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Just published: research on disability disclosure by faculty members

Monday, June 12, 2017

In February, the Faculty Association’s Status of Women and Equity Committee hosted Margaret Price, an award-winning scholar of disability, to present findings from an international study examining the experiences of disabled faculty members and best practices for accommodation processes at universities.

We published a blog post about the event and how things work at Waterloo, Know Your Rights: Disability Accommodations for Waterloo Faculty

Price and co-authors have just released an article on the same study, “Disclosure of Mental Disability by College and University Faculty: The Negotiation of Accommodations, Supports, and Barriers,” published in Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ), which explores their findings and recommendations in more detail.

The full text can be found on the DSQ website, but here are two key takeaways from the research:

  • 87% of faculty with disabilities do not seek any accommodations;
  • supervisors were identified by survey respondents as "not at all” supportive.

Abstract

High-profile shootings and student suicides have made mental health issues on college campuses a major national issue. College students are usually the focus of this conversation, while little attention beyond anecdotal accounts has been paid to faculty with mental health issues. In response to this lack of broad-scale research, a first-of-its-kind cross-institutional survey of faculty with mental disabilities was conducted. Respondents self-identified as faculty with mental disabilities, mental illness or mental-health histories. Results from 267 respondents indicated that nearly 70% had no or limited familiarity with accommodations, and even fewer used them (87%). A majority of respondents (62%) disclosed to at least one person on campus, primarily colleagues (50%) and department chairs (21%). Respondents felt most supported by spouses/significant others (75% very or extremely supported) and friends (51%) rather than colleagues (29%) and supervisors (25%). In our discussion of these findings, we offer suggestions for practice that will improve environments, rather than focusing on case-by-case "fixes" for those who disclose. We also suggest directions for further research into this topic, which is frequently mentioned (in both scholarly and popular publications) but rarely investigated systematically or on a wide scale.

Professor Price is continuing as a consultant to FAUW as we navigate accommodation processes at Waterloo.