Disability Learnings

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson wrote an influential essay for the NYT in 2016 entitled Becoming Disabled:

The fact is, most of us will move in and out of disability in our lifetimes, whether we do so through illness, an injury or merely the process of aging.

I met with Rosemarie today to deepen my understanding of the disabled world. Using an arts lens, she described to me the three ways that we experience disability in culturally-motivated experiences:

  1. Through the work of an artist who is disabled.
  2. Through disability being represented in work.
  3. Through disability as a driving concept in work.

This framework made me think of how when you replace the word “disability” in each of the three categories above, it covers a varieties of differences as well. Relatedly, Kat Holmes talks about disability represented in the workplace, workforce, and marketplace — which also has universal applicability as well.

Rosemarie also shared how it is important to consider how to approach bringing a disabled person into the workforce with needed attention to:

  • Thoughtfulness around roles that don’t exacerbate barriers in the actual work to be done.
  • Expectations that the speed of performing work will be generally different (i.e. take longer in some cases).
  • Bringing colleagues consciously up to speed with how to work with a disabled person.

And always having strong consideration for the value and benefit of bringing difference into the workplace. Love that! —JM