Equity Toolkit for Disability Inclusion

This is the third in a series of posts about each of the teams that will be attending SCI 2022 and their projects. This one was submitted by Sylvia Hunter.

Photo of a computer with a refreshable braille display.

What we’re doing and what we hope to achieve

The focus of our project is an Equity Toolkit for Disability Inclusion. Originated by members of our team, this project has been workshopped at the 2022 Researcher to Reader conference and is being carried forward by a larger volunteer team, headed by specific project managers, under the umbrella of the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Publishing (C4DISC), which provides infrastructural and administrative support.

Challenges

There’s no shortage of online resources on the topic of disability inclusion. The challenge is one that’s familiar in scholarly communications: finding the signal amidst the noise, evaluating how reliable each resource is, and wondering what else you might have missed. While modeled on prior C4DISC Toolkits for Equity projects, the Disability Toolkit aims to produce something different: an interactive, easy-to-update online hub providing access to high-quality and accurate resources, curated and vetted by knowledgeable people, that both people with disabilities and those wanting to successfully recruit, hire, and retain people with disabilities can use to help achieve those goals. Like other C4DISC Toolkits, however, the Disability Toolkit would be made available free of charge and would offer good search capabilities, topic and format filtering, and a variety of resource types (text, video, audio) with accessibility affordances.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed both encouraging and difficult truths about both our society and the scholarly communications industry. On the one hand, we’ve been reminded by our industry’s role in vetting and disseminating COVID research how much our work matters; we’ve learned that much of our work can be carried out very effectively via distributed work, and that our organizations are capable of being more flexible, adaptable, inclusive, and compassionate than we previously realized. On the other hand, however, we’ve seen a societal disregard for disabled, immunocompromised, and chronically ill people cast into stark relief. Policies and practices for which disabled people have been advocating for years, and which we were often told were too difficult, too expensive, or just impossible—such as flexible work hours, virtual conferences, more paid sick leave, and remote work—were implemented practically overnight as soon as our non-disabled colleagues also needed them … and are now being abandoned in many places. Part of the work we’re doing is reckoning with these truths.

Opportunities

Meanwhile, more than 15% of people worldwide have some kind of disability—that’s over 1.1 billion people. That means we need the content we publish and the events we host to be accessible to people with disabilities. It also means that as an industry, we need to take advantage of the knowledge, lived experiences, and problem-solving abilities that people with disabilities bring to the workplace! And those needs seem likely to increase as the long-term consequences of COVID play out. As the scholarly communications sector continues to wrestle with ongoing changes in our industry, the internet, and the world, increasing the diversity of our workforce will be key to building flexible, resilient, creative teams that can succeed in a rapidly changing environment.

Photo of a pink sign in the grass, with a wheelchair symbol and reading "step free route"

Working to make scholarly communications more disability confident is also an issue of equity, inclusion, and access: including experiences, voices, and ideas not adequately represented in the past, and giving people equitable access to job opportunities. Thus, part of our work in this project is creating a resource that the whole industry can use in repairing existing inequities and harms, as well as the damage of the pandemic, and in caring for one another as we do so.

The team participating in Triangle SCI includes 4 steering committee members and 2 project managers for the Disability Toolkit. We bring to the project a shared desire to improve equity and inclusion for people with disabilities in our industry, informed by what is collectively a wide range of both disability experiences and scholarly publishing experiences. The larger project team includes several dozen volunteers, bringing a wide range of expertise, who all have an interest in disability inclusion advocacy. Over the next six months, the project team will be researching and collecting resources for possible inclusion in the Disability Toolkit; TriangleSCI will give a subset of the steering committee and project management team time and space to evaluate all of these resources, make decisions about resource inclusion and project priorities, and develop options for structuring and organizing the Toolkit. We will then take these decisions back to the larger group to be reviewed and ultimately ratified.

The steering committee and project managers live and work in several countries on two separate continents, and have been working together for months or years without meeting in person. Having this opportunity to work together in a concentrated, focused way will put us several steps closer to making the Disability Toolkit a concrete and usable reality that can make a difference in our industry.

How we plan to share our work

The Toolkit will be an online resource focused on signposting high-quality sources of information and best practices as well as providing actionable insights for disabled employees, managers, and allies working in scholarly communications. Our goal is to create an accessible, flexible resource that can be updated in response to community needs over time.

Team members will highlight our participation at the Scholarly Communications Institute ‘live’ via LinkedIn and Twitter. Once the Toolkit is finalized, we will work with C4DISC member organizations to get feedback and raise awareness, as well as organizing conference panels for industry-wide conferences like SSP (The Society for Scholarly Publishing) and ALPSP (Association for Learned and Professional Society Publishers), among others. Two of our team members work in roles specifically focused on disability inclusion at large publishers, which offers another potential avenue for both input and dissemination.

