Response to Taylor Hein’s website “Paulo Freire and a Manifesto for Disability Pedagogy”
A “manifesto” is a public statement of intentions, motives, or aims of a specific person or group. To me, it is a call to action. And that’s what Taylor Hein’s website provides us: a great starting point for anyone (teachers, students, and others) wishing to delve more deeply into Disability Studies – and a call to develop what Hein calls a critical disability pedagogy.
Although the home page pictures Paulo Freire himself and conveniently embeds two of his most famous texts, the bulk of the work of this website is Disability. In working at the intersection of Freirean pedagogical ideas and Disability Studies, the website is broad and ambitious, defining disability and its scope, considering the social histories along with the disability rights movement, and powerfully examining the rhetorical dehumanization surrounding disability. This website pulls no punches.
Once Hein lays the detailed foundation of disability studies, she engages several Freirean concepts, most notably “revolutionary praxis” – that is, the process of reflection, critical thought, dialogism with others, and then dialogic action – to overcome ableist systems that continue to oppress – not only the disabled, but everyone, including the Temporarily Able Bodied. Drawing this complex connection is beyond what one might generally expect of an undergraduate, by the way, as she invites us to participate in a specific type of “indignant resistance.”
Hein provides us with some starting points for our own activism, including paying attention to how disability is portrayed all around us and considering our own positionality and the ways we describe disability and see it described – to use “person-first” language, for example. Her powerful visuals augment each of her points. I especially appreciated learning about Hein’s own journey to becoming a Freirean revolutionary (go, Spoonies!), even sharing recent flyers her campus group created to promote their events.
From an instructor’s point-of-view, this site also exemplifies the value of multimodal projects. Instead of all this research, thought, and work being put into some 25-page term paper – never to be seen again after grading – this site is able to spread outward and continue to grow, affecting a much wider audience. Furthermore, this particular project includes links to additional articles and useful sites inserted at the point where they are most effective or needed, along with well-placed, powerful images, nicely curated.
For all of these reasons, I will continue to refer back to this website and use it with my own classes, as we develop another generation of critical disability scholars, teachers, and activists.