To a large extent academia is a very sheltered environment. It is, to be sure, ozone that values intelligence and mental normality, but for people with a physical disability, it is very welcoming;. At college,, my group of friends accept me for who I am; they help me whenever it's needed, from helping me make tea to walking me home at night. The slight patronising tones of the kitchen staff aside, I do not feel I am discriminated against in any way at college.
But, as I say, academia is very sheltered. It is a bubble of usually intelligent people, where often my biggest concern ibis whether I'll get an assignment done on time, or whether I've included too little theoretical stuff in my essay. Yet, outside of the bubble, away from the parties and the intellectual freedom, is a world of discrimination against disable people.
As far as I can make out, there are four people with physical disabilities on campus. That's far too few, on my opinion. Four out of 5000 is a disproportionately small number. I do not think that the problem lies with selection - my lecturers seemed all too keen to take me in, but I think I impressed them when I mentioned two film theorists in the interview. Rather, discrimination against the disabled happens before that.
I think there is an expectation at school level that the disabled are unable to cope with higher education, or much education at all for that matter. This leads to many disabled kids going to second rate schools, and this will have a major effect. For this stifling will mean problems getting jobs etc, as well as problems fighting for our rights. How can we effectively fight for social justice when we are denied the foundation of democracy - education? For example, say someone asks for a ramp to be put in place on a public building, and the MP he's negotiating with starts citing old writs which the disabled person cannot access due to his illiteracy? The disabled person has essentially been repressed because the playing field is not level.
Thus I will argue that segregated education is the root of all evil, at least when it comes to discrimination against disabled people. Whenever two sets of people are educated separately, moreover, they learn to fear each other. This applies to gender, religion or ability. Kids who go to catholic schools learn to fear protestants; girls who go to girls-only schools often fear boys, and so on. Comprehensive education came about for this reason, to prevent the class divide, the gender gap and the religious gap. Why does it still apply to disability?
Until education is fully inclusive, and all special schools abolished, disabledism will continue to exist. Why, today, should one group be segregated from the rest? I see no difference between this and apartheid, for all the barriers to inclusion can be easily overcome. It would just take some imagination, and the opening of minds.