Visiting writers, members of Marshall community speak on disability


Jesten Richardson

Panelists Marshall student Kate Colclough, Marshall assistant professor Carrie Childers, visiting poet Meg Day and visiting author David Wanczyk prepare to discuss disability and creativity during a panel discussion Thursday in Corbly Hall.

Sometimes words people consider to be “lazy descriptions” are actually ableist, or discriminatory against individuals who have a disability, a visiting poet said Thursday afternoon, during a panel discussion on disability and creativity in Corbly Hall.

“I might just ask or encourage that you think about what words actually mean and that when we use words that sometimes we call sort of ‘lazy descriptions,’ that sometimes instead they are very simply ableist,” said Meg Day, a writer and deaf individual who visited Marshall as part of the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series.

“I don’t mean just slurs,” Day said. “I mean, when you use metaphors, you borrow folks’ lived experiences, like, ‘love is blind’ and ‘deaf skies’ and ‘I was paralyzed by fear.’ People actually live those lives. And it seems small and it seems foolish to many of us, and yet, every time I read something that says that the skies are deaf, I think ‘really.’ It’s such a lazy description, but it’s also like you’re just wrong.”

Day was one of four panelists who spoke on disability and creativity Thursday.

Other panelists included David Wanczyk, author of the book “Beep: Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the Blind” and another visiting writer of the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series; Carrie Childers, an assistant professor in Marshall’s department of communication disorders; and Kate Colclough, a Marshall senior who did a study of disability in the novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” as part of her capstone.

John Van Kirk, a coordinator of the A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series and the panel discussion, addressed questions to the panelists on a variety of subjects including their thoughts on budget cuts to “agencies and offices that serve Americans with disabilities.”

Other questions Van Kirk addressed to panelists included inquiries into the thoughts of individual panelists on what people are missing if they just think of poetry as being “all about the sounds of the words and the world of sound”; the difficulties of writing about individuals who have disabilities as a non-disabled individual; how literature and the arts intersect with disability; and what universities gain from a disability studies program and bringing disabled students to the university.

Van Kirk said the purpose of the panel was to raise awareness of issues around disability and what disabled individuals offer as well.

“We’re so used to thinking of quote ‘the norm’ as a person who is able in all the traditional ways, when, in fact, our community is formed of people who have different abilities and disabilities and rather than pretend we don’t see them, this gives us an opportunity to take a look at them and to embrace them or see them for what they are and understand them more deeply,” Van Kirk said.

Day and Wanczyk, as visiting writers in addition to panelists, later read their work, answered audience questions and signed copies of their books, “Last Psalm at Sea Level” (Day) and “Beep: Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the Blind” (Wanczyk) during a separate A. E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series event that was held Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Shawkey Room of the Memorial Student Center.

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected].