Amy-Charlotte Devitz was honored by the U-M Council for Disability Concerns with a Certificate of Appreciation at the 2019 James T. Neubacher Awards Ceremony, Oct. 25, 2019.

“Frontier's student Charlotte Devitz is being recognized for her highly effective advocacy regarding scientists with disabilities, including her Bendy Biologist blog and national media interviews,” said EEB Professor and Chair Diarmaid Ó Foighil. “Please join me in congratulating Charlotte (and Fish)!” Fish is Devitz’s service dog, a labradoodle.

“I think the most rewarding part of this nomination was that it helped me recognize that the work I have done and posts I have written are resonating not just with other disabled individuals, but with people who aren't disabled as well,” said Devitz. “A crucial component of improving accessibility generally and within science is that it is going to require recognition, support and effort from everyone, and so this nomination made it easier to see that I am reaching a broad audience.”

Individuals with disabilities belong to a marginalized group that any person can become a part of at any time in their life, and universal accessibility benefits everyone, disabled or not, she continued.

“Improving accessibility should not be viewed as a want but rather a need, and this is why I advocate for it so passionately. I have plans for both the short and long term in reaching this goal, with projects focused on connecting and enabling success for disabled scientists.”

The Frontiers Master’s Program in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan is designed to attract a diverse group of students, who might not have otherwise considered the field, and to prepare them for the department's doctoral program.

“In spite of her early career stage – Amy-Charlotte Devitz has taken a proactive and courageous stance on disability-related issues,” EEB Professor Dan Rabosky wrote in his nomination. He elaborated about her blog, where she’s written on the following topics:

  • Why accessibility for all should be the standard

  • Access anxiety: the gripping anxiety that many folks with disabilities feel when confronted with even routine and unremarkable social situations

    “This blog post in particular really resonated with me and until reading it, I was unaware of this phrase. But it captures perfectly the feelings that many of us in in the community face on a daily basis when dealing with what for non-disabled folks is purely routine and mundane,” Rabosky wrote.

  • Accessibility in classrooms and how faculty and others can work to ensure that students know that they are committed to providing a maximally-accessible learning experience

  • A review of conference accessibility issues, based on her personal experiences as a young graduate student facing mobility and other challenges at conferences

    “Clearly, accessibility issues (and mitigation) at conferences can have an enormous impact on whether academic culture is truly open or closed to those with disabilities,” Rabosky wrote. “I can say that Charlotte's blogging on this topic helped catalyze some discussion in other scientific societies, particularly how the societies can make their conference venues more accessible and inclusive.”

  • Personal experiences with two serious life-impacting conditions.

    “What has struck me most about Charlotte's writing on this topic is her extremely positive outlook and the matter-of-fact description of important topics that most folks know next to nothing about.”

Read more in this Frontiers student profile: Devitz’s early research and advocacy at the U-M Biological Station

PBS News Hour: This young scientist studies wild animals. Bias against disability won’t stop her

Matthaei Botanical Gardens feature: Grad Student Study Aims to Understand What Helps Squirrels Succeed and Co-exist with People

Compiled by Gail Kuhnlein