Regular updates on projects related to disability inclusion.

Volunteer with DDP for In-Person Voter Protection

The 2022 Election is just one week away! Voting is a vital way to make your opinions known and to shape your community. On or before Tuesday, November 8th, please take the time to cast your ballot. If you're able, we also encourage you to volunteer with Detroit Disability Power on election day.

Information from Detroit Disability Power:

As you may know, this is an especially important election. There are vital amendments to the state constitution on the ballot, including two that directly affect people with disabilities: the proposals to guarantee reproductive rights and expand voting access. Join us on Tuesday November 8th, Election Day. We have shifts throughout the day for in-person voter protection at various Detroit polling locations. Encourage voters to fill out a survey on polling site accessibility and celebrate your neighbors voting! Also, ensure no voter suppression is happening and get trained on how to report/address it. Training provided in advance! 

Unsure about signing-up? Don’t hesitate to email Rami, DDP's Organizer ([email protected]) to learn more.

Other Resources for Voting:

New Standard Practice Guide for IT Accessibility at UM

The Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility SPG is a new university policy aimed at helping to ensure that digital technology and content is able to be used by people with disabilities as well as it is by the rest of the community.

The policy can be used in all departments across all three UM campuses to provide direction in making technology accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. It includes guidance for websites, software, digital textbooks, and mobile apps. While the policy is not a centralized prescription for UM to follow to be “accessible,” it is an important step towards making UM a more inclusive place to work, study, and collaborate. 

Congratulations to the 2021 Neubacher Award Winner and Honorable Mentions!

As we close out Disability Community Month, we are excited to honor six individuals and two groups with the Neubacher Award and Honorable Mentions this year. We hope you can join us in celebrating this year's group at our Awards Ceremony on October 29th at 2:00pm ET. The ceremony will be held over zoom and is open to the public.

This year's winner is Vincent Pinti. As a sophomore at UM-Ann Arbor, Pinti has already made a name for himself around campus as a disability advocate. He was elected to serve on the Central Student Government, where he wrote and passed a valuable resolution creating an internal scholarship for students working as personal care assistants (also known as personal assistants or PAs). This program addresses a labor shortage of PAs for disabled people who rely on them, and offers valuable experience to students going into healthcare and related professions. He has also worked with other students, faculty, and staff to improve accessibility at student events, and championed a nuanced approach to COVID-19 responses to ensure accessibility for students with disabilities and chronic illness.

Our honorable mentions this year are:

  • Dr. Oluwaferanmi O. Okanlami, Faculty member at UM-Ann Arbor
  • Dr. M. Remi Yergeau, Faculty member at UM-Ann Arbor
  • Hala Alazzawi, UM-Dearborn alum and current UM-Ann Arbor student
  • Dr. Ann Jeffers, Faculty member at UM-Ann Arbor 
  • The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), Student Organization across all UM campuses
  • Harvey “Chip” Evans, Staff at UM-Flint
  • The Learning Experience Design Team at the Center for Academic Innovation. Staff team at UM-Ann Arbor

More information about Pinti and our honorable mentions can be found on the Neubacher website, under the drop down menu labeled "2021 Neubacher Award Winner and Honorable Mention Recipients."

The Neubacher Award is given annually to University of Michigan community members who have gone above and beyond to 

  • Empower people with disabilities;
  • Advocate for or advance disability rights or disability justice; and
  • Increase the accessibility of programs and services to promote disability inclusion.

Online Certificate in Disability Inclusion and Accessible Design

The School of Social Work recently released a new certificate in their continuing education offerings. The newest certificate, focused on Disability Inclusion and Accessible Design (DIAD), is "designed for social workers and other professionals who are interested in developing skills and sharpening their lens related to disability inclusion, and who strive to make their practice more accessible to and relevant for people with disabilities." The certificate was built with input from professors at the school as well as activists and other professionals working in disability justice spaces. Content areas include disability and design, disability inclusion in organizing, and accessible teaching. The certificate also seems to have a variety of intersectional lenses, including content on the intersections of disability, racism, and sexuality. 

The course includes 17 hours of independent work and video lectures, and one hour of live online Q&A with a lead instructor for the certificate, all of which can be counted for continuing education hours for licensed social workers. The course is currently available for $275 for non-UM School of Social Work affiliates, and $225 for UM Social Work field instructors, faculty, and staff. 

Central Student Government Passes Resolution to Create Personal Care Assistant Database

In late June 2021, the University's Central Student Government (CSG) passed Assembly Resolution 11-018 asking for the creation of a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) database. The resolution was sent to a number of administrators across the University, including the Provost, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities. 

