For the next few days, Words I Wheel By will be the home base for blogs about the amazing conference I’m attending, hosted by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) – AUCD Unleashed: The Power of Engagement. If you’re not at the conference but have stumbled upon my blog, or if you’re already a regular reader, I invite you to stick around and read on. The AUCD conference has lots of wisdom to offer!
As some of you know, I had the privilege of being an intern for AUCD during the summer of 2013, thanks to an amazing program through the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). (Fun fact: Andy Imparato, the current AUCD Executive Director, actually started the internship program during his time at AAPD – so I’m grateful to him for creating opportunities for the disability community.) Anyway, I loved my time at AUCD so much that here I am, back for my second year of the conference! (You can read about my previous conference experience here: Finding a True Sense of Community Within a Community.)
Today’s been such a great day for networking, seeing old friends, and making new ones. For those of you who are at the conference, I’d love to hear more about your experiences with the pre-conference workshops. Which one did you attend? What were some of the highlights? (Bonus points if you tweet about it using #AUCD2014!)
There were six pre-conference workshops, and I went to Diversity Unleashed: the Power of Engaging Everyone! What an incredible workshop it was, complete with a power-packed panel discussion and a great team activity. Day Al-Mohamed, JD, who is president of the Lead On Network, happens to be one of mentors, kicked of the discussion with emphasis on the importance of intersectionality. She explained that too often, minority groups hold the attitude that “It’s not my issue” when it comes to supporting causes that affect other groups. What we must realize is the ways in which diverse groups are all interconnected. Chad Gobert, MA, echoed this sentiment, discussing the deeply problematic bias in healthcare towards the gay community. He has worked to create The Culture of Care, a course creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for caring, working, and learning at Massachusetts General Hospital. He reminded all the attendees of the importance of “focusing on where our similarities begin as opposed to where they’re separate.”
— Emily Ladau (@emily_ladau) November 9, 2014
Of course, we can’t forget the importance of inclusion in spiritual environments. Did you know the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require houses of worship to be accessible? Even so, as panelist Dr. Harold Kleinert noted, the AUCD network can play an integral role in engaging faith communities. Tranesha A. Christie and Dr. Eduardo Ortiz contributed similarly to the panel, addressing their work on embracing the diversity within the disability experience, and shared what we can do to maximize support for diverse communities, such as historically black colleges and universities.
After this fantastic panel, I had the chance to learn from other attendees sitting at my table. Here’s what I most want everyone to consider: The AUCD network has a responsibility to represent multiculturalism and diversity without veering into the realm of tokenism. We can welcome staff from diverse backgrounds into our programs without hiring people as tokens. Our network has the strength to continue our work in fostering and engaging inclusive atmospheres, and I know that throughout this conference, we’ll be able to gain and share knowledge on the best practices to accomplish that.
I’m so excited for what the first day of the main conference holds! Tomorrow I’ll be facilitating a panel on self-advocacy, and I’ll be speaking at the opening plenary. It’s really humbling to consider that I’ve gone from summer intern to conference speaker. I can’t wait to engage with more conference attendees and learn from lots of you! Check back here tomorrow for my next post on the conference, and in the meantime, be sure to share this post, Tweet using the hashtag #AUCD2014, and leave comments chatting about all of your conference experiences. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And again, if you’re not at the conference, you’re still more than welcome to check out what’s going on here and on social media. There’s lots of powerful disability advocacy happening, and anyone can be part of it!
Are you tweeting? Get engaged and let’s get connected! You can find me @emily_ladau, and follow along with everyone else tweeting with #AUCD2014!