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Salem State School of Social Work Spotlight: Ben Chase

Ben Chase discusses ableism and disability work in the field of social work

Ben Chase is a bright and engaging student in the Salem State School of Social Work with big dreams to change the way ableism and disability work are looked at in the social work field.

“I think ableism is akin to racism in that we expect better, but we are not as progressive as we like to think. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards being better,” Ben told Salem State. He is currently studying to receive his bachelor's in social work at the university.

“I am part of the disability community. I have a visual impartment which I do need accommodation for. It has a significant impact on my daily life, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily negative. I have experienced, unfortunately, a ton of ableism in school and in the field. And when I originally decided to go into social work, I kind of expected better of the field. I quickly learned that it’s like anything else,” Ben added. 

He continued: “I experienced a few instances in my classes that I was kind of upset about. Professor Slayter had given a few presentations in previous classes [about disability work], but I had never had her as a professor. So, I just wanted to talk to someone, and I spoke to her. It was a really good conversation; she helped me reframe some things [around internalized ableism]. Along the way, she decided to put together this group, and I asked her if I could join.” 

Ben is a part of the Disability Special Interest Group through the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-MA) which is led by himself, Professor Elspeth Slayter, and social work alumni Jamie Partridge. The group, according to Ben, is “led by disabled social workers and supported by allies, so everyone is welcome.”

Ben added, “We’re working on disability advocacy, specifically in social work, but overall, too. I think it’s great that our school has had a big focus, like everywhere else, on racism and specifically racism in social work. But since we’re doing that, I know we can do the same for ableism. We need to have these conversations in and outside of the classroom, in the field especially.”

Ben did not start out his academic life looking at becoming a social worker. “I’ve always known I wanted to go into the helping profession, and I started with psychology,” he said. Ben was introduced to social work during an ethics class that was based around the NASW code of ethics. “Through taking that class, I learned a lot more about social work and really felt connected to it and found a shared passion between myself and the field.”

Ben’s interests include other topics of social justice including crisis work: “This semester I’m at Boston Medical Center and I intern in the Complex Care Management program. Its intensive, short-term case management for people with complex, high-risk medical and psychiatric needs,” he told Salem State. Ben also volunteers for a crisis hotline and hopes to stay in crisis work after completing his MSW, “I see myself working in a crisis unit in a hospital or a psychiatric unit. I really like clinical mental health.”  

Ben has a very bright future ahead of him as he completes his BSW and moves on to his MSW. He knows what he wants and how to achieve his dreams. He is a shining example of the kind of student Salem State attracts and the kind of social worker that I am proud to call my colleague. 

Interview and article by Tina Hunt, MSW student 


Learn more about the Disability Justice Special Interest Group, a shared interest group of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers

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