Sponsors of the resolution explain that "when students have attempted to add PCA positions to [employment search] pages, the representatives at the Student Employment Office say that the University has an embargo against advertising care jobs (conflating PCAs with childcare/babysitting roles)." This forces many students with disabilities to rely on community support from friends and family, or to hire private PCAs from outside of the University system. In order to combat this, CSG's resolution asks that a list be compiled each semester of students who are interested and available to work as PCAs. This list would include students from the Schools of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Nursing, Public Health, Social Work, and Kinesiology, in the hopes of create a database of student PCAs who are already working as PCAs or who are at least familiar with similar service jobs. 

The resolution seemed to have widespread support; it was endorsed by over a dozen individuals and groups who span a variety of UM schools and positions. While the passage of the resolution does not guarantee that the University will adhere to it's requests, it is an important and meaningful step to creating a more inclusive and accessible college experience for many students.

SnowBuddy Winter Sidewalk Conditions Report

SnowBuddy is a nonprofit organization working to “create a living example of linear winter sidewalk maintenance.” Started in 2014, they work to clear sidewalks of snow and ice in the winter, free of charge to residents. You can learn more about the organization here.

For the last seven years, SnowBuddy has been studying winter sidewalk conditions around Ann Arbor. In February 2021, their research culminated in a report to the city detailing their suggestion for a city-wide winter sidewalk maintenance program. The report contains valuable information and suggestions about how Ann Arbor can make winter sidewalks more safe and accessible for all residents and visitors.

The report begins with a letter to the city giving an overview of the problem and some of the potential benefits of a better sidewalk maintenance, including benefits for people with mobility issues and the elderly. The report then goes on to detail three scenarios for sidewalk maintenance: a public model, a model similar to SnowBuddy’s current work but at full scale, and a Public, Non Profit, and Private (PNPP) partnership. The report also details five different funding and financing models, providing the city with a wealth of information so they can make an appropriately-informed decision. Finally, the report concludes with recommendations for the city and immediate next steps to take for better sidewalk accessibility in the winter.

The report has gained support and attention from a number of key stakeholders. According to SnowBuddy, “we have found that members of the community and staff from a wide variety of organizations support safe and equitable winter sidewalk access for all, including the Center for Independent Living, Washtenaw Walking and Biking Coalition, Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Huron River Watershed Council, Ann Arbor Housing Commission, Ann Arbor Public Schools, and the University of Michigan.”

New Accommodations Section on MiChart Patient Health Portal

On April 13, Clarissa Love and Christa Moran presented to the Council about a new field in MiChart patient portals specifically made for recording accommodations.

This new section of the patient portal is the result of nearly four years of work, and is based on the system’s current set up for requesting translation services. Previously, individuals had to request accommodations separately for each visit or healthcare service, a system that was both time consuming and difficult to navigate. Now, each patient’s chart has been expanded to include a section about accommodations that will stay in the patient portal, so patients will not have to re-request accommodations for every visit. Love and Moran are optimistic that this new development can help patients and providers can work together to keep accommodation information updated and available.

Patients can update their accommodation information in their MiChart patient portal. Each accommodation can be inputted directly by the patient, or with the help of an RN or doctor. Some disability types and accommodations are already included in the system and can be selected from a pre-filled list, and there is an “other” section for additional information and accommodations that are not included in the list. Reminders to update your accommodation information will be sent out twice a year, similarly to the reminders you may already receive about updating your insurance or address information. Updates to accommodations can be made at any time.

CEW+ Inspire Series Highlights Work being Done to Address Healthcare Disparities in Disability Communities

On June 25th, Dr. Michelle Meade, Associate Professor in the U-M Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, presented "Addressing Healthcare Disparities for Individuals with Disabilities - Identifying What You Can Do." Although the presentation assumed an audience of mostly healthcare providers, it was accessible to others without a health background as well. Dr. Meade introduced the topic by outlining how access to and the quality of healthcare an individual receives is only one component of their overall health outcome, with social and environmental factors, as well as disparities in individual health playing a major role as well; however, she argues that how individuals interact with the healthcare system available to them is the factor providers have the greatest ability to manipulate, and therefore they have a responsibility to provide services that are welcoming and appropriate for everyone, especially people with disabilities.

She mentions individuals with disabilities especially because studies have shown that these communities are especially at risk across different factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. Individuals with disabilities are more likely to live in isolation and experience anxiety and depression, estimate our health status as fair or poor, experience risk factors for substance overuse and domestic abuse, as well as other negative predictors of good health outcomes. We also more frequently experience chronic health conditions that are preventable, poor oral health, health illiteracy, less active lifestyles, and other factors, all of which could be changed through intervention on the part of the healthcare community.

There are also clear barriers to accessing services that individuals with disabilities report, such as insurance coverage and cost of services, the time it takes to access services, as well as feeling disrespected or unwelcome on more than one occasion by healthcare providers. Finally, the disparities in healthcare and health outcomes outlined above are compounded by holding other minoritized identities: identifying as female, LGBTQ+, poor, BIPOC, or living in certain geographic regions. These results highlight the need for providers to tailor their services to individuals with disabilities.

Given this evidence, Dr. Meade proposed the following solutions:

  • optimize the physical, cognitive, and sensory accessibility of healthcare spaces. Real-time captions, for example, and inviting photos of disabled people engaging in wellness activities could go a long way.
  • increase the hours services are provided and provide lower-cost services to individuals with disabilities
  • increase awareness of disability and these needs: the Council for Disability Concerns, as well as Michigan Medicine's Disability Council , are making great strides in this area
  • "optimize attitudes": this involves decoupling the association between disability and poor health, especially within disability communities and the broader public
  • increase provider education, as well as "recruitment, admission, and retention of disabled individuals in healthcare", as well as creating "pipelines and role models"
  • "use and develop standardized measures for individuals with specific disabilities"
  • get in the habit of asking if individuals seeking healthcare need an accommodation, as many people don't identify as disabled and often won't request accommodations unless asked
  • "screen for functional deficiencies", as the onset of disability later in life can be gradual enough that individuals are unaware of them, then accommodate those needs consistently
  • provide family and social support
  • engage in more remote medicine: the pandemic especially has taught us what can be done at a distance and what cannot
  • make sure to engage disability communities and include individuals with disabilities in creating and changing policies
  • as well as "review and update policies", given new evidence and feedback from patients with disabilities

The Council Collects COVID-19 Resources by and for the Disability Community

In response to the poverty of broadly-disseminated resources for the disability community concerning the corona virus outbreak, members of our Council have collected a comprehensive list of COVID-19 resources by and for the disability community. This piece is a living document that has been crowd-sourced. Much of the material has been vetted by our members, but on account of a desire to be as comprehensive as possible, some materials have been included without thorough examination, if we had reason to believe the source was reliable. With that in mind, please share these resources widely; anyone with an email account can access this list!

Summary of Dr. Stephanie Kerschbaum's Presentation 'Signs of Disability'

If you missed Dr. Stephanie Kerschbaum's February research presentation, "Signs of Disability: Faculty, Accommodations and Access at Work", don't worry! A full recording of the event with captions is now available on Youtube, and you can read a summary of the event below.  It is with regret that we see Dr. Kerschbaum cut her visiting scholar residency at U-M short and return to Delaware, in light of recent developments around the COVID-19 outbreak, but we wish her all the best and will be sure to stay in touch.

Her presentation began with a statement of solidarity with the indigenous peoples on whose land the University operates and several notes on accessibility. She has interviewed faculty with a variety of disability experiences in different fields and institutions, and her purpose for this presentation was to tell stories, rather than to give practical advice about faculty accommodations, paying close attention to when and how disability is raised to the level of awareness for people in general.  

Her story-telling began with her own experiences as a deaf person: although deafness is referred to as an 'invisible' disability, there are signs of deafness everywhere, if you are attending to them, from hearing aids and signing to architectural design inclusive of the Deaf and "Deaf Person in Area" road signs. At first, she tried to minimize her access needs in college, but after finishing grad school, she realized how much disability mattered in her life, from publishing to being on the job market and beyond. She noted the labor she put in in order to receive access copies of conference presentations and how she was drawn to disability studies panels because accessibility was often built into these spaces. She was put in contact with this field repeatedly, before she realized its relevance to her life and work, because of the structuring influence of the process of requesting accommodations. She emphasizes a key point for this presentation: that accessibility allows full participation on the part of disabled scholars, who will often not even be present in the room, if the labor required for access is too great.

University of Michigan, as an elite institution, is making efforts towards disability inclusion, but the situation here can be characterized by Dr. Kerschbaum's term 'dis-attention'. She stated "frequently, dis-attention involves singling disability out as a special or exceptional circumstance, while ignoring disability as an everyday occurrence." It operates everywhere, especially when attention is called to disability under specific conditions only: as an object of study, for example, but ignored in ourselves except when accommodations are requested. Dis-attention perpetuates access issues.

Dr. Kerschbaum noted in her own experience the incredible amount of effort she put into easing her able-bodied colleagues' experiences when interacting with her and her access needs (captioning, sign language interpreting). This pressure to minimize and make accommodations unobtrusive came up over and over throughout the faculty interviews she has conducted, across a variety of disability experiences. This erasure (caused in part by dis-attention) reinforces institutions like U-M as elite and ableist, and the consequences for disabled faculty are devastating; if the labor one does to both access and minimize one's accommodations goes unnoticed, one's work product will not be considered with those factors in mind. 

Dr. Kerschbaum closed with a number of recommendations about how to improve access at U-M and beyond, including: "prioritize human relationships over legal absurdities" and "create a centralized space and funding mechanisms for providing faculty and staff accommodation and access processes".