Disability in the Academy and the Academic Library Profession

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  • The United Nations (UN) guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) includes non-discrimination, full participation and inclusion in society (UNCRPD, 2014, para. 9). Unfortunately, many scholars with disabilities are not represented in the academic and library staff in universities. Able-ism conceptualizes the superior human condition connecting people who able bodied to images of radiant health, independence and strength (Mclean, 2011). In contrast, able-ism conceptualizes the inferior human condition connecting people who are disabled to images of poor health, incapacity, dependence and weakness. Post-secondary institutions are one context where ableist notions may persist as these understandings have become institutionalized in the beliefs, language, and practices of non-disabled people. Hegemonic ableism ability preferences related to functioning, and other culturally valued abilities intersect with other hegemonies (Hutcheon & Wolbring, 2012, p. 42). Just as race is considered a social construction of disenfranchisement, disability is considered a social construction of marginalization (Hooks, 1968, as cited in Michalko, & Titchkosky, 2009). Critical disability theory (CDT) originated from critical race theory circulating between the social model of disability and the medical model of disability. It is the spaces between the social constructions and medical constructions occupied by people with disabilities that are explored in this paper (Titchkosky, 2003). Critical disability theory represents people with disabilities on a continuum of human variation having unique voices with complex experiences requiring self-determination to overcome ableism in a commodified disability business that profits from keeping them in isolation and poverty ​(Albrecht, 1992, as cited in Rocco, 2011, pp. 7-8). The academy should integrate the principles of CDT in faculty and workplace policies to overcome hegemonic ableism that masquerades as economic efficiency. The aim of this literature review is to demonstrate disability as an authentic form of social capital that can enhance the academic workplace. First, the researcher will be contextualized as a research subject inquiring about disability in the academic workplace. Second, the theoretical framework of critical disability theory will be defined within the context of the social status of people with disabilities. Third, common myths about hiring people with disabilities will be deconstructed. Fourth, research librarians’ intersections with students with disabilities and faculty members with disabilities will be examined. Fifth, lessons from research librarians’ interactions with faculty and students with disabilities will provide a conceptual framework to help library students transform from library students with disabilities into working library professionals with disabilities.

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    Article (Draft / Submitted)
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    CC0 1.0 Universal