The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

Disability in the Academy (an ongoing dialogue)

Francis Bacon wrote that people with disability develop to be “extreme bold” as a habit born of their need to defend themselves from the “scorn” of others. No doubt much has changed in the years since Bacon opined on the matter, but Stephen Kuusisto writes, in “Extreme Bold in the Faculty Ranks,” that students and faculty with disabilities still have a long way to go before they are treated with full equality in academia.

Given the number of Americans with disabilities, Kuusisto is rightly shocked at how little we’ve done to accommodate people with different needs. In one particularly galling example, a classroom building at the University of Minnesota was missing ramps in many places, making it effectively impossible for students and faculty in wheelchairs (or, in some cases, with canes or walkers) to get to the classes and departments there. This one issue was fixed after the student newspaper drew attention to it, but as Kuusisto writes, academia at large needs to shift its thinking so that these issues don’t happen at all.

The article is part of what is turning into an informal series on disability in the academy; in 2012, Academe published “Chronic Illness and the Academic Career” and “Access in the Academy.

About Ezra Deutsch-Feldman

Communications Specialist at the AAUP; proprietor of the @forprofitwatch twitter feed.

4 comments on “Disability in the Academy (an ongoing dialogue)

  1. Yvonne Groseil
    January 23, 2013

    Chronic illness is even worse for adjuncts, who do not have sick days, must make up lost classes or be docked their meager pay. In addition, since adjuncts live with the constant threat of not getting a contract for next term, it does not make a good impression to miss a class if there is an acute episode of illness. So, we show up as long as we can stand, and sometimes we beg our doctors for medication to help us stand up and teach, even if it is not the best thing for treating the illness. And then our doctors want to discuss our “anxiety issues” when we go on about not being able to take a sick day.

  2. stemcollege
    January 23, 2013

    Unfortunately, the academe seems to be willing to chronically accept the role of playing catch-up. Instead of proactively preparing for the increasing range and severity of disability that students, faculty and staff experience, we continue to slowly modify things that haven’t been working for years.

  3. Colin Carpenter
    January 26, 2013

    Steve Kuusisto is Director of the Renee Crown Honors Program at Syracuse University where he is also a “University Professor” in Disability Studies. He has taught creative writing at The Ohio State University and The University of Iowa. His memoir Planet of the Blind was named a New York Times Notable Book and he is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir and Do Not Interrupt, a book-length essay on the art of conversation. He is a poet with Copper Canyon Press and a member of Pacific University’s MFA faculty in creative nonfiction.

  4. Shirley Clayton
    January 29, 2013

    Given the number of Americans with disabilities, Kuusisto is rightly shocked at how little we’ve done to accommodate people with different needs. In one particularly galling example, a classroom building at the University of Minnesota was missing ramps in many places, making it effectively impossible for students and faculty in wheelchairs (or, in some cases, with canes or walkers) to get to the classes and departments there. This one issue was fixed after the student newspaper drew attention to it, but as Kuusisto writes, academia at large needs to shift its thinking so that these issues don’t happen at all.

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This entry was posted on January 23, 2013 by in working conditions and tagged , , , .
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