Wednesday, February 10, 2016

REACTIONS: Discrimination in Higher Education Job Postings

Two weeks ago I saw a tweet that alerted me to a job ad for the CEO of The Arc of Texas, along with other ads on their site, that basically said no disabled person need apply. I posted about the ad, with screenshots, and started a mini social media storm in the disability community.

To their credit, The Arc of Texas had rewritten the ad by the late afternoon, put in an EEO statement, and the national CEO, Peter Berns, told me on the record that of course a blind person could be a CEO of any branch of The Arc ("seeing" had been one of the qualifications).

In the social media mini storm, though, friends alerted me to similar clauses that proliferate in tech, the broader nonprofit sector, and academia. Being an academic, I thought I'd take on the latter first. The result was a major piece for Al Jazeera America that spent a lot of days as either the first or second most viewed/shared piece on the whole site.

I wrote a followup that's just been published, with quotes from disabled academics, the EEOC, the National Council on Disability, and the few schools willing to go on record about this. I'll keep working on getting comments and accountability from these universities.

I'm pleased to say that both Lehigh Community College and the Tarrant County College District have agreed to remove the "physical requirement" language and work on EEO compliance. Others have not, yet. 

In the meantime, here are reaction posts. Let me know if you see more, please.
Have you checked your HR department yet?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Disability and Politics - SEVEN issues

It's primary day in New Hampshire and later I'll be observing a new tablet-based system for disabled voters. In the meantime, I now know who the best candidate is for disabled Americans.
That settles that then. On the other hand, if you aren't sure what issues disabled voters might care about, or are undecided yourself, read on.

The writer s.e. smith, one of my favorite collaborators and conversationalists, has written an outstanding piece for Bustle about "seven issues" that should matter to disabled voters as they head to the polls.
With all eyes on Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, the candidates are facing growing demands from all sides to fully articulate their platforms, so that voters can start making some tough decisions. However, one group of voters hasn't been well-represented in discussions about the upcoming presidential race. In fact, this group is being largely ignored by both the candidates and the media: The disability community, which accounts for nearly 20 percent of Americans. The candidates, and the American public, need to be thinking about what disabled Americans need, because many of their concerns dovetail with those of the larger country as a whole — and disability is the only minority status that can be acquired at the blink of an eye.
Experiences of disability are, of course, incredibly diverse. While there's a broad umbrella over a community that shares the commonality of living with a variety of impairments (from amputations to congenital disorders), disability is not a monolith. However, there are some key issues that are of vital concern to a significant proportion of the disability voting block, and many disabled voters are keeping their eyes on how candidates address them.15.6 million disabled people voted in the 2012 cycle, and if the disability community mobilizes this year, it could become a considerable force, with many more showing up at the polls. Voting organizers are certainly hoping so, with groups like RespectAbility providing candidate information and encouraging disabled people to register — so here are seven issues relevant to disabled voters that are worth focusing on.
They are: Jobs, Independent Living, Benefits Penalty, Autism Funding, Police Violence, Access to Education, and Mental Health Care

You should read this; better yet, you should share it, as there are people in your social media network with no idea what the issues are, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better primer than this piece.

P.S. Trump has spent millions of dollars in his buildings on accessibility. It's because if you build a new building, it's the law. Thank you ADA.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book Accountability Post #17

See here for primer on these posts.

Daily word count: 2371

Chapter word count: 2371
Chapter goal: 8000
Total word count: 18962
Total goal: 70000

Wrote the intro to part III, a large chunk of chapter three, took part of that chunk and moved it to chapter four, then wrote more of chapter three.

Tomorrow I travel around New Hampshire and see presidential candidates, so unlikely to write. But you never know.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Writer's View: Why I Need Twitter

Yesterday I had a piece published at Al Jazeera that I'm pretty proud of. I found dozens of academic job ads that discriminate against people with disabilities, in many cases illegally, and published on it. It's as close to straight revealing reporting as I come, taking something boring (boilerplate HR clauses) and demonstrating their social impact. It got a solid, non-viral, audience, and I know it reached people at the Departments of Justice and Labor, EEOC, the White House, and leaders throughout the disability community ... because I called or emailed them. I'm still working on academic leaders.

