Disability and Ableism Class Activity

Objectives: Have students learn about inequality in the built environment first hand, Expose privilege, Introduce the topic of ableism, Promote discussion and expose students to a basic understand of the American Disabilities Act

Adopted from Kath Livingston (Teaching Sociology, 2000), this activity is aimed at helping students understand inequities in the built environment. Students are split into groups, and each group is assigned a nearby building at the University. Equipped with a measuring tape and an evaluation sheet, each group then travels around their assigned building evaluating if the building meets the minimum recommendations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. When the students are finished assessing their buildings, we discuss their findings.

Students are always eager to discuss what they have found and engage thoughtfully about how they have previously failed to notice inequalities in the built environment and how unfair these inequalities feel after completing the activity. Important questions are consistently raised about the responsibly of the University and other institutions to design spaces that are accessible for all bodies. I use this discussion to address what the law currently stipulates – that existing buildings make accommodations when they are “readily achievable” – as well as policy suggestions for the future.

 World of 40 Classroom Activity on Global Inequality

Objective: Demonstrate inequalities in the use of and control over global resources, Increase understanding of our relationship with developing countries, Examine the complex global issues of wealth, health, resources, education and pollution

The following activity is utilized during the section of my Social Problems course that focuses on Global Inequality. The activity, which is designed to make statistics about inequality more tangible, is conducted after students have been assigned a reading that explains some of the latest data on global inequality.

During the demonstration, students are given birth certificates and are “reborn” into a new country. The birth certificate also assigns them a sex. Students then form groups with other students from countries with similar Gross National Incomes and the game begins. Following the script, I then distribute resources such as money (candy), food (crackers and cookies) and water to the groups. Students are quickly able to understand who are the haves and who are the have-nots in the global economy. I also distribute various social problems to the groups like infant mortality and weapons.

Witnessing the inequalities that begin to happen in the classroom, some students in wealthier nations ask to give their extra candies, cookies or water to other groups. This provides a unique opportunity to discuss foreign aid from the US to other nations. I instruct them that they are allowed to give the same percentage of candy as the US gives in foreign aid. Using the World of 40 percentages, that amounts to less than one candy that can be given away.

When the activity is complete, the students are given a follow-up questionnaire that asks them to reflect on their experience during the activity and provide feedback to me, the instructor, for improving the activity for future classes (attached). Student’s have consistently reflected thoughtfully on the demonstration and have pointed out that it helps them to make the statistics they read before class more real.