Here's Nitewriter's question:
I've been asked how one brings up disability issues during the application/interview process. I have invisible disabilities but it doesn't much matter because I work full time online teaching. I don't have to go to campus to teach classes; in fact, none of the colleges where I teach are even in my state! Still, there are applicants who have disabilities and wonder how/when to self-disclose. Any suggestions?Here, in order, are the responses (If I miss one, let me know, please.):
I don't think I would bring up disability issues during the interview process unless an accommodation of some sort is required for the convention interview (I'm thinking here in terms of English processes, obviously). The people on the search committee aren't necessarily the people who will actually know anything about accommodating disabilities, and in general I think it best to use the convention interview to focus most closely on the job-related issues that will help you move to the campus visit. I could imagine that you could actually get some very wrong answers from a search committee about disability issues.Nitewriter responded:
I would self-disclose the issues on an as-needed business in terms of what you need to interview successfully (so if you need a chair during a presentation or need interview locations close together because of a mobility impairment, e.g., ask for that). If you get a campus visit, you should get asked if there are any particular people or offices you want to meet with, and perhaps ask then for some time with the registrar or access office or whomever might be a useful resource (although it can be hard to figure that out from afar).
It might be helpful to reframe the issue here not so much as "when should I self-disclose" but "what information do I need to know about this dept/campus?" and work back from there (who has that info, and when do I need it?) . It's not like the search committee needs to know about anyone's disability. But candidates dealing with a disability might need info about the campus--so is that info necessary before accepting a campus visit? is it info necessary while arranging logistics of a campus visit? or it is info that you need while weighing a job offer?
Susan, I appreciate your thoughts. That all makes a lot of sense. In my case, the disability is mobility-related and, while I can for short periods of time, hide it (i.e. walk normally, stand for certain periods of time, even walk up or down stairs), on a daily basis, working full time would necessitate mobility aids which make the disability quite obvious to all.And Susan later responded:
Nitewriter, I have been thinking more about my response to your question. My partner, also an academic, has a mobility impairment that makes it difficult for her to stand for long stretches of time. She did a campus visit once that did not result in a job offer. During her job talk, she ended up sitting down on the table at the front of the room, and some people in the dept thought this was very unprofessional. She later wished that she'd mentioned to someone that she couldn't stand that long and would need a way to sit (although as I type this, I end up thinking "really? you didn't like that someone sat at the front of the room?"). So I guess that sort of thing might be a reason to self-disclose. And also a reason to wish for more generous interpretations of others' behavior.
I found Susan's responses really helpful, especially in thinking about reframing the issue. I'm no expert on disability issues, so I really appreciate hearing from those who know more.
My thought is about me and other not-yet disabled committee members, and adds support to Susan's response. I think the fear I have, and maybe others have, in hiring a disabled colleague would be the very selfish fear that I'd have to do extra work. I fear that because I already feel pretty much at the edge of what I can do.
I know and I'm sure my colleagues know that discriminating based on disability is illegal. But I think that may mean that we'd hide our fears in the way that racists have long made racist decisions but tried to convince themselves and others that the decisions aren't about race. I think my critical thinking about race is further along than my critical thinking about disability. I have work to do.
Meanwhile, I'd say that Susan is on the mark in her suggestion about first waiting to self-disclose until you have the campus visit, and then framing it in terms of having a successful campus visit. I think I and my colleagues would respond reasonably to a request to sit during a talk, for example, and positively if you framed your sitting as not only a way to deal with mobility, but also as having to do with thinking about classroom strategies and not being the "sage on the stage" type of teacher.
I think my colleagues and I would be reassured if we saw a candidate give a strong talk, and do strong interviews, and that would reassure us about our workload fears.
Finally, I'd like to second Susan's comment that most search committee members will be clueless about disability issues and how our campus can work to be open to everyone (I'm trying to get at being more than just accessible, but more; like the different between tolerating and respecting, I guess?). I, for example, don't think the restrooms on our floor are accessible, and I'm not sure where the closest accessible restroom is. But now I'll make sure to look around a bit more carefully.
Now I'd like to ask your help. First, if you have thoughts to add in regards to Nitewriter's question, please share. And also, as I go off to figure out where our accessible restrooms are, what else should I look for and think about that I don't usually?
Imagine, for example, that we invite a candidate to campus with a disability, say mobility, or specify some other disability. What should I know as a matter of course that I probably don't?
Now I'm going to go walk around and find some accessible restrooms.