The team will begin their work in advance to ensure maximum use of their time together at the institute. Publishing Enabled and C4DISC have recently kicked off a series of planning meetings for the Toolkit, which includes the Team alongside a larger body of volunteers. As part of that planning process, the Team will meet once a month between June and October to agree our goals for attending SCI and to align those goals with the overall project plan.

Team members

Karen Stoll Farrell is the Head of Scholarly Communication at Indiana University, Bloomington. They lead a team responsible for a library publishing service with over 50 open access journals, the institutional repository and data repository, data and GIS services, open educational resources programs, and research impact. Their current research is focused on the academic hiring process for autistic librarians, and on distributions of power and diversity in library collections. They serve as a co-project manager on the C4DISC Disability Toolkit project, bringing their own lived experience as an autistic person.

Kimberly Gladfelter Graham is the Office Manager for NISO (National Information Standards Organization), managing the organization’s systems and administrative functions. She works closely with all members of the organization to adhere to strategic goals, realize projects and programing, serve the association membership, and support association work. Kimberly serves as executive support for Board-related communications and meetings; she was intimately involved in the NISO NFAIS merger and serves on the Board of Directors Finance Committee. Kimberly comes to NISO from the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries and Art Museum community), having worked as the Director and Art Consultant for Hemphill Fine Arts and adjunct professor of curatorial practice at MICA, Baltimore, MD. She is an independent art consultant and curator, advising private collections and producing such exhibitions as Dedicated: A Tribute Exhibition in Honor of Betty Cooke and Bill Steinmetz, and Laying-by Time: Works by William A. Christenberry. Kimberly is keenly interested in using her organizational and relational skills to support projects related to DEIA, food insecurity, and women’s reproductive health. She currently serves as a co-Project Manager for the CDISC Toolkit for Disability working group.

Simon Holt is Disability Confidence Manager and Senior Publisher at Elsevier. Registered blind, he works to make the publishing industry more inclusive and equitable, with a particular focus on disability inclusion. He sits on several committees with SSP, ALPSP, and the Publishers’ Association, and contributes articles to Scholarly Kitchen as part of Publishing Enabled, a group that aims to further disability inclusion within the publishing industry. He was awarded the 2020 Emerging Leader award by the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Simon brings to the Disability Toolkit project his expertise in disability and wider inclusion policy, particularly around self-identification, psychological safety, and workplace adjustments as they apply to the scholarly communications industry on a global level.

Sylvia Izzo Hunter is Marketing Manager at Inera and Community Manager at Atypon, responsible for content marketing, social media, and community-building activities such as interest groups and user meetings. Prior to these roles she worked for over 20 years in university press journal and book editorial, production, and digital publishing. Sylvia is a past member of the SSP Board, a current member of SSP’s DEIA and Education committees, and the author of three historical fantasy novels published by Ace Books. She brings to the Disability Toolkit project her expertise in writing and editing; her own experience of living and working with anxiety and depression; a long-time interest in digital content accessibility; and the experiences of family members, friends, and colleagues with disabilities.

Erin Osborne-Martin is Executive Partnership Manager and Analytics Manager at Wiley, responsible for market insights and data analytics that inform business development strategies. Prior to that, she has worked for more than 15 years in society-focused scholarly communications, primarily at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, where she led the flip of their publishing portfolio to Open Access. After sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2017, Erin became active in disability advocacy through the BackUp Trust, a spinal injury charity, and Transport for All, a group that works for more accessible public transportation.

As a blind Mathematics graduate, Stacy Scott has both the lived experience and professional vantage point from which to understand the challenges faced by learners with a print-disability, and is forever committed to breaking down barriers and improving the availability of accessible education—and enhancing independent study—for all. She has been professionally involved in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) education sector, forming the basis for her career, beginning as a university advisor and following a trajectory through a diverse and rewarding career. In prior roles, Stacy worked in Bangladesh, in India, and across several countries in Africa on making education more inclusive, which saw her involvement in a vast array of diverse, illuminating, and extremely meaningful and challenging projects. She then headed the RNIB Bookshare Service in the UK, working with over 1,100 publishing partners to bring their content onto the RNIB Bookshare platform, to be used by students with any print-disability for free. The platform grew rapidly and currently provides over 760,000 free eBooks in a variety of accessible formats. Moving closer to accessibility challenges in academia, Stacy is now Accessibility Manager for Taylor & Francis, where she aims to provide a clearer, more cohesive strategy on accessibility across the company, building on the wonderful, award-winning work T&F has already achieved. She can often be found in the “accessibility community,” speaking at events or hosting/attending panels. She also chairs the Accessibility Action Group for the Publishers Association, a group which brings publishers, vendors, stakeholders, and end users together to break down barriers to accessing any and all published materials—something that still remains Stacy’s raison d’être!

[ Images by Elizabeth Woolner and Yomex Owo used under Unsplash Free License ]