Yellowstone, a teenager with cerebral visual impairment (CVI) from the USA, has been ‘job-training’ to be a summer camp counsellor. The training is about diversity and children who will be in her care when she’s a counsellor, and issues around that. Yellowstone explains why she finds it both misguided and problematic.
Yellowstone: Continuing my job-training adventures, recently we had a training exercise on ‘diversity’. It’s been noticed that the people (in the US, at least) who have the most privileges tend to be, amongst other things, not disabled (I don’t really like the term ‘able-bodied’ because I feel like differences in how you think can be just as much a disability). More ‘diverse’ people don’t have those same privileges, so we need to work to make things like workplaces more inclusive. Which in and of itself isn’t a bad idea, but the way it’s being handled is, in my opinion, a mess. Something that I personally don’t like, is that most people in my experience who talk about ‘diversity’ are either being loud about how ‘we’re all the same’ or being loud about how ‘we’re all different’. I don’t really want to be seen as either of those. I don’t want to be treated like I’m not disabled, but I also don’t want every single thing I do differently to be drawn attention to. I think the best way to phrase this is that I want to be treated like my disability is normal. And, for me, it is.
The job training diversity exercise wasn’t for ‘making kids feel more accepted’, it wasn’t even ‘how to answer questions about yourself’, it was more like ‘if a kid (for example) has a disability and another kid asks about it, these are the kinds of things you can say’. It involved teaching us how to answer any questions the not-as-diverse kids might have. Which I don’t like because it means you’re encouraging kids to ask questions that other kids might not be comfortable answering. I was trying to decide which would have been worse for me as a kid: having to answer another kid’s questions, or having my counselor answer them for me.
The training was also very clearly aimed at the ‘non-diverse’ kids rather than anyone who would actually benefit from having a more inclusive summer camp. There were questions such as ‘are you uncomfortable talking about people being different from you?’. I was tempted to say, ‘Yes, I’m very uncomfortable talking about people who aren’t like me, which means I’m uncomfortable in almost every conversation’, but I didn’t think sarcasm would be appreciated. A big problem I had with the job training diversity exercise was that the intent behind it wasn’t to make ‘diverse’ kids feel more accepted. The training exercise itself was also very inaccessible. I actually thought this was funny that training on including people like me would be inaccessible to me, and my supervisor apologized over and over again for this.
CVI Scotland: We’re not entirely sure what ‘diversity’ means to be honest.
Someone who needs a white cane due to eye blindness might identify as having a disability (or not), but would they consider themselves to be diverse just because they are blind?
So, what is diversity? At what point does a person ‘qualify’ as diverse? Both in terms of how they identify and how others identify them. Still, we are not sure.
Importantly, cases where the way in which the brain processes means a person might have difficulties, are increasingly being identified and both supported and protected in law. This includes autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia. We are not sure whether some or all people in these groups would consider themselves diverse, but importantly, they are recognised in law. What about CVI? It is hidden in the brain but is part of the world of visual impairments. Does having CVI automatically make a person diverse?
Diversity requires something to be diverse from – what exactly is that? We are back to the ”What is normal?” problem.
Yellowstone: I also agree that there isn’t really a ‘normal person’, despite what the media wants us to think. And - this really bothers me - people seem a lot more willing to ‘accept’ people with physical disabilities, but a lot less willing to accept people who think differently, learn differently, etc. My mom said at one point that maybe with physical disabilities, it’s easier for someone to think, e.g. ’This person is just like me, they’re just in a wheelchair’, but it’s a lot harder to think that about someone who doesn’t understand things in the same way they do. I then pointed out, ‘I bet the person in the wheelchair feels the exact same as everyone else when they’re in a building without an elevator’. Anyway, I think this is pretty spot-on. In my own life, I’ve seen people more easily comprehend the fact that I can’t see something than comprehend the fact that I don’t know what something looks like because I’ve never seen it.
Basically, the less ‘relatable’ we are to quote-unquote ‘normal people’, the less we will be ‘accepted’ by people advocating for ‘diversity’.
CVI Scotland: So, what is diversity? We still aren’t sure.
The word diversity comes from the Latin word divertere, which means to ‘turn aside’ or ‘go aside’ or, ‘go in at an inn’.
Your generous donations will be put to immediate use in supporting our charity...
At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.