By Veronica Thomas and Jessica Hill Riggs

How and when do you disclose your disability in the hiring process? How do you cope in the aftermath of empty DEI promises?
A small intimate group gathered on Zoom in April to discuss these questions at the Digital Accessible Future (AF) Lab’s panel on “Crip Mentoring, Access Advocacy, and the Job Market.” The Digital AF Lab, a lab part of the DISCO Network and housed at the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan, focuses on pressing issues at the intersections of disability justice, techno-ableism, anti-racist praxis, neuroqueer activism, and critical accessibility studies. Digital AF centers crip wisdom —e.g. care networks, digitally mediated mutual aid, and the deep learning that attends lived experience of disability — in its articulations of disability justice and desires for disabled futures.

The conversation covered the challenges of interdisciplinary scholarship, forming care networks in the academic margins, and managing burnout. An example of a question discussed was, “How does one ‘do’ disability disclosure when academia can be so hostile? How might you guide students who are new to disability studies and/or a disability identity?” Panelists at varying stages of their careers answered these questions and also discussed how they found community in creative places without an infrastructure for disability studies, how to request accommodations and needs to various HR and department stakeholders, and how to find a work-life balance in a world that does not prioritize care of both disabled and abled bodyminds alike.

For those attending, the Zoom chat was full of thoughtful, witty, affirming comments. It was an overwhelmingly warm atmosphere for a remote event, and instead of the typical end-of-meeting rush to sign off, attendees and panelists lingered to personally thank each other for sharing their experiences and to continue talking. The conversation could have easily split into at least 10 different break-out rooms, highlighting the overwhelming need to provide intimate spaces for disabled faculty, students, and staff within academia to share their lived experiences, in contrast to conversations on display for performative DEI efforts. Beyond discussing the challenges of navigating disability within the institution, these intimate spaces also affirm and nourish the joy, power, and beauty of crip bodyminds, experiences, and wisdom. The Digital AF Lab will likely hold a series of workshops to continue these conversations next fall, so stay tuned, for more Crip Mentoring opportunities.