumptions and behaviors.

Within our educational and ' human service system differences in race, culture, class and gender among other things, all affect how families and people with disabilities are served and the decisions that are made about their lives. As we are increasingly learning the importance of listening to parents and people with disabilities, multiculturalism is providing a framework to begin to listen to people who have been discriminatecd against not only for their disability, but a number of other factors that play an important part in their identities. …

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