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Brandeis inaugurates Disability Inclusion and Equity Month

It was announced that Brandeis will be celebrating Disability Inclusion and Equity Month for the first time this March, according to an email sent to students on March 1 by Mel Ptacek, chair of the Staff-Faculty Accessibility group at Brandeis, and Lee Bitsóí, the university’s vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. During the month, the university will push initiatives that create “action against exclusion, marginalization and invisabilization” of people with disabilities, according to the email.

“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,” wrote Ptacek and Bitsóí.

Ptacek and Bitsóí added that Disability Inclusion and Equity Month can serve as an opportunity for Brandeis to continue that work. Ptacek and Bitsóí have an “elevating vision” for the events of the month, and hope to uplift students who identify as disabled/having a disability. In the email, they announced “Phantom Limbs: Frida Kahlo, disability and art,” a program that will “detail how the life and work of Frida Kahlo are a potent rejection of ableist discourse and affirm an alternative way of being.” 

They also announced “Neurodiversity Celebration Week,” a week where presentations, student discussions and more will be held in celebration of Brandeis’ neurodiversity. Finally, Ptacek and Bitsóí announced “Advocacy & Action at the Intersection of Disability & Reproductive Justice,” a conversation with Carrie Buck Distinguished Fellow Laurie Bertram Roberts and Rebecca Cokley focused on working with community members to “illuminate ways to eliminate ableist bias and create a healthcare system that meets the needs of all.” Ptacek and Bitsóí also linked a calendar of events that will be taking place throughout Disability Inclusion and Equity Month.

Ptacek and Bitsóí wrote that “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 added that the day the email was sent to students, March 1, is known as the “Disability Day of Mourning, a time for gathering to remember the many people with disabilities murdered by family members and caregivers.”

Ptacek and Bitsóí noted that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and both the original passage and amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act were significant achievements for the disability rights movement, but added that the work for rights for disabled people continues today. The email closes by asking members of the Brandeis community to join Ptacek and Bitsóí as “advocates and allies as we work for equity, inclusion, and social justice for disabled people.”

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