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Sharyn Morrow, CPACC Posts

Ableism in the Gun Violence Debate

Mass shootings have become commonplace in this country. Many of us have been impacted by them. My brother-in-law was murdered in a workplace shooting in Minneapolis in 2012. After each of these tragic events, we hear unhelpful platitudes like “thoughts and prayers” and “never again” statements from politicians. Along with more dangerous rhetoric, pinning the blame on mental health instead of our country’s pervasive gun culture and the powerful and effective lobbying efforts of the NRA. I’ve always been bothered by that. But disability advocate Kelsey Lindell broke it down in a way that resonated with me:

Whenever something horrific happens we hear politicians opposing gun laws spew lines that lobbyists wrote for them:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
“We don’t have a gun problem we have a mental health problem”

When people who oppose gun control use statements that blame mental illness rather than our gun violence epidemic for horrific murders two things happen:

Mental health, or any neurodivergency, is further stigmatized and politicians push blame off of themselves and onto people who’s brain works differently than theirs.

Ableism works alongside other forms of systemic bias or oppression because it is a part of what co-creates the idea of an “ideal” expectation of body and mind: a non-disabled body and mind. These forms of systemic oppression combine with an implicit bias to label any body or mind form that is “other”than that “ideal” as “less than.” Politicians push the blame off of themselves and ONTO individuals who have mental illness. This increases the fear and stigma that people with mental illness deal with AND gets people to stop talking about gun control and start talking about mental illness instead.

So next time you hear someone saying we don’t have a gun problem, that this is a mental health issue: tell them two things.

1. Reality check: the USA isn’t the only country in the world where people are mentally ill. We ARE the only country that has 12 children die from gun violence and another 32 shot and injured EVERY DAY. Plus, studies show that mental illness contributes to only 4% of all violence, and the amount to gun violence is even smaller.

2. That’s ableist. We need gun control now.

Disability Advocate Kelsey Lindell
Graphic with the text reading "of all children ages 5 to 14 killed by guns in wealthy countries, 92% are US children."
From Vox’s article America’s unique, enduring gun problem, explained
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Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2022

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. I first took part in 2015, at an incredible event in Copenhagen. Siteimprove collaborated with the Danish Association of the Blind (DAB) to arrange Denmark’s largest tandem bike ride.  The company purchased 100 tandem bikes. There were over 350 people in attendance. During the event, Siteimprove employees, members of the Danish community, and blind or partially sighted members of DAB rode for 3.5 kilometers through Amager Strandpark. Afterward, the bikes were donated to DAB. Former colleagues still see the bikes around Copenhagen occasionally. That was a wonderful example of physical accessibility. Since then, my work has centered around digital accessibility and each year I have celebrated GAAD in some way. For GAAD 2022, I have a different employer. At iCIMS, we are hosting our 6th annual GAAD event for employees. We are celebrating the power of accessibility with the delightful Sam Evans of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) as our keynote speaker. I’ve created a “scavenger hunt” for my new colleagues — multiple-choice questions based on the accessibility topics in the materials we are presenting. In-person and online events are happening around the world today. It has been great seeing the movement and practice grow but there is still so much work to do.

Sighted and blind or partially sighted people riding tandem bikes together for GAAD 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark
My former colleague, Keith Bundy, wearing a t-shirt with the words Ask Me About A11y for GAAD 2018, while being interviewed by a reporter
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Spring Twin Cities Arts and Disability Forum: Disability in Power

My pal Jes Reyes will be part of this upcoming virtual event:

The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council invites you to join the Arts & Disability Forum: Disability in Power on Tuesday, May 24th from 6-7pm. Join MRAC, Mai Thor, Jes Reyes, and Bryan Boyce to explore the imperative and impact of people with disabilities in positions of power.

This hour-long virtual event is appropriate for arts groups seeking to be more accessible, arts groups serving and/or made up of people with disabilities, and individual artists with disabilities who want to learn strategies from peers to embrace and uplift their inherent power.

MRAC Zoom Registration
metro regional arts council arts & disability forum: disability in power with three headshots of Jes Reyes, Mai Thor, and Bryan Boyce Tuesday, May 24, 6-7pm
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Neurodiversity Career Connector

April was Autism Acceptance month, but neurodivergent people need to be accepted all year round. So I was happy to read about a newly launched job site. It was created to help neurodivergent folks find meaningful work without barriers. The job search and job interviews, in particular, can be difficult. Neurodivergent applicants often feel overwhelmed and misunderstood. But this site aims to connect employers interested in more inclusive hiring with neurodiverse candidates seeking employment.

…the Neurodiversity Career Connector features job listings by U.S. employers seeking applicants with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and other conditions associated with neurodivergent, or atypical, brain functioning.

Microsoft Features

If neurodivergent candidates can make it through the door, they have so much to offer employers! From Dr. Nancy Doyle’s site:

Neurodiversity can be a competitive advantage when the individuals are in the right environment, making use of their strengths, instead of constantly trying to overcome challenges. To achieve this we must create inclusive spaces to work and learn that reduce disabling factors and amplify diverse abilities.

Genius Within
neurodiversity chart of attributes by condition

If you want to learn more, check out this podcast episode “Addressing the Needs of Neurodiverse Individuals in the Workplace: an Interview with Dr. Nancy Doyle.” If you follow that link, a full transcript is available on the page as well.

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Roundup of Recent A11Y Resources

For the past few years, I’ve been using Firefox’s pocket app. It’s handy to keep track of articles, posts, and resources I may not have time to explore in the moment, but want to revisit later. I use pocket a lot. From my both mobile and my laptop. Thankfully, tags can be employed so it’s easier to sort by topic later. One tag I bust out a lot is a11y, naturally. Here are some noteworthy accessibility-related posts I’ve saved recently.

That last one is particularly good if you are unfamiliar with Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory. And may be relevant to even more of us since the pandemic started.

Illustration of 11 grayed out spoons with one white spoon
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A Personal Introduction into Accessibility

The User Experience Professionals Association of Minnesota (UXPA-MN) is a community of user-centered advocates. I’m a member and a fan. Their April event is being held this Thursday.

Please join us at UXPA for a conversation on accessibility with our wonderful guests who are passionate and seasoned a11y advocates.

We will talk about the Journey from UX to a11y – infusing a11y into daily life as a UX professional. Usability and accessibility are not separated from each other, and as designers we need to learn to be more inclusive in the design process. We will also touch on the future of accessibility, a11y and UX ways of working, and better ways to measure a11y.

Minnesota UXPA

Follow this link to register for the event.

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Cognitive Accessibility

I’ve been following self-declared “Accessibility Old Timer” Gareth Ford Williams for a while now. The deeper I get into my accessibility journey, the more time I spend thinking about cognitive accessibility. In particular, how we can build digital experiences without barriers for neurodivergent folks like myself and my son. Gareth has put together this helpful guide: A Cognitive perspective on UX Design Principles, which includes a neurodivergent perspective with links to relevant guidance and resources. Recently, the W3C also put out the web version of Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities. Depending on how neurodiversity is defined, between 10 and 30 percent of the population has a neurodivergent trait. Cognitive design principles can lead to better user experiences for all, without leaving so many people behind.

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