“Less Resilience, More Resistance: The Persistence of Ableism at Work” (Interactive)

Monday, June 7, 1pm EDT

Brittni Ballard, Clare Kuntz Balcer, Hannah Krauss, and Claire Holmes (Towson University)

Note: This session will not be recorded.

Jessica Schomberg and Wendy Highby (2020) note in Beyond Accommodation: Creating and Inclusive Workplace for Disabled Library Workers, “[R]ecent discussions about resiliency in library work … [do] not include or value the perspectives of disabled or other marginalized people. Instead, resilience mandates the responsibility of solving structural inequities on the individuals experiencing them, which has the result of creating further marginalization” (35).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic work-from-home orders, we three chronically ill, dynamically disabled, early career full-time library workers regularly commuted to our large, suburban, public Mid-Atlantic Doctoral/Professional university. On campus, we work at cubicles within open space offices where light, noise, scent, temperature, and distractions are non-adjustable. Two of us, librarians with faculty status, had secured agreements with supervisors to work from home occasionally as needed, but such accommodations were neither openly discussed nor satisfyingly reliable due to their informality. The expectation to work on campus resulted in public management of anxiety, gastrointestinal flare ups, immobilizing pain, panic attacks, and migraines among other symptoms. Now, two of us work entirely from home and the third works from home part of the week. The benefits to our bodies, minds, and spirits reflect in our job performance and satisfaction. Unfortunately, the university has declared that our fully face-to-face Fall 2021 prompts a return to pre-existing telework policies.

Although that reality is alarming, August is half a year away. With that time comes possibility, reason to hope and imagine and, ultimately, adapt. We find courage in the #CripLib community and solace in the guidance of our fourth member, supervisor and head of our library’s largest department, universal design for learning enthusiast, and inclusive education advocate plus mom. And so, with purpose and curiosity, we enter an imagination battle to articulate, shape, and live more viable futures. Will you join us?

We pursue disability justice through practice of critical disability studies and crip time. Our approaches to research and advocacy are grounded in Donna Haraway’s situated knowledges, Kim TallBear’s standing with and speaking as faith, adrienne maree brown’s emergent strategy and pleasure activism, as well as Baharak Yousefi’s four techniques for wreaking havoc in the library’s infrastructure space.

With transparency and radical vulnerability, we’ve reclaimed power and discovered peace in coming together to share and validate our experiences and ideas as library workers with multiple disabilities at various stages of our career in different departments. Those values guide this presentation, which offers a collective coming together as disabled library workers and accomplices explore barriers to entering, staying in, and moving up in this field and academia. After 50 minutes of guided inquiry into the presenters’ lived experience and research, participants are invited into 25 minutes of reciprocal dialogue to envision an accessible dream destination. After all, adrienne maree brown (2017) notes in Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, “Loretta Ross teaches us that, ‘When people think the same idea and move in the same direction, that’s a cult. When people think many different ideas and move in one direction, that’s a movement’” (183).