Thirty years have elapsed since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, enshrining in law various workplace protections for disabled employees. Yet, many college and university campuses have unclear, non-existent, or inconsistent practices around faculty and accommodation.

Over the past few decades, disability rights and disability justice movements have helped support disabled and chronically ill individuals in claiming disability as an identity, not simply a diagnosis. In turn, more and more people are claiming this identity, connecting in communal spaces of all kinds, and working towards dismantling ableist concepts. However there are still incredible challenges surrounding disabled identity for faculty members in the academy, despite the benefits of having disabled faculty on campus. For example, many of us have been told to downplay or even not disclose our identities and experiences when feasible in order to get a job or tenure, have experienced high rates of ableist microaggressions (as well as explicit ableism), and have dealt with extreme tokenization while simultaneously fighting for basic accommodations to be made for our bodyminds.

For this Spark series, we invite submissions from diversity scholars whose scholarship speaks to the experiences of chronically ill and disabled faculty members in order to better understand these experiences within the academy while ensuring persistence, presence, and participation across various aspects of faculty work. Essays focused on employment outside of the academy are appropriate as well. While essays must be grounded in research and scholarship, including one’s experience as related to the issues discussed is always welcomed. Essays may address the following questions as well as relevant topics not listed below.

  • How do experiences of disability and/or chronic illness influence job market, promotion, and tenure processes?
  • How are experiences of disability and/or chronic illness entangled with other marginalized and underrepresented identities, particularly in navigating disclosure, access, and accommodation?
  • How do disabled and chronically ill faculty and other employees name, describe, and make apparent to others how their experiences differ from normative or typical ones? 
  • What does it mean to be “out” around disability or chronic illness in the academy or other professional environments? How do different audiences affect experiences of disclosure, passing, covering, or masking? 
  • How might teaching, research, and service responsibilities need to be revisited or reconceptualized to take experiences of disability and chronic illness into account? 
  • Given the low number of disabled and chronically ill faculty (and even fewer who disclose these identities), what else should be considered when developing  the roles, responsibilities, and expectations placed on these faculty?
  • There is no single definition of disability or chronic illness; how does such a definition emerge for you, in your experience, in relation to others, etc.?

To submit a pitch, authors must have scholarship directly related to the topic. Priority selection will be given to members of the Diversity Scholars Network.

Pitches are due Friday, April 10.



This series will be curated by Stephanie Kerschbaum (Associate Professor of English, University of Delaware) and Shanna Kattari (Assistant Professor of Social Work, University of Michigan).