I have no access to Al Jazeera America numbers, but I know that Facebook refers readers basically as much as the entire rest of the internet. I assume that's true for AJAM, so I assume that at least half of the readers came from Facebook.

But of the thousands of people who read it thanks to Facebook, I only see the people inside my networks already. When people come upon it via Twitter, I see them. I have a search window up tracking tweets of my piece. I can follow the conversation around it and join in as appropriate. I met dozens of new people yesterday. I followed some, some followed me, others of us just chatted. It's a place that has been designed to make connections, even as its volume comes nowhere near to matching Facebook's.

I don't know if the algorithmic timeline interferes with this function. I do know that if Twitter becomes a less vibrant space, or only makes popular tweets visible, we all lose. I lose because my tweets don't find new audiences, but I also lose because I don't find new people.

And then there's livetweeting in the post-chronological timeline. That's a separate issue.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Resource Post: Samples of Academic Jobs Excluding Disabled Candidates.

This is a small sample of the 60 or so higher education job ads I found that contain clauses at least potentially excluding disabled applicants.

Look for words like "occasionally," "may," or "frequently" as ways to avoid violating the ADA. However, disabled applicants, like all marginalized peoples, are less likely to apply for jobs when they don't meet the requirements fully.

Note - at most of these universities, all jobs have the same requirements. They get replicated through HR forms, perhaps motivated by lawyers, perhaps just through lack of attention. The effect is the same. Here's a tour:

University of Arkansas - Little Rock: No blind French professors.
  • Sedentary Work - Exerting 10 pounds: Occasionally, Kneeling: Occasionally, Climbing (Stairs, Ladders, etc.): Occasionally, Lifting 10-25 lbs: Occasionally, Carrying 5-10 lbs: Occasionally, Pushing/pulling 5-10 lbs: Occasionally, Sitting for long periods of time: Occasionally, Standing for long periods of time: Occasionally, Speaking; Essential, Hearing: Essential, Vision: Ability to distinguish similar colors, depth perception, close vision: Essential, Walking - Short Distances: Frequently
Screenshots from 2/1/16 at the bottom of the post.

Assistant Professor of Biology at Colorado Christian - No wheelchair users or deaf professors.
  • Nature of Work Environment
  • While performing the duties of this job, you may be required to walk; stand; sit; reach with hands and arms; balance; stoop; speak with clarity, have appropriate vision and hearing capabilities. The employee must occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.
Then there's just the "25 pounds" rule - Development Officer at Clarion University Foundation
Did you want to be the Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Eastern New Mexico University?
Here's a professor of Accounting at Fisk
  • PHYSICAL DEMANDS While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to stand; walk; sit; use hands to handle or feel; reach with hands and arms; talk and hear. The employee may regularly lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception, and ability to adjust focus.
Advising Coordinator at South LA Community College
Sociology Instructor - Lehigh Carbon Community College (also their director of college relations)
Director of First Year Writing at University of Texas at Arlington 
Executive Director of Community Relations - PA Association of Colleges and Employers
  • Physical Demands: While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to stand; walk; sit; use hands to handle or feel; reach with hands and arms; talk and hear. The employee may regularly lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception, and ability to adjust focus.
The Director of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Tarrant County College District, a job whose office list "ability" as the first category of diversity to serve, has this:
  • Physical Demands:
  • The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to sit; use hands to finger, handle, or feel objects, tools, or controls; reach with hands and arms; and talk or hear. The employee is occasionally required to stand; walk; climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; and taste or smell. The employee must frequently lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception, and the ability to adjust focus.
While nearly every job at TCCD has some kind of "physical demands" list, the "taste and smell" component is not universal.

