Institutional environments trap geoscientists with disabilities between a rock and a workplace

Credit: Oscar Sutton / Unsplash

Inaccessible workplