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Author of first year common read book "Sitting Pretty," visits Flagler for lecture and panel discussion

Sep 22, 2023
by Anna Boone

Rebekah Taussig, author of the 2023-2024 first year common read book "Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body" recognizes that a lot of people start college with a clear path and purpose, but she said she "was not one of those people."

“I was really frozen,” Taussig, who has been paralyzed since childhood, said during her presentation in Lewis Auditorium Wednesday night. “I felt really overwhelmed staring into this big future. I didn't really know what I could do with my life, let alone what I wanted to do with my life.”  

After spending time visiting with the Flagler community and signing copies of her book "Sitting Pretty," Taussig joined the Class of 2027 for a lecture and panel discussion with faculty members and students. She shared memories from her experience growing up using a wheelchair, insights on the conclusions she formed about her place in the world through that time, and the ideas that changed her way of thinking about disability in society.  

Taussig on stage
Taussig on stage

Taussig said, growing up, her perception of disability was pieced together by "a thousand tiny moments," and that up until graduate school, this perception hadn't shifted much.  

“Disability, to me, meant that you were on the outside,” Taussig said. “I started to see myself as fundamentally different, almost like an alien bobbing around in outer space light years away from planet Earth.”  

After years of making her "needs very small," and never making a "fuss about inaccessibility," Taussig was introduced to a new way of thinking about disability in society.  

The idea that there "was not something fundamentally insufficient, broken, or ill-fitting" about Taussig herself, but rather that "the world had been organized in such a way, the story had been written in such a way, to push [her] out of it and into that role of the little alien bobbing around in outer space.”  

Taussig said this way of thinking about disability energized her to dive further into this topic during her graduate and doctoral study years.  

She discussed examples of how “scientific” assessments of normalcy and human averages came about in relatively recent decades, and the flawed premise behind the initial application of those studies. Taussig used this as evidence to promote the idea that creating an accessible society is in the best interest of everyone.  

“We continue to fill the world with stories and designs and expectations that are built on this belief that the average pilot, the average student, the average worker, the average child, was a real thing,” Taussig said. "We continue to let the image of that normal person captivate our imaginations.” 

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