Thanks to Melinda Hall for finding this one in particular - 
Physical Demands.
Spends the majority of the day standing and sitting in the classroom. While standing the teacher will frequently hold light objects they are working and demonstrating, etc. These can be held from waist level to slightly above the teacher’s head. Teacher must be able to walk through the classroom and be able to maneuver in tight spaces between desks.
Dealing with students can entail kneeling or squatting, stooping and bending from 50-70 degrees at the waist on an occasional to frequent basis on a given day. The chalkboard or white board is occasionally to frequently used which can require grasping the chalk or marker or eraser, reaching at, below or above shoulder height with the dominant upper extremity and may require trunk or neck rotation to look back at class.
Teachers may be required to assist in physical education on a rotating basis and this would occasionally involve lifting, using both upper extremities while assisting the child. The teacher may be required to do playground/yard duty, which involves walking on even and uneven surfaces including pea gravel and negotiating a 6” curb.
The teacher may use computers, overhead projectors, TV, VCR, etc. which would require a 10 pound force to push or pull the TV/VCR stand. The overhead projector requires 5 pounds of force to move. When working with equipment it may also be necessary to forward bend, squat, and/or kneel.
The teacher often moves children’s desks and chairs to change the layout of the classroom to influence teaching situations. It is occasionally necessary to life and carry boxes weighing up to 25 pounds from the office to the classroom up to 200 feet away.
The teacher must sit on an occasional basis when developing lesson plans, grading, etc. This is done at the desk with forward bending from the waist, leaning on the forearms, and looking down which requires neck flexion. It is necessary to grasp and manipulate pens, markers, scissors, staplers, etc., either occasionally or frequently, depending on the day. May occasionally have to climb or balance on counters, step- ladders or chairs.
Screenshots of the TCCD job and the UALR job. Just for record keeping. Click on the links above for accessible versions. If they go offline, I will make accessible here at request.

TCCD Screenshot 1 - Overall requirements
TCCD Screenshot 2 - Disability Clause as pasted above
UALR Screenshot 1 - Overall requirements
UALR Screenshot 2 - Disability Clause as posted above

Zika, Abortion and Disability Rhetoric

The discourse around Zika has included a constant barrage of ableist language in which reproductive rights advocates suggest that a disability like microcephaly naturally means a mother would want to terminate.

There clearly is a problem with access to reproductive choice, but I always maintain we can make that argument without implying that disability equals a death sentence.

Here's a solid piece on the issues from Girl With Pen.
Whereas news stories about Ebola since 2014 have often included images of supine suffering bodies surrounded by white hazmat suits, recent images about Zika feature babies born with small heads on the laps of parents (interestingly, often with their own heads cropped out of the frame). The story of this disease is one of disabled children.
Schuetze, the author, handles the complex issue well, emphasizing the way that media discourse treats the babies as the disease and preventing the babies, through abortion or birth control, as the remedy. She concludes:
A life with disabilities has challenges and complexities that vary from one person to the next, but it is a life. We need to stop treating the birth of Zika babies as the outcome, the end point of the narrative of the Zika virus and focus on the lives the children and their families will live.
A simple way to begin focusing on the Zika babies as new lives and not tragedies is to change the language used to discuss them. A simple shift from “malformed” and “birth defect” to impairment or disability changes the story. Rather than a medicalized diseased body with its “defects,” we have a human being with a challenging life ahead.
I really like this post. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Accountability Post #16

See here for primer on these posts.

Daily word count: 1565

Chapter word count: 5410
Chapter goal: 8500
Total word count: 16581
Total goal: 70000

That's a draft, people. I put in DISCUSS BOOK A HERE, and DISCUSS LITERATURE C there. I'll get to it, but not until I have a full draft. 

Chapter 3 is on disability and the School to Prison pipeline.

Multiple Marginalization - Bullying of Disabled LGBT+ people.

