Professor Smith engages in Public Sociology, Hosts Symposium on Disability Rights

by Sidney Davis, WGST Intern

Professor Smith engages in Public Sociology, Hosts Symposium on Disability Rights
(L-R) Representatives from NDSS, Mason Life, and Charlotte Woodward and her mother Darcy led the symposium on advocating for people with disabilities’ rights

Professor Earl Smith, affiliated with the Sociology, Women and Gender Studies and African and African American Studies departments, hosted a symposium for students in his Social Inequalities (SOCI 355) class to discuss issues facing students with intellectual and physical disabilities.

This event featured associates from the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)  Nicole Patton, Ashley Helsing, as well Kudy Giwa-Lawal, the Program Coordinator for Mason LIFE, a program that empowers students with intellectual and developmental disabilities by fostering an inclusive academic environment at Mason.

Professor Smith had his class participate in a dialogue over the societal limitations and overall experiences many people with disabilities face, as well as highlighting their progress and success. One of his students, Charlotte Woodward, and her mother, Darcy, led this campus-community conversation.

Their honesty and forthrightness offered students an opportunity to gain a unique insight to this larger sociological phenomenon of how able-bodied and differently abled people navigate society.

This symposium also created an environment for students to learn about the socio-political, economic, and legal challenges facing people with disabilities, and ways to advocate for their fellow classmates and community members.

In particular, something that would positively impact people with Down Syndrome and their families is “Law Syndrome”. This is a new bill endorsed by the NDSS that would make it illegal for companies pay people with disabilities sub-standard wages.

Routinely, when companies hire a person with a disability, they can get a certificate giving them the legal right to pay whatever wage they feel appropriate, which often translates to as little as a few cents an hour for their labor.

This new campaign to push “Law Syndrome” addresses misconceptions in labor rights that federal public policy doesn’t address, especially with vulnerable populations such as those with disabilities that face constant barriers in society.


To read Charlotte’s story, visit here

To support #LawSyndrome, visit here

To support businesses that employ people with disabilities and pay them a living wage, visit here