Monday, September 17, 2012

Recommended article: "Access in the Academy: Accommodating faculty members with disabilities can help everyone," by Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

Access in the Academy:
Accommodating faculty members with disabilities can help everyone

By Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

I recommend this article to individuals, Meetings, Pagan organizations, UU churches, singing groups, and other groups, for a whole handful of reasons. 

As I read it, I found myself gleefully muttering, "Yes, yes, yes," over and over.  

The biggest reason I'm recommending it is that Kerschbaum offers ways of thinking about disability and access that are interesting, useful, and very likely different from how we/you are used to thinking about disability and accessibility.

There is so, so much good stuff in this article, it's hard to pull out even a fragment for you.  But I will lift up / pull out two things:

One is that I am reminded of how the fragrance-free policies in various groups and events ( benefit everyone there, not only people with chemical and fragrance sensitivities. 

Another is the issue of nametags, and how happy I am that Kerschbaum brings up nametags as an accessibility issue.

Nametags make events more accessible for me.  Plain and simple. 

Require name tags at department events and socials. Even if you know everyone in your department, there are often visitors at such events who may not. For some people, it can take many repeated encounters to remember another person’s name; for others, memory is visual rather than aural. In both cases, the name tag eases some of the social stress of the event. 

Yes, yes, yes.  

In the US, many (but definitely not all!) Quaker Meetings and organizations I've been part of have used nametags.  So have many dance groups; folk and Scottish dancers in the US, in fact, will often sport name tags whether they're provided or not.  In Pagan groups and organizations, this has varied widely. And so forth.

In Scotland in the last year, I have been to two, exactly two, Quaker events where there were supposed to be nametags... and they were missing from the first one (no one could find the box), and there were no provisions for substitute nametags.  This is seen as a cultural issue, not an access issue.

It places one more barrier for me to full participation in community.  

So far, when I've brought up that nametags are useful, not just for me with my particular disability, but for other people with other issues as well, I've been told variations on, "We don't do that here."  

I have hopes of addressing this more successfully in other Quaker groups I'm part of here.

Read the full article here


RantWoman said...

Nametags or encouraging people to share their identities is indeed a good idea. I personally cannot read nametags unless I am indecently close so when I get a choice and get a dangle around my neck option, I tend to write my name in big letters on one side and "Please Tell Me Your Name" on the other side.

I think Please Tell Me your name probably addresses LOTS of circumstances.

Morgan said...

*nodnod* I can see how "Please Tell Me Your Name" would work for someone who can't see nametags, and I think that's a very useful thing to remember when organizing nametag use. Thanks!

But hearing names, even over and over, doesn't necessarily work for someone whose memory is visual, not aural (as Kerschbaum points out), for someone whose short-term memory is impaired, for someone who for neurological reasons can't pair names with faces (face agnosia / prosopagnosia), etc.

So, as is often the case, both/and -- and as Kerschbaum points out, thinking more in terms of universal access than reactive adaptations...