October 4 marked the start of a month-long anti-capacity event called Toward an Anti-Ableist Academy. Kicking off the event – sponsored primarily by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Michigan – brought together four speakers who discussed their experiences with ableism and thoughts on how to increase accessibility.
To increase the accessibility of the event, each of the four speakers began with a physical description of themselves, including their gender identity, race, clothing and other key characteristics. The conference provided interpretation in American Sign Language throughout its duration.
Ashley Wiseman is Associate Director of the Global Scholars Program, Co-Chair of Disability Culture at the University, and a board member of the Disability Concerns Advisory Group. In coordination with members of the Disability Education Act student council, Weisman helped produce 50 recommendations for increasing accessibility in academic processes and won the Distinguished Diversity of Leadership Team award in 2019.
Wiseman spoke about the culture of disability and discrimination at the University and said that in her work hybrid meetings are “by default” rather than on-demand, which she believes should be more generally the case. .
“It became a so-called new way of doing things, but people with disabilities have been doing it or asking for it with varying levels of resistance, for years,” Wiseman said.
Medical student Sam Grewe then spoke about his experience as a disabled person in the medical community and competing in the high jump at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021, noting that he had had a positive experience being in a location more accessible.
“When you live in the Paralympic Village you don’t forget your disability, but you don’t find yourself planning your whole day around it,” Grewe said. “You are not limited by the constraints that others place on you and you will never feel like an outsider among the members of your community. “
Dr Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, began his work on accessibility when, during his third year of residency, he suffered a spinal cord injury and suffered a spinal cord injury. been paralyzed from the chest down.
“At that point, I thought the only way for me to keep contributing was to recover,” Okanlami said. “So I invested my heart, my soul, my time, my energy and all the resources in this recovery. I got to a point where I could walk unaided… It wasn’t really helpful, (but) showed that I am no longer bound by this wheelchair.
Okanlami began his speech by comparing ableism to racism and said both have an impact on how people move around the world on a daily basis.
“Racism is an institution, it’s systemic, it’s structural and then it impacts the world we live in and the things that happen every day,” Okanlami said. “Ableism is exactly the same… the world we live in was not built for disabled mind-bodies. He did not take into account the disabled body-spirits when they created the structures upon which everything was created.
In explaining how disabilities affect the campus community, Okanlami gave examples of a blind student who needs access to different types of physics class materials or a deaf staff member who is responsible for making of notes.
Okanlami said he hopes the focus on people with disabilities can shift to equity and inclusion rather than just accommodation. He asked the University to anticipate the needs of people with disabilities and the public to educate themselves on the subject.
“The past may not be your fault, but the future will be,” Okanlami said. “Each of us has the opportunity in our spheres of influence to do something to make someone better tomorrow than they were yesterday.”
Daily News Contributor Kylie Claxton can be reached at [email protected].