Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Disability Community in the Library: The Class

A cartoon cat in a space helmet with a key, emerging from a fancy door with a galaxy pattern behind it.
(Accessibility series logo by Chris at On a Roll Designs)
(who also wrote this amazing post)

A year ago, after hearing about the massacre at Sagamihara  I felt a lot of silence from, like, everyone, but also specifically from my online library communities. A lot of feelings I've had in libraries since I began came to a very abrupt head.

I decided that the hurt I felt was powerful enough to identify myself plainly as the disability killjoy I've always been so scared of being.

Never feeling "disabled enough" to identify as disabled, and not abled enough to shake a person's hand, I fought my entire life to hold onto the illusion  of a modicum of abled privilege that passing gets me; only to live through experiences that reinforced, again and again, how little society regards me once it finds out I tricked it and ~SURPRISE~ I'm not the "normal" person you thought I was and HERE I AM, IN YOUR SPACE. OOPS. (oh, and also how little it regards PWD in general, usually while "passing").

No more of that. After a summer of near constant grief I realized I had no choice, as someone with privilege/power both socially and professionally, but to talk about my disability as openly as I could and amplify the existing voices of the disability community within the world of libraries. I was new, and learning, and I'm still far from calling myself an activist, but it was all I could think of to do.

In the past year:
-I've presented on accessibility at places that don't reimburse, which normally prohibits the presence of a first-person disability perspective.
-I've written to the manager at the ALSC blog about the nature in which disability is usually mentioned there, and guest-posted (also a volunteer opportunity and therefore prohibitive). For the record, she was extremely receptive and I am very grateful for that.
-I helped find them an autistic librarian to write about autism.
-I got a small grant from Awesome Without Borders to run a guest-posting series on accessibility on this blog by disabled/neurodivergent people. The grant helps me pay writers so that your sharing is less prohibitive. Please see the submissions page for more details! You can stay anonymous.

Now, I am happy (if not anxious as hell) to announce that this Fall, I will be running the continuing education course, "The Disability Community in the Library: Education, Access, and Advocacy." I am going to be digging deep for this one so I'm thankful for UW-SLIS's inquiry and encouragement that I run it. I will talk about my personal experiences with disability; and about disability in the library through the lens of what I've learned in my years "in hiding" among abled people, attempting to bring clarity to problems we may not be aware of. I suggest that this course be taken by (probably abled) people who have already learned a little and want to know more, and for those ready to keep their hearts and minds open. Maybe you've already started to see your library as not a neutral space and are interested in the way disability intersects with the work you're doing. I will not debate my humanity or that of other disabled people (if you are a fan of parent-first disability narratives this class may not yet be for you), but I do know based on conversations I've had in the past year this will still take considerable emotional labor on my part. For that reason, I'm glad UW-SLIS has agreed to cap this course at 17 attendees*. I work in public libraries, and particularly have in youth services, so this is the angle you can expect.

As with my previous course, this course is designed to have an extremely reasonable workload and will be a mix of reflection, action, and tips you can use right away.

The course will run October 9-November 17, AND
 you can get a 10% if you register before September 24! 

As always with my courses, you're welcome to download all the material to share among others in your library, so I hope you will see this as a good investment.

*which is to say that if you're interested, please don't hesitate to register! Email me at brycedontplay at gmail dot com if you need help with crafting a justification to your director or board.

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