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Ashley K.

Stovall

July 9, 2017

PSYC 749

Action Plan Rationale

I plan to focus my personal action plan project on ableism and disability. As a

student affairs professional at Longwood University, I worked with the diversity council

and many diverse student populations. I also worked in the Center for Multicultural

Student Services here at JMU as a graduate assistant, and served many multicultural

student groups. As a JMU employee, Ive been through safe zone training and have had

exposure with the LGBTQIA+ community. Needless to say, I have had some experience

with working with and serving multiple diverse populations. There are many other

groups that I havent had the opportunity to learn from. I hope that as I grow

professionally in the counseling field and in my current career, Im able to observe and

gain awareness of other cultures, attitudes, beliefs, and lifestyles.

People with disabilities and ableism are topics that I am probably the least aware

of. I am aware that being abled is a privilege and is something that I have never had to

really think about. I have never personally experienced a disability. I remember

springing my arm once when I was really young, but other than that Ive never broken a

bone, had trouble learning, or difficulty functioning physically or mentally. With that

being said, this population of people is whom I dont really know a lot about.

My first introduction to disability had to be my great uncle Kenny. He was my

grandmothers brother, and was completely blind. He lived with my grandmother for
many years until he was put in a home. As a child, I grew up knowing that he couldnt

see and that there were certain limitations to his life. He would have to ask whos there

if he heard us walking up. He had to walk with a cane, and be helped throughout the

day with eating and other basic things. I dont believe he was born blind, and Im unsure

on when or how he lost his sight.

I would be honest and say that certain disabilities make me uncomfortable and

uneasy to interact withintellectual disabilities especially. And to be completely honest,

I had not yet envisioned or acknowledged the fact that I may have to counsel a client

with a disability. I know that my level of comfort wont get in the way of serving a client.

That has never interfered with past interactions with individuals who are disabled

mentally or physically; so I dont suspect it will start now. Ive been around plenty of

students over the past 8 years who have been on the autistic spectrum. I worked at a

respite camp for community service in college probably the most uncomfortable thing I

had did up to that point; but truly rewarding experience. Currently, I may interact with

someone who needs accommodations in our office, but it is very few opportunities.

Physical disability isnt as uncomfortable. I just cant imagine not having a part of

your body function properly. It is a scary thing to think about, and something I try not to

take for granted. I have a friend who serves on my ministry team at church and she is

partially deaf. She wears a hearing aid and has a speech impediment. Today during our

meeting she shared with us how growing up was not pleasant for her. She was picked

on as a child. She told herself that when she gets older and becomes an adult that it

would be better. However, she shared with the team that it isnt any better really. She

gets stares and weird looks from people that makes her feel less than. She also shared
with us that she feels like an outsider. She feels she doesnt really fit in with the deaf

community because shes not completely deaf, and she doesnt fit in with the hearing

community because shes partially deaf and because she can be hard to understand at

times.

I was thankful for her for sharing that because it gave me a lot of perspective. No

one likes to be the outsider or look different. Even as adults, we want to fit in and

anything that sets us a part can seem like a barrier to belonging or being accepted.

Some disabilities, just like some identities, are invisible. We can choose to hide them for

whatever reasons and for whatever environments. Some people dont have to worry

about fitting in. I believe we all want to be accepted; and I believe that its damaging

when we are rejected based on something we have absolutely no control overlike a

disability.

I havent had that much exposure to the concepts of ableism. I do know that

working in student affairs for almost 10 years has allowed me to be more aware of

accessibility and accommodations on college campuses. I find myself in other areas of

my life such as at church or if Im at an event thinking about the logistics of a building,

program, or presentation; and if it is accommodating to those who may have trouble

hearing, walking, or learning. Its an important lens to have; however, I could do so

much developing and gain so much more knowledge about this specific population and

issue.