Shared by many of my friends, this is a sad, but important, articulation of the ways that oppressive forces intersect in individuals who have more than one marginalized identity.
While over half of children who identify as LGBT have experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying, this drastically increases among disabled LGBT people.
A survey found that two thirds (66%) of children with disabilities or SEN had experienced homophobic bullying, compared to 55% of the general population.
Concerns were also raised about the lack of sex and relationship education – which does not adequately address LGBT issues, nor sex and disability.
One student observed: “Sex education for disabled young people… There is none.”
Lauren Seager-Smith, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance said: “We are very concerned by reports of dual discrimination, bullying and marginalisation experienced by disabled young people that identify as LGBT+.
As I often say, this is the real lesson of intersectionality. Intersectionality has become a way to celebrate multiple aspects of our identity, which is lovely, but the term was constructed in order to reveal how black women struggled with both racism and sexism. Hence, intersectional feminism couldn't just fight against the latter.

The disabled community is filled with discrimination and silencing of its LGBT+ members. The LGBT+ community is filled with discrimination and silencing of its disabled members. Society as a whole considers disabled people asexual (or deviant).

To paraphrase the oft- and aptly-quoted Flavia Dzodan, our movements must be intersectional or they will be bullshit. Alas, intersectionality is hard. It's not how our brains are trained.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Disability Rights: Not even in the frame

This tweet came in response to Clinton's Iowa speech, in which she said:
I know we can make college affordable and get student debt off the backs of young people. And I know we can protect our rights, women's rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, workers rights. I know too we can stand up to the gun lobby and get common sense gun safety measures.
Later, Sanders talked about jobs and climate change, with this passage as the only call out to specific groups (he knows his lead is predicated on two lily white states, Iowa and NH, and that he hasn't made inroads with non-white voters):
We will end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other country. Disproportionately African-American and Latino. What we are going to do is provide jobs and education for our kids not more jails and incarceration.
Each candidate has ideas on disability, having completed the RespectAbility questionnaire in considerable detail (storify with all relevant links here). The differences between them are important and interesting, and reveal much about the nature of this election. I'll have more to say about that in the leadup to New Hampshire (I'm going on Sunday, thanks to an invitation by RespectAbility to meet with them and disability rights leaders in the state).

For now, though, I just want to go back to those Iowa speeches - I don't blame Clinton and Sanders for not name-checking disability, but disabled individuals are in need of health care, jobs, protection of reproductive rights, and more. In any marginalized group, the disabled members of that group will be multiply marginalized (just as the non-white, non-heterosexual, etc. members of the disability community are multiply marginalized).

Clinton is running an intersectional campaign. Disability isn't in the frame.
Sanders is running an economics only campaign. Disability isn't in the frame.

We have a lot of work to do.

Monday, February 1, 2016

#Dadbod Ken and Patriarchal Discourse

Carolyn Cox at The Mary Sue has a terrific essay about "Dadbod" Ken. Not only is she good on the specific issue, but she handles how to talk about the ways in which patriarchy in fact oppresses men, without losing sight of the more destructive oppression of women. She writes:
As Maddy wrote in reference to the “Hot Ryu” meme last September, there’s a difference between sexual objectification and sexiness, and in this instance I’d argue that Barbie represents the former, and Ken the latter. Ken’s body is less political than Barbie’s, because men’s bodies aren’t as politicized as women’s. As such, I think certain expectations are placed on women as a direct result of Barbie and other unrealistic portrayals in media, but that might be less true for men and Ken. I’d argue that women and girls see Ken dolls as a blank slate on which to project the personality traits they expect from a husband–despite, not because of, Ken’s bizarro proportions. Again, men do deserve better Kens and more inclusive representation in general–but the reason why Barbie’s new designs are such a milestone, is that overall women’s bodies are more fetishized by society, and less diversely depicted in media, than men’s are.
One reason the inclusive Barbies are so important to women, and why some men conflate that importance with “weakness,” is that men are taught they have value beyond their looks (for proof of that, just look at the IMDB page for any movie, and check out the ages of the male actors vs. the women). Society values women by our weight and the health of our perishable cells; and I’m willing to bet the same men who dismiss that statement as pessimistic weakness are the same men who constantly reinforce for women that we are what we look like.
The new Barbie bodies matter. Sure, it's be nice to see more realistic Ken dolls too, but my self-worth has never been solely linked to my conformity to an impossible plastic beauty standard.

Go read the whole essay.