Deciding to focus on accessible and inclusive design is the culmination of a long professional struggle for me. I was born with cataracts, which occurs in about 1 in 10,000 live births. Before I was a year old, I would have surgery to remove the lenses in my eyes and be fitted with my first pair of bi-focals. When I entered graduate school to earn my Masters in Library Science, I did not want to focus my research and professional life on accessibility. Why should I have to center my disability in my professional life? I wanted to focus on archives and rare books and specialized in that for my MLS. I first realized that I could not escape my disability in my professional life, but that is a whole other story.
Throughout the years I picked up an MA in journalism and worked as a librarian at three different universities. I found myself getting more and more involved in accessibility. Whether it was serving on campus committees, acting as an informal mentor and sounding board for students or speaking professionally to increase accessibility awareness among librarians, I found that I had something to say that was not being said enough. Oh, I also found my friends and colleagues would shamelessly take advantage of me when playing darts or Laser Tag…
When I arrived at Missouri Western State University as the instruction librarian, I was ready to make a change and become even more versatile as a librarian. I discovered that MWSU offered a MAS in Human Factors and, found that my interest in accessibility was most welcome in the program. I am very glad I decided to pursue the program. It gave me some incredible experiences I would not have had otherwise.
Unfortunately, I did not know that even as I was hired MWSU was facing an extremely precarious financial future that would result in a layoff four and half years later. I was given the news at the absolute low point of the hiring season for academic librarians. Just as things were starting to pick up, COVID hit, and I have found myself with a longer, and far more stressful, time between jobs than I expected when I was laid off.
Social justice has always been important to me. As a student journalist at Indiana University, I found myself threatened by a white supremacist, which I consider a personal win. I firmly believe in the social justice model of disability and accessibility. This is not, however, a blog exclusively about disability and accessibility.
I cannot, and indeed do not want to, escape writing about disability. My disability is part of who I am and as I approach the mid-point of my life, I am proud of who I am. However, my disability has never been the entirety of my being and indeed. Seeing disabled people as interesting and vibrant people is a large part of the social justice model of disability. We are not special people who need special favors. We are members of the community who need support to contribute to the community to the best of our abilities. Wasting our talent, perspective and expertise makes all of our communities poorer. Job hunting with a disability presents unique, and often unappreciated challenges. I will write about them.
I will write about accessibility, but I will spend as much time writing about the rest of my life. I have spent half a lifetime developing skills as a librarian, musician, photographer, dancer and designer. I will write about all of that. Probably a smattering about current events. I might even write about things like clothes, make-up and shoes because I like them. In fact, I once used lipstick to get a chemistry student interested in fine press (artist’s) books. Music always has been, and always will be a huge part of my life, and that is where we’ll go next.