Visible and Invisible Disabilities: Creating Inclusive Environments for Students and Faculty

AHA Session 144
Society for Military History 1
Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 3B (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Mark Grimsley, Ohio State University
Heather Salazar, Ohio University
Sara A. Vogt, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater
Mary Elizabeth Walters, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Session Abstract

In 2008 the American Historical Association created the Task Force on Disability (TFD) to promote the historical study of disability and to make the AHA and the historical profession a more welcoming environment for those with disabilities. That year, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 7.6 percent of graduate students reported a disability.1 This roundtable aims to build upon the work of the TFD and particularly the results of its 2010 survey that found graduate students and historians with disability faced misunderstandings, bias, and administrative obstacles at every stage of a career.2 By examining the experiences of two graduate students, one faculty member, and an associate director at a disability center, the roundtable hopes to start a conversation on the many faces of disability in academia. From falling asleep in stairwells to conducting research in Albania, Mary Elizabeth Walters will discuss her experiences navigating graduate school at the University of North Carolina and her service with the Society for Military History. Walters will explore the strategies she, the UNC history department, and the SMH employed to create supportive and safe environments, as well as administrative obstacles that constrained accommodations. During her second semester at Ohio University, Heather Salazar suffered severe burns and spent two months in a burn unit. Salazar’s presentation will examine the challenges of facing a life threatening injury during a Ph.D. program and the extraordinary way in which her department ensured that she received the physical and mental help she needed and that she could remain a Ph.D. student.

Shifting to a faculty perspective, Mark Grimsley will explore the varied environments he has experienced as a result of going public with his bipolar disorder. Grimsley will discuss how this openness has allowed him to be more active in managing the disorder, to provide support to students with similar disorders, but how these steps are facilitated by his position as a tenured professor and likely would be more difficult for non-tenured faculty. Finally, Sara Vogt will discuss the resources that Disability Services can provide to students and faculty. Focusing on the Disability Resource Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Vogt examines the shift in disability services from a medical model to one rooted is socio-cultural perspectives and how this shift benefits students and faculty. By combining these perspectives, the roundtable hopes to provide insights into strategies that graduate students and professors with disability can do to help themselves. Second, we aim to highlight strategies that colleagues and departments can utilize to help students and faculty members with disability. Most importantly, the roundtable will raise awareness of disability in academia and help combat the stigmas often attached to disability that so often add to the individual’s stress and struggle to cope with their own daily challenges.

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