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Monday, June 16, 2014

Chronicle of Higher Education Story Features Me on the Lack of Access at Academic Conferences

In the Chronicle of Higher Education a story appears about the lack of access at academic conferences. Unfortunately the article is behind a firewall and is only accessible to subscribers. The Chronicle of Higher Education reporter that wrote the story was kind enough to provide the following link that will provide access to the story for the next 24 hours. Link:  Attending an academic conference is never easy for a person with a disability. All academic conference are expensive and are to an extent designed for privileged academics. Conferences routinely involve travel which by itself is highly problematic for people with disability. Airlines are notoriously bad when it comes to the most basic reasonable accommodations.  Thus even before a scholar with a disability enters the conference hotel he or she has already gone through a gauntlet simply to attend. I for one often arrive tired, hungry and pissed off because of travel related hassles. This says nothing of the utter lack of information provided by hotels and academic organizers about access in a city I have likely never visited. Once settled in at the conference hotel I then get to insure the room I will speak in is accessible--never a sure thing.

Last night I was speaking with my son about the Chronicle of Higher Education story and thought I am to a degree privileged. I am an established scholar and when the lack of access goes from difficult to impossible I know people that I can call who will help. But what I wonder happens to a graduate student or a recently minted PhD trying to jump start his or her career? They will assuredly encounter barriers that cannot be eliminated. And this is exactly why I advocate for myself. Sure it is to an extent selfish. But the reality is I am far more concerned about the person with a disability that will follow me in the years to come. I do not want that scholar to encounter the same barriers I did. It is not about the present for me but the future. It is my hope that future is one in which scholars with a disability do not experienced discrimination or encounter needless barriers.


Von said...

Of course anything we do has to be for the benefit of those who come after us if we care.

william Peace said...

Von. The two letter word if is key. Sadly I have met people who did not care only advocated for themselves. This is foreign to me. Cannot imagine being so selfish.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your experience on this blog. I discovered it when a colleague shared the link to the CHE story. One statement in particular rang so true to me: that people with disabilities often have to spend countless hours advocating for themselves. Before my daughter was born (she is 3 years old now), I was empathic to such inequalities, but I really had no experience of it, which is to say it all. My husband and I have spent so much time fighting for what she needs, we often feel so fortunate that we are in a situation that allows us to do that (although to great sacrifice for other areas of our life). We have met so many people who don't have the time, energy, or knowledge to do that. I think that is one important reason to acknowledge as to why many people only advocate for themselves (if at all).

It is a big irony that those who need the most support often have to fight more than others to get it.


Debbie and Joy said...

Thank you for making the article available free. Unfortunately, I missed the 24 hour window. I cannot afford the CHE subscription fee. I am a PhD candidate and extremely poor.

As a woman with a disability (I use a walker and have a service dog) I am so grateful for you and others who have helped paved the way. Thank you!

Yes, traveling is especially difficult, and encountering accessibility issues at conference is, sadly, the norm. Some conferences are better than others. The Cultural Studies Association, for example, is especially good, I think because of their focus on marginalized populations.

I was at a conference at UCSD a couple of years ago that was especially bad. The rooms were all over the large campus, all on-campus food venues were closed because it was UCSD's spring break, and it took two hours for me to get into a particular room where the elevator had to be opened by one guy with a key, who was impossible to locate. There is also a picture of me standing next to a sign pointing the way to the "accessible entrance" to a to the long flight of stairs one had to climb down to get to!

william Peace said...

Anon. Please send me your email address. I will send you a pdf of the article.

Unknown said...

It is a terrible truth that people with disabilities have constantly to fight for everything. It is difficult to imagine but even education sometimes seems unreal for them. When I see that nothing is done to improve the situation I realize that our society is sick as they remain indifferent. But our Digital Age also brought good changes and it is online education as people can get it without leaving houses. Also they can get assistance, for example here when you deal with essays and dissertations. I hope that in some time online conferences will also become very popular.