Education: Essay

Getting Beyond Stereotypes

by Dr. Irving Zola, Brandeis University

(Interview, "Beyond Affliction," National Public Radio, 1998.)

The most troubling aspect about stereotyping is that it doesn't just include negative images, but sometimes also what the outside world thinks of as positive. So we thought that it was positive to stereotype the black individual as having natural rhythms, and greater possibilities of athleticism, and for women to be naturally motherly and nurturant.

For people with disabilities, it's sometimes been the adjective of brave and courageous in the face of such adversity, but what we've experienced it as meaning, you think that it's a fantastic thing, that I'm able to climb a flight of stairs, or walk out in the sun, just like anyone else.

Sometimes it's the endowment of special qualities, the blind person who can hear so extraordinary. . .who because he or she has had that, has emerged as a better person, for it. And because we tend to think of those as positive, we don't think that we're stereotyping, or in fact even putting the burden on it.

How to cite this essay in a Chicago Manual of Style footnote: Irving Zola, “Getting Beyond Stereotypes,” Disability History Museum, (accessed date).