View on Namche Bazar, Khumbu district, Himalayas, Nepal.

Intersectionality, Indigeneity, and Disability Climate Justice in Nepal

By Pratima Gurung, Penelope J.S. Stein, and Michael Ashley Stein

The climate crisis disproportionately impacts marginalized populations experiencing multilayered   and intersecting oppression, such as Indigenous Peoples with disabilities. To achieve climate justice, it is imperative to understand how multiple layers of oppression — arising from forces that include ableism, colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism — interact and cause distinctive forms of multiple and intersectional discrimination. Only by understanding these forces can we develop effective, inclusive climate solutions.

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the homepage of the PubMed website is seen on a computer screen through a magnifying glass.

On Searching for the Unknown with Unspeakable Names: Searching PubMed for Disability Research

By P.F. Anderson and LaTeesa James

PubMed special queries are master search strategies on common, important, but challenging health topics, which are usually peer-reviewed. Disability certainly qualifies as a common, important health topic that is challenging to search – and yet, no PubMed special query exists for it. 

This oversight is concerning. Put simply, it’s important that disability as a topic is easily identifiable in the scholarly record. While there are specialized databases for the topic, such as NARIC’s REHABDATA, the global research community is most likely to begin with PubMed. Currently, structured vocabulary terms related to disability are scattered throughout PubMed’s medical subject heading (MeSH) trees, often without cross references to facilitate discovery, forcing discovery to largely depend on the unstructured language of whatever words were chosen by the authors to describe their research topics. This lack of consensus and consistency across professional disability terms, categories, and definitions contributes to a lack of comparability, discoverability, and access for disability data as well as research.  

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line drawing of computers, tablets, and televisions.

Autistic Screen Time: Swipe Left on Stigma

By Maxfield Sparrow

I am an autistic person who has been using the internet as a social prosthetic device since 1983. I was born in 1967 and began therapy in 1972, so the iPad didn’t exist and the only screen time parents worried about was the five channels of broadcast television available twenty hours a day. TV was fine, but my real passion was books. I was hyperlexic and from a very early age I had an unquenchable thirst for written language. My obsession with reading was considered pathological, and adults took my books away to try to force me to socialize with other children instead.

It didn’t work. But it is sadly common that those of us with developmental disabilities are held to higher standards than everyone else. As children, once we are identified, everything about us is scrutinized. Well-meaning adults, fearing for our future, hold us to higher standards of everything from politeness to academic discipline to the age-appropriateness of our interests to the ways we move through the world. We’re not allowed to “get away with” the things non-disabled kids do every day.

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Cover image of Ashley Shew's book, Against Technoableism.

Symposium Introduction: Addressing Technoableism: Reforming Infrastructure and Disability Representation

By Ashley Shew

Far too often, when people write and talk about technology and disability, stories are deeply shaped by ableism. Often when devices are painted as “solving the problem of disability” or “empowering disabled people,” they suggest that being disabled is itself a problem, and that people should try to be as nondisabled as possible. But pretending to be nondisabled is not a great way to live — to be in hiding or denial, to not give your body and mind the rest they deserve, to hurt yourself trying to live up to expectations and infrastructure sometimes literally designed to keep you out. Technology itself gets painted as heroic and important — and, please, investors, throw more money at the tech industry — when any disability is mentioned. Disability is often appealed to as a justification for technological development, and as a moral imperative toward investment in technological research. This is technoableism as I describe it in my book, Against Technoableism: Rethinking Who Needs Improvement

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Beawar, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2021: People roam at the main market.

Climate-Resilient and Accessible Architecture

By Abhishek Kumar and Kavya Poornima Balajepalli

Climate change is the gravest threat currently faced by human civilization, and our architecture must internalize this reality of our time.

Knowing that the best way to protect people from climate chaos is by tackling inequality, it is critical that our built environment integrate universal design, as lack of accessibility has cascading and compounding impact on vulnerable communities, and especially persons with disabilities.

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Oil refineries polluting carbon and cancer causing smoke stacks climate change and power plants in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Understanding Climate and Disability Justice: Mitigating Structural Barriers to the Right to Health

By Cynthia Golembeski, Ans Irfan, Michael Méndez, Amite Dominick, Rasheera Dopson, and Julie Skarha

People with disabilities — one of the most climate vulnerable groups — are often overlooked before, during, and in the aftermath of disasters.

Structural competency, which accounts for systemic “level determinants, biases, inequities, and blind spots,” is important to mitigating environmental racism and ableism in climate change and disaster policy. To achieve such intersectional approaches, the social determinants of health provide a useful framework. It explains how conditions, forces, and systems, including poverty, discrimination, underlying health disparities, and governance, not only shape daily life but also  vulnerability to climate-induced disasters (Figure 1). Decreasing vulnerability requires understanding and addressing upstream root causes of health inequities.

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Concept of agroforestry and silvopasture, exemplified by grazing cattle in a grove outside Läckö Castle at Lake Vänern, West Gothland, Sweden.

Disability-Inclusive Climate Justice Through Agroforestry

By Pavan Muntha and Chloe Rourke

As climate change is expected to stress the agricultural sector in the coming decades, it is crucial that we transition to climate-smart agricultural practices like agroforestry that build resilience and provide farmers with greater flexibility.

Groups identified as particularly vulnerable to climate change, such as people with disabilities, must be fully included to ensure this transition is successful and its benefits are equitably distributed.

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People on a boat pass supplies to others on a neighboring boat.

Disability-Inclusive Climate Action in Bangladesh: Gaps and Opportunities

Image courtesy of Matthew “Hezzy” Smith.

By Matthew “Hezzy” Smith

Bangladesh, at the frontlines of global climate change, provides a critical litmus test for advocacy to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The disastrous effects of last summer’s historic flooding in the Sunamganj and Sylhet districts on persons with disabilities show that while the country’s laws and policies gesture toward inclusion, considerable gaps remain between policy and practice.

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Denver, Colorado, USA 9-21-20 Amtrak Train crossing through the Colorado Rocky Mountains with peak Fall Colors in September.

Could Amtrak’s Quiet Car Be a Model for COVID-19 Travel Policies?

By Terri Gerstein

Consider the quiet car. Some Amtrak trains have a designated car for people who want a hushed environment in which to work, read, or sleep. Passengers who want quiet choose the quiet car. People who don’t want quiet sit elsewhere. In short: people want different options for travel, and Amtrak threads the needle, accommodating varying needs.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this same approach could be taken in relation to masking. While the science is clear that universal masking is the best way to reduce the virus’ spread, highly vocal opponents have made masks a thorny subject for political leaders. Mask mandates are gone, at least for now. As such, Amtrak, airlines, public transit, and other transportation companies should provide must-mask options for passengers who need or want them.

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person walking away from a surgical mask lying on the ground.

The Mask-Optional DEI Initiative

By Matt Dowell

Recently, I remotely attended a mask-optional, in-person meeting where campus leaders proudly proclaimed that DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is my college’s “top priority.”

As a disabled faculty member who writes about disability access in higher education, I found myself considering how to make sense of such a statement — how seriously to take such statements, how much to care that such statements are being made.

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