CSUMB Expertise: Disability, Capacity and Inclusivity

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By Walter Ryce

Linda Schaedle is an analyst for leave, ADA employment accommodations, and workers’ compensation in the university’s personnel department.

When an employee has a disability – whether it’s a broken finger, a long-term illness or Covid-19 – she helps them navigate various leaves, workers’ compensation, claimants health care, union compliance, and state and federal laws. She analyzes the work environment and tools, work schedule and flow, adaptive technology and ergonomics.

The goal is to overcome barriers at work, regain ability and independence, and arrive at a place of recovery. He is driven by his longtime advocacy for people with disabilities, including serving as former president of the California State Independent Living Council. She says there is a history of stigma and fear around people with disabilities, but today the environment is one of inclusion and capacity.

Question: How has the higher education workplace changed for people with disabilities?

Schaedle: Today, more people than ever before are studying and working in colleges and universities. This is a consequence of the changing expectations of students with disabilities and their families, due to the integration of children with disabilities into classrooms since the 1990s. At the other end of the generational spectrum, people work later in life and age-related disabilities are much more common.

How are people with disabilities and people without disabilities interacting and communicating?

Depending on our life experiences, comfort levels, skills and multicultural skills, our comfort level can vary greatly. This includes verbal and non-verbal information such as height or height positioning, volume, tempo and pitch of voice. These influence whether the receiver can perceive us as credible, competent, a leader or a follower.

Was the ‘Crip Camp’ documentary true to the disability community?

[It depicted a movement that was] essential to lifelong empowerment and commitment to achieving one’s purpose and full potential. It was the impetus that expanded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into a civil rights movement for people with disabilities, the Independent Living Movement.

What is the goal of the independent living movement?

Have the same access and civil and societal rights as people without disabilities, including full control over choices, access to higher education and gainful employment.

What additional considerations does a person with a disability face when traveling?

Scheduling, overtime, transportation of medical and adaptive equipment, accommodations in place for travel, hotel, conference, meeting venues and ensuring accessible materials and technology are in place. This is all a learning process.

How have remote work and Zoom equalized the workplace for people with disabilities?

It brings us to the table on an equal footing with less attention paid to our bodies, our clothes or our mobility. The focus is mostly on faces and communication, so preconceptions about ability or disability are less of a factor. The hearing impaired can turn on closed captioning. Light sensitivity can be reduced by computer keyboard commands. For those sitting on a chair or scooter, we are usually about 3ft tall with 6ft people looking at us. On Zoom, we are all at the same table.

How does disability transcend identity?

It crosses all groups, all classes, religions, origins, birth. The community is a great and wonderful melting pot of all kinds of people for whom a life event has changed things. It affects us all.

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