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Film Screening Heightens Awareness of Disabilities Studies at TC

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Film Screening Heightens Awareness of Disabilities Studies at TC

Professor D. Kim Reid

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The "First Annual Interdisciplinary Forum on dis/Abilities Studies in Education" brought together academics, researchers and students to examine disability by screening Liebe Perla, an award-winning film which documents an international friendship between two women of short stature: Hannelore, a young German academic, and Perla, an 80-year-old WWII concentration camp survivor. Though the film and panel discussion were designed to inform the audience about issues affecting people with disabilities, several speakers addressed the importance of examining ableism critically across a wide variety of disciplines.

"I thought what Liebe Perla did was really wonderful. It sparked interest for people who may not have thought about disability prior to the event or may not have thought in their cultural studies course about disability either as a critical lens or as a framework to think about," explained Beth Ferri, Assistant Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching. "But it also helped us locate people who were interested in disability in all of the areas."

The forum generated a great deal of interest from Columbia institutions including panel participation from the School of Social Work, the School of Arts and Sciences, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Teachers College, as well as from New York University. After the panel presentation concluded, a question and answer period revealed that many educators were dealing with similar issues in their classrooms and schools.

The forum was created to "bring awareness," added D. Kim Reid, Professor of Education in Curriculum and Teaching, by presenting the disabilities movement and disability studies to a wider range of students. Over the course of the next few years Ferri, Reid and Instructor Lynne Bejoian are working towards providing a chance for all students to engage critically in the study of disability.

As Reid explained, "our hope is to establish an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental center for disability studies here at Teachers College" in conjunction with faculty from Columbia University School of Social Work, Columbia University School of Arts and Sciences, and Jewish Theological Seminary. As she and other members of the TC faculty look towards the future, they plan to propose a "certificate, or perhaps in the future a degree program, where students can take courses from various professors in various departments throughout the entire University that are related to disability studies."

The forum served an important purpose to stimulate dialogue across disciplines, Ferri believes, and encouraged students to engage critically disability and ableism in their daily lives. Ferri commented that the mission was to bring some awareness regarding the field of disability studies and education to Teachers College, but the forum struck a chord with "a wide range of people" who are interested in examining their field of study through a new critical lens.

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