Disability – An Axis of Diversity

This week’s article spotlights disability as an axis of diversity. According to this article, 26% of adult Americans have at least one disability, yet data from 2004 suggest that only 4% of faculty members report a disability. Stigmas or biases, inability to fund graduate education while maintaining necessary medical care, lack of role models, and flawed application and hiring practices may all contribute to this lack of diversity among faculty. 
Lack of medical support and livable wages can make it especially challenging for disabled individuals to pursue their graduate studies. Indeed, one student reported that they spent a third of their stipend on medical care each term.

Also, the barrier of the interview process for academic candidates can be particularly grueling, with constant activity and limited breaks. As Jay Dolmage, author of the book Academic Abelism, observes, “There are definitely ways to plan interviews that are much more humane for everybody and also much more accessible.” Such revisions would be useful for everyone involved in the selection process.

Ultimately, there is a critical need in academia to acknowledge disability as a measure of diversity to be celebrated and not simply accommodated. Designing more equitable practices has the potential to benefit everyone.

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