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Disability Sensitivity Comic Series
by Priya Reddy

When you hear the words training modules, the first things that comes to your mind probably are not comics. Traditional training modules on sexual assault, racial injustice, and disability sensitivity tend to consist of short readings followed by multiple questions. But how engaging and applicable is this popular mode of learning? How many students are actually learning rather than just skimming the article to find answers to the questions asked?

When I noticed that many professors and students on my campus treated students with disabilities inappropriately by either drawing attention to their disability, getting shocked and asking a student to leave the classroom when s/he is stimming, or speaking slower and louder when addressing a student with disabilities, I felt that it was necessary to create a disability sensitivity training module consisting of suggested practices in different situations. I wanted to create something engaging, effective, clear, and applicable to the readers’ daily lives. I started with writing stories of situations my peers had faced and suggested ways to have better dealt with that situation. However, I was not fully satisfied with this written method of training. That is when I stumbled upon comics. During a conference I was presenting at, I met Dr. Cathy Ryan, an English professor, who introduced me to the world of comics. After seeing multiple comics and art pieces her students created to express themselves, I knew I wanted to use this mode of expression to share my peers’ stories and create a change in my campus.

Some of you may be wondering what is so special about comics. Unlike articles and other readings, comics capture the emotion of the characters and visually portray those expressions. Instead of just informing students that they should not talk louder and slower when addressing someone with a disability, it shows the effect doing this has on the individual. Moreover, comics require less effort to read and understand when compared to articles and stories; this makes it a more effective method of teaching for college students who may not want to spend much time completing a module. Furthermore, discussing specific scenarios is more valuable than just stating what actions are inappropriate versus appropriate. When worded in a statement, inappropriate actions seem more obvious, while in situations one might not notice that the character is acting inappropriately.

The majority of comics in my disability sensitivity training are organized in the following manner. Every comic starts with an introduction of the characters followed by a general overview of the scenario. Next, the student will inappropriately deal with the situation at hand.  The following panel reflects upon that option by explaining why that action was inappropriate. The next couple of panels will include a better followed by the suggested way to deal with the event. Each of these options will have its own panel explaining why their reaction was better and ways it can be improved.

Walking through different options allows readers to reflect upon their own interactions and times when they could have acted more mindfully. A lot of times these inappropriate actions are unintentional and merely a result of a lack of knowledge. We do not learn about intellectual and developmental disabilities in school and oftentimes students with these disabilities are placed in a special education program, which limits learning that comes with interactions and exposure. For these reasons, many people’s views on disabilities are shaped by the media and films, both of which include various inaccurate representations. Hence, it is very important to have a training that breaks the stereotypes embedded into the minds of many. My goal with this comic series is to create a positive change in our society and break these stereotypes we grow up believing. This will only be possible if everyone who reads this chooses to not only make active changes in their lives but educate those around them.

Walking to Class

Disability Sensitivity Comic Series 1

Late Night Studying

Disability Sensitivity Comic Series 2

Mashed Potatoes

Disability Sensitivity Comic Series 3

Priya Reddy is a senior at The Ohio State University majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Disability Studies on the pre-med track. She is passionate about medicine and intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is particularly interested in educating future healthcare professionals about intellectual and developmental disabilities in order to improve the quality of care individuals with IDD receive.

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