The original intention behind this blog was to begin to tell a story in public, and to provide a space for other people in similar situations to tell similar stories. The experiences of disabled and chronically ill students and academics have been discussed in public before, but to our knowledge there is no other dedicated space for disabled and chronically ill PhD students to communicate the specifics of their experiences, to reflect, and to find solidarity with others who travel along similar roads. And as those of us with disabilities and chronic illness know all to well, too often, many roads aren’t as accessible as they purport to be.
Since launching with just two posts in October 2013 – one, a simultaneous call to arms and expression of having had enough with the way things were for one tired disabled, chronically ill PhD student, and the other an attempt to point students and staff at advice made available online but too frequently unknown to even seasoned Disability Support practitioners – the response has been overwhelming.
We’ve published twenty-four posts, with a queue of more to come, and with story after story landing in our inbox to be shared, often as part of a process of catharsis, acceptance, and acknowledgement of how things are, good or bad, for disabled and chronically ill students.
We’ve reached a place where, to ensure the sustained health of this thing we’ve made, almost by accident, we need to formulate Proper Strategies for how to keep this blog going, and growing.
We’d love your input on what you’d like us to do or be for you as those of us who make these blog wheels turn reflect on how to plan ahead, and what to plan for.
Whatever we decide that we want to be, we will absolutely need your help. We couldn’t have reached the place we have now – with nearly 30,000 views for 24 posts across 106 countries worldwide – without the support that has arrived at our door from disabled and non-disabled academics alike.
Here are some of the ideas that have come up over the last few months for things you’d like to see happen.
- Dedicated sections beyond the PhD – for undergraduates, post-docs, early career researchers and established academics – with editorial leadership devolved to small collaborative groups situated in those spaces that sit under the main PhDisabled editorial processes. Too often have we heard from undergraduate students that they lack a space like this to tell their stories and reflect communally on what they mean and what can be done about them.
- A research section discussing the various ways that the data we’re inadvertently producing and gathering via our blog and twitter feed could be used to support the community and further our goal of ending #academicableism and revealing the extent of disability discrimination within higher education. This could perhaps include relevant Calls for Papers (CFP) and Calls for Contributions (CFC) that circulate about disability and intersecting oppressions, especially those focusing directly on higher education.
- Space to service our inherently intellectual predilections, to capture reflections on literature, theories, arguments, or policy developments salient to disabled and chronically ill students and academics. Perhaps this can sit under the Research section, perhaps this needs a section of its own, or perhaps it’s superfluous to our purposes.
- A more international focus, perhaps with posts tagged by locale: the blog’s founder and many posters are based in the UK, many posts are submitted from the US, but as our readership reach reveals, the experience of being disabled or chronically ill in higher education extends far beyond these contexts, and will involve experiences of a fundamentally different character or quality to those in the US/UK, in virtue of differing disability legislation, cultural and social norms, institutional policies and their implementation, and all manner of other factors. Perhaps continental editorial teams that overlap with the aforementioned teams focused on each level of the academic journey could be an option here.
- More “intersectional” content that speaks to the experience of those with disabilities and chronic illness who, in addition to dis/ableism, confront other forms of marginalization and oppression. As much as #academicableism is a differentiated experience depending on the level of academia one engages, so too is it differential depending on how and whether one occupies other marginalized identities. We’re not doing it right if we’re not acknowledging this, representing it, and speaking to it. We need to do much more of this.
- Campaigning and activism: we do what we can here already, but there is much to be done, and resources are limited since we’re all disabled, holding down jobs, trying to claw our way through the academic system. There’s certainly scope for more work to be done here, but this requires planning by experienced activists and those with sound knowledge of the higher education systems targeted by campaigns.
If you think these ideas are good, bad or indifferent, or if you’ve any more ideas to suggest, tell us in the comments.
We’ll review and collate responses and use them to frame a plan for how we move forward to keep supporting the community of which we’re a part.
If you’d like to join our team of volunteers to make any of these ideas happen, or to support the current work done by our team via the blog and on twitter, send us an email to disabledphd at gmail dot com.