We are all aware of various accommodations that our campuses have made to respond to the needs of those with disabilities, such as ramps into our buildings; signage in Braille in the elevators; wheelchair sections in our classrooms; and accessibility requirements for webpages and learning management systems. Still, students, staff and faculty with more visible and less visible disabilities frequently encounter ableism, which refers to beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with disabilities. Recently, Nature has featured the experiences of several scientists who face specific challenges in navigating academia, including a lip-reading ecologist, a graduate student with PTSD, and a nuclear physicist on crutches. They offer advice for how colleagues can be allies such as making small changes in communication methods when needed and not dismissing their requests for accommodations.
Additional guidance is offered in an Inside Higher Ed post about how to write reference letters for colleagues and students with disabilities, including not outing someone’s disability without their permission, not discussing how accommodations “fix” the disability, and not creating “inspiration porn” about the person with the disability. Taken together, these articles prompt us to update our assumptions, professional practices, and campus facilities to normalize and support accommodations for people with disabilities.
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