The Universal Benefits of Disability Culture: Difference Keeps the Edges Sharp

The following article appeared in The Special EDge Magazine (Volume 30, no. 1; Autumn-Winter 2016-2017).

By: Mary GradyAudience members enjoying conversation during the midday reception Superfest: International Disability Film Festival (pictured above) showcases disability culture through film. 

"Disability is an unexpected gift.”

This conviction reflects the spirit and direction of the work of Catherine Kudlick, professor of history at San Francisco State University and director of the Paul Longmore Institute on Disability. Legally blind, Kudlick comes to her work with “knowledge and experience of the world of disability. I was fully formed and nurtured in California public schools and universities,” she said in an interview, describing herself as “the product of special education . . . from the late 60s and early 70s. Since then, things have changed and things haven’t changed. My teachers were a mixed bag. Some were great, and others were terrible because of the low expectations they had for me. They didn’t see me for who I was. They saw the label and the thick glasses.” But Kudlick doesn’t seem interested in dwelling on any less-than-perfect part of her K–12 education. And she’s certainly not complaining about living with a vision impairment, despite the fact that her life has been a routine round of surgeries to restore and maintain the 20-percent of typical vision that she currently has. In fact she has taken the opposite tack and through the institute has become an advocate for Disability Culture....

Read the full article as a PDF here: disability_culture_thespecialedge_fall-winter2017