Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Recognizing Disability Inclusion and Equity Month

March 1, 2023

Dear Brandeis Community,

This March, we inaugurate the celebration of Disability Inclusion and Equity Month at Brandeis.

In the United States, about one in four adults are considered disabled. At Brandeis, more than 20 percent of undergraduate students identify as disabled/having a disability, as do many graduate students, staff members and faculty; thus, we still have work to do to ensure full access and inclusion for all members of our community. Disability Inclusion and Equity Month can help us continue that work together. Please join us for the following events:

The idea of disability inclusion and equity is intended to move us toward genuine and sustained action against the exclusion, marginalization, and invisibilization of disabled people. We can shift away from ways of thinking and acting that identify disability with individual impairment, and toward those that understand it in connection to social relationships and structures and how these interact with all of us. Access and inclusion need not be ad hoc and reactive, but can be built in from the start.

Yet disabled people face difficulties gaining employment, receiving equitable wages and benefits, accessing higher education, and obtaining workplace accommodations, all of which contributes to high rates of poverty and social exclusion. Disabled people are also denied rights of participation in social, civic, and cultural life; rights to accessible and high-quality medical care; rights of autonomy and choice in sexuality, reproduction, and parenting; and rights to access the legal system. They are subjected to insult, assault, and murder at high rates.

In recognition of the latter, March 1 marks the Disability Day of Mourning, a time for gathering to remember the many people with disabilities murdered by family members and caregivers.

Historically, the Supreme Court's 1999 Olmstead decision recognized the right of disabled people in the U.S. to live independently in the community, yet many are routinely denied that right and face housing discrimination. The widespread institutionalization of people with disabilities and the eugenics movement, though challenged, persist today.

The signing of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1977 and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 (amended in 2008) represent some of the biggest achievements of the disability rights movement. These laws and the many other achievements in disability rights at the national, state, local, and organizational levels emerged from and were achieved through the struggles of disabled people and their organizations.

This work continues today. Disability is necessarily intersectional — its effects compounded by other modes of social disadvantage such as race, class, and gender — and so disability history is also intersectional. The disability rights movement, galvanized and shaped as it was by the civil rights movement, continues to make enormous strides and to engage in needed reflection and reform. Just as it has been necessary for disabled people themselves to form, participate in, and lead the actions and organizations for disability rights and justice, so it is necessary to ensure that the diverse membership of the community is active and involved in all that affects the community, whether this be organizational leadership, policymaking, research or other efforts in order that goals of social, economic and racial justice are achieved.

In closing, we hope that you will join us for our celebratory events, and join us as advocates and allies as we work for equity, inclusion, and social justice for disabled people.

In solidarity,

Mel Ptacek
Communications Coordinator, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy
Chair, Staff-Faculty Accessibility at Brandeis group

Lee Bitsóí
Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion