Hi, my name is Dakota Hiltzman. I’m a debater at UTTyler, who you may remember from competing with Lewis Sharp last semester. A lot of our debates centered around ableism and my specific instance of inaccessibility as someone with dysgraphia. At NPDA we seemed to hear a lot of communal support in an effort to make the debate space a more open and accessible one. I think that there is a lot of inaccessibility built into the mechanics of debate that aren’t intentional and that we are not fully aware of. Even for the barriers we are aware of, I’m sure we could benefit from exploring them in a greater level of depth.
This year I’m interested in exploring how the debate space might be better if we could take a cooperative, rather than competitive approach to it. One way of doing this i think, would be by competing with different partners from different schools for the entire season. The first competition we will be attending will be William Jewell next month. I want to see what interest there was from the community for partnering up with me. Would you be interested in being my hybrid partner at Jewell or any future tournaments? Winning is not going to be the prime focus of these debates, and I’m not asking for anyone to sign up as my permanent hybrid partner. More of a partner-of-the-week kind of thing. Like The Powerpuff Girls or Ed Edd n Eddy with debate partners instead of monsters or scams.
I will be transparent here and note that a lot of my assumptions on the lack of accessibility come from an ableist perspective. I think the use of the word ‘accessibility’ gives that away though. I don’t have all the details of the advocacy I’d like to explore completely worked out, but my core critique of accessibility in the debate space is of competition. I thin that as long as we stand to gain the most when our opponents can’t access our arguments in order to refute them, then marginalized bodies will always be excluded as a function of the event’s mechanics. The act of competition builds inaccessibility into our event and rewards exclusionary tactics as clever. This has been explored some in the past through flipping coins and having conversations, but I think that still embraces the win/loss dichotomy at the heart of competition.
I’m willing to change this advocacy some to reflect the perspectives of other groups who have felt excluded from the debate space at some point, especially if a potential partner is a member of said group. Again, I admit that my experience is a specifically ableist one, I’m interested in exploring exclusion at large.
Also, if you’re on Facebook add me there. It might be easier to communicate that way. I’m really bad at keeping track of auxillary websites like this.