November 2021 – Drew’s Theological Student Association recently welcomed Dr. Sharon Betcher G’98 for a Conversation on Disability Theory/Praxis.
Betcher, an independent scholar, writer, and former adjunct professor at Drew Theological School, lost her leg to a life-threatening infection nearly three decades ago and has been a passionate advocate for persons with disabilities.
The event was moderated by Sarah Williams, Master of Divinity student and president of the Theological Student Association
Williams asked the virtual audience of Drew students, faculty, and alums to conceptualize their meaning of disability by filling the chat feature—the resulting inclusive words included “resisting,” “everywhere,” “human,” “invisible,” “mine,” among many others.
Betcher’s experiences as a person with a disability have been far from as welcoming as the chat from the Drew community.
When she emerged with her disability, she was shocked by the negative reactions from those around her. “I was befuddled. I found myself living in an undertow of revulsion, disgust, and paternalism.”
"I hope you'll just call me human."
Betcher tried to understand the negative effect of her disability on others through analytics. “Instead of accepting the projections about me, I began to slice into the projections to learn and try to understand,” she said. “Disability gave me a new epistemological lens—an analysis of both our culture and Christian theology.”
Whether onset at birth, a cause of trauma or tragedy, or human on human injustice, the word ‘disabled’ focuses on the abnormality of the human. Betcher asked the group to use person-first language, such as ‘persons with disabilities.’ “We are persons first, we are humans first,” she said.
“Disability is incredibly individuating; a unique experience of how our bodies and minds encounter the world. What persons with disabilities do share are the effects coming at us—the revulsion, the disgust, the wishing we were different,” said Betcher. “I hope you’ll just call me human.”