Speaker adresses overcoming disabilities

Reporter and Reporter

Adrienne Asch spoke to guests in the Union on Thursday evening about the ethical and political issues surrounding disabilities and families in contemporary society.

Asch, director of the Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University, presented “Disability in the Family: People with Disabilities as Parents and Children.”

In the presentation, Asch said disabilities are common in today’s society, and that there are students, staff and faculty at the University who have disabilities.

It is estimated that one-sixth of the U.S. population suffers from some sort of disability, Asch said.

“People think of a disability as something that happens to someone else,” she said.

People also often think of disabilities as a charity matter, Asch said. The opposing view, she said, is not to celebrate a disability, but also not to apologize or complain about it.

Asch talked about the implications of conducting prenatal tests on embryos, and asked what that said about disabilities.

“Haven’t you ever wanted to change something about yourself if you could?” she said. “Or maybe someone we know would want to change something about us.”

Asch also challenged the meaning of being a parent by asking what a parent was.

Is it cuddling or lifting a child, or guiding and teaching, she said.

“Why would a disability prevent parenthood?” she said.

Asch cited Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village,” meaning there is more involved in the rearing of a child than just the parents, that it is a combined effort of many different people.

“Once a disability is seen as a drain and burden on society, it diminishes who that person is or can be and deprives the person who needs help the dignity of being productive in other realms of life,” she said.

The topics of eugenics and prenatal testing were discussed together.

If some things are tested for but not others, like dwarfism but not height, eye sight but not eye color, deafness but not tone deafness, that is eugenic, Asch said.

Jack Paap, a graduate student who drove down from the University of Toledo to see Asch present, said he enjoyed the presentation and how open she was and how she did not hide anything.

“It’s a tough thing to talk about,” he said.

Mary, Paap’s wife, said while she does not like the idea that prenatal testing occurs, she thinks it can be beneficial so that families can prepare if need be.

The Disability Studies Research Cluster organized the event, and Asch was the first speaker it hosted as a group, said Sarah Rainey, assistant professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies.

The Disability Studies Research Cluster is an interdisciplinary group of University students engaged in research and teaching that critically examines disability and the social construction of disability, according to the website.

For more information email Sarah Rainey at [email protected]