SMR Forum: Disability

Last Friday, SMR members met for a forum on disability sponsored by SMR and the SMTD office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. SMR member Elizabeth McLain guided activities aimed at understanding challenges that people with disabilities face, presented anecdotes and information regarding terminology, and answered attendees’ questions (more details below). While SMTD has a long way to go in removing barriers of all types and making the School a more accessible and inclusive place, this session represents a step in the right direction.


Designed to be useful for both instructors and students at SMTD, this forum introduces the experience of disability in higher education in a safe, interactive space.  We begin with an activity based on Spoon Theory to increase empathy for the difficult choices colleagues and students with physical, mental, and social disabilities encounter in their daily lives. Afterwards, a brief presentation defines disability, explains the difference between person-first and identity-first language, and compares the medical and social models of disability.  Using real accommodation paperwork from UM, we discuss the obstacles to getting accommodations, the limits to accommodations, and the particular challenges to implementing accommodations in a music school. Lastly, we brainstorm alternatives to the imperfect accommodation system, particularly the implementation of Universal Design principles in our classrooms. Participants will leave the forum with a better sense of disability issues, concrete ideas to implement in their courses, and resources to help them support disabled students and colleagues.

– Elizabeth McLain

Disability forum

Elizabeth McLain leading a forum discussion with a packed room.

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