Kimberly Sanford is a fourth-year student at SUNY New Paltz graduating this spring from the School of Education. She is very active in Disability Studies and co-planned the recent Judy Heumann event “In Conversation with Judy Heumann.” She also presented at the Multicultural Education Conference at SUNY New Paltz.
Sanford, an adolescent education with a minor in Deaf Studies, is on the path to becoming a high school English teacher. With her background in Disability studies and language, she hopes to make education more accessible and challenge the way non-Disabled people have created our education systems.
Sanford is a teacher candidate, which means she is pursuing a career in public education. At first, she wanted to use English studies to become a writer but as she worked with more faculty mentors she said, “I was reaffirmed in my interest in pursuing education because I see education first and foremost as a tool for social mobility.”
She also recognizes how powerful education and literacy are. Regardless of what field you decide to pursue, reading and writing as a form of communication is vital to make your voice heard.
Sanford says, “It was important to me to give students and emerging writers and emerging citizens that opportunity (voicing your opinion) as well” and in education she says, “we need more specifically women and queer women who are interested in supporting the voices of marginalized students.”
After Sanford took a Disability Intro course with Dr. April Coughlin her first year at New Paltz, she became inspired to learn more about the “unmarked history that we don’t hear about in our lower secondary education.” This is when she declared her minor in deaf studies. Dr. Coughlin and Sanford have worked together in the past to write an article for the Journal of Teaching Disability Studies at CUNY.
When speaking about how our campus could be more accessible, she said, “It comes down to individuals and departments wanting to take initiative and making their resources and their courses fully accessible.” Having many different options when it comes to the way we receive information is the best way to be more inclusive.
This summer Sanford will start her graduate classes here at SUNY New Paltz and continue working with Dr. Coughlin on the Annual Disabilities studies series to introduce some new professional development opportunities. She hopes to integrate “those discussions about what Disability means as an identity and what it means specifically for our campus.”
Regarding our student body, Sanford encourages everyone to take on opportunities to learn about the Disabled community. She says un-learning wrong information that you believe isn’t always easy. We need to “reconcile with our own misconceptions of what we believe about other people, as individuals … and be willing to be wrong. It’s not a comfortable thing to do. It’s unpleasant. It’s admittedly scary because no one likes being wrong.”