Academia and Disability, Redux, Redux…


Franz Kafka said: “By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”


I’ve had this in mind for two days—two days of disability related disappointments. Both involve academia—a sad visit to Hobart and William Smith Colleges with my friend Bill Peace where, at a conference on bioethics and disability, we discovered inaccessible facilities and a concomitant lack of awareness about the issue, as evidenced by shrugs from the organizers. No, I’m not kidding.


Now my own university (Syracuse) has decided my request for a sighted guide to help me safely navigate in Istanbul while teaching abroad this summer is simply not in the budget. I made the request because I’d have to leave my guide dog home—Turkey is not a guide dog friendly place. Imagine making your way in a city without sidewalks and ferocious traffic and all without help. SU has a billion dollar endowment but can’t afford a plane ticket for an assistant.


I’m kind of relieved. Now that I know my disability status is a risible inconvenience both on the road and at home, I can unplug myself from academic culture. I should have unplugged a long time ago. I’ve never been welcome. And this is where Kafka is wrong: I did sufficiently desire an inclusive academy. But at 58, after thirty years of fighting, I see I’m not going to live to see it. 


Here’s Bill Peace’s assessment of our experience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges:





0 thoughts on “Academia and Disability, Redux, Redux…

  1. I hear you. Dealing with the ongoing ableism is exhausting. In no small part because the privileged ones get to continue to be unconscious about it – and doing it over and over and over and over again. Thank you (and Bill) for writing about a small part of what is happening so some folks can learn about it. The older I get, the more time I find myself staying home and working on stuff I really care about because I feel the exhaustion of the constant micro (and not so micro) agressions of people’s ableism and it wears me down. You are welcome to visit my crip-friendly cave anytime (virtually or otherwise). Corbett


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s