Regular updates on projects related to disability inclusion.

SnowBuddy Winter Sidewalk Conditions Report

May 6, 2021

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

May 5, 2021

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

July 13, 2020

On June 25th, Dr. Michelle Meade, Associate Professor in the UM 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

March 30, 2020

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'

March 24, 2020

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 UM 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 UM 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 UM 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". 


End of the Year Giving? Consider donating your eyeglasses, sunglasses, and hearing aids to Taubman!

December 23, 2019

For the last few decades, the Taubman Health Sciences Library has collected used eyeglasses, sunglasses, and hearing aids for the Ann Arbor Host Lions Club. Over the years, these materials have helped many people throughout the world to see and hear better.

More than 10,000 eyeglasses are collected each year in the Ann Arbor area. They are cleaned, adjusted and sorted according to prescription by members of the Lions Club. Then, they are disseminated by volunteers to individuals in other countries who would otherwise go without these much needed items. Through the program, eyeglasses and hearing aids are distributed in a total of 87 countries to individuals who need them.

U-M’s Dr. Robert Hyzy has distributed 500 pairs of donated glasses to residents of the Peruvian Amazon Basin during three different trips to the region.

During the last Taubman Health Sciences Library drop-off to the Ann Arbor Lions Club, Dr. Hyzy and his team volunteers pick up the glasses and distribute them to inhabitants of Peruvian communities in collaboration with Amazon Promise—a U.S.-based non-profit organization founded to provide desperately-needed medical and dental care to remote populations living in the Upper Amazon Basin of Northeastern Peru.

The success of this project would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of UMHS employees, the Taubman Health Sciences Library, the Lions Club, Dr. Hyzy, and other individuals who have selflessly contributed to this worthy cause through travel, volunteer time and donations.

U-M employees who have contributed to the project include Alice Chao, whose assistance has been invaluable to this charitable endeavor under the guidance of Informationist Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, who initiated, organizes and coordinates this U-M activity with the Lions Club.

But most of all, this project would not be possible without those at the U-M Health System who continue to kindly and generously contribute their used glasses, sunglasses and hearing aids to help others. With everyone’s support, the Taubman Health Sciences Libraries can continue to help those in need.

Please bring your cast-off glasses to the Information Desk at Taubman Health Sciences Library (1135 E. Catherine St. at street level), or wrap and send them in campus mail to Schnitzer c/o Taubman Health Sciences Library, 48109-2038.


For questions, please contact or 936-1402.

CART services provider Sue Deer Dembowski retires December, 2019

December 23, 2019

Our wonderful colleague and owner of ScreenLine L.L.C., CART services provider Sue Deer Dembowski, will retire at the end of December, 2019. Sue has supported the accessibility of this University for years, providing CART transcriptions of excellent quality at countless UM events, including so many of our own Council meetings! 

Having started her career as a court reporter in 1975, Sue quickly realized her true calling would be CART services, the field she transitioned to in 1990, which fortuitously coincided with the passage of the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA). Since then, she has dedicated her professional career and that of her company, the CART provider ScreenLine L.L.C., to providing high quality and accessible transcriptions. To accomplish this, Sue and the other member-providers at ScreenLine regularly engaged in continuing education trainings that focused on both advancements in CART transcription technologies as well as cultural knowledge among the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard-of-Hearing communities. In Sue's words: "it's been an amazing, meaningful and transformative career". 

Though she could never be replaced, her CART transcription services will be taken over by Leticia "Letty" Fox in the new year. Letty shares Sue's vision for the L.L.C., which will owned and operated by her under the name ScreenLine Captioning L.L.C. starting January, 2020. 

Disability Community Month Highlight: Penny Stamps Speaker Series Featuring Mari Katayama

December 12, 2019

Japanese artist Mari Katayama spoke about her art, the creative process, and her experience living with a disability at the Michigan Theater as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series. Mari was born with a developmental condition and had both her legs amputated at the age of 9, a reality that fuels her artwork. Click the following link for the Michigan Daily's full coverage of Katayama's work and participation in the panel.

Disability Community Month Highlight: Unintended Consequences from 'Opioid Crisis' Messaging Panel

December 12, 2019

The University of Michigan's Human Resources department, Michigan Medicine and University Health Service hosted a panel discussion titled “Unintended Consequences: Panel on the Impact of ‘Opioid Crisis’ Messaging on Those with Chronic Pain.” The panelist included Shanna Kattari, Clarissa Love, and Emma Garrett. Much of the conversation from the panelists focused on the level of pain each has encountered and negative experiences they’ve had with doctors who dismissed their medical conditions and believed they were addicted to medication. Although the event was successful, the event also addressed accessibility within the university as one of the panelists was not able to find parking and ultimately did not attend the event. 

Click the following link for the full Michigan Daily coverage of the event.

Disability is Diversity: New publication by Council members

August 27, 2019

Council members Anna Ercoli Schnitzer and Bonnie A. Dede have co-authored the first history of the University of Michigan Council for Disability Concerns, Diversity Includes Disability: Perspectives on the U-M Council for Disability Concerns. This new publication from Michigan Publishing’s Maize Books is available as an open-access online publication and as a paperback available for purchase.