More About Disability and the University

“The only intelligible language in which we converse with one another consists of our objects in their relation to each other. We would not understand a human language and it would remain without effect. By one side it would be recognised and felt as being a request, an entreaty, and therefore a humiliation.”   Karl Marx

Now and then (but only occasionally) I see how disabled students and faculty at American universities “break through” by using the intelligible language of commodities. We organize a day of wheelchair basketball. A “crip hop” poetry slam.

These occurrences disrupt the abject traffic of request. What’s the antonym for humiliation?  

The antonym is “honor”. 

One of the principal reasons so many people with disabilities work in disability fields is that disability is objectified and therefore within able bodied culture it has no corresponding or inherent value. “Our objects in relation to each other” implies utility and a power wheelchair isn’t conversant with a Lexus.

Imagined without essential value,  universities make everything about disability a request, an entreaty, and therefore a humiliation.

All disabled students and faculty understand this.

What’s not so well understood is the fierce attachment universities have to a rehabilitation model of disablement: take a number, sit down. Let me see your paper work. 

There is no corresponding commodity for disablement in the relations of objects.

Universities are de-stabilizing enterprises when it comes to conditional bodies.

It’s true of all conditional bodies—just ask Henry Louis Gates.

But the disabled body has an special set of weights attached. I call them “intelligibility dumbells” and only crippled people have them. They’re opaque. Hard to see.   
In a way they’re like scar tissue. Twenty years of requests and requesting will build you a carapace. 

One wonders how disabled students feel at Kent State University. The Justice Department has filed a law suit because students with emotional or psychological disabilities were denied fair housing owing to their need for service animals.  

I repeat: universities make everything about disability a request and therefore a humiliation. A crippled identity is a sub-caste in the ivory tower’s world of commodified exchanges.

What about Lesley University which refused to modify its food plan for students with celiac disease? Were the celiac people a lower caste? Apparently so: the DOJ had to“school them” on the issue.  

Then there’s the story of a woman student at Quinnipiac University who sought mental health care and was removed from campus. The university even kept her tuition. 

There is no corresponding commodity for disablement. Colleges and universities frequently fail outright to see the value of students and staff with disabilities. At the core, they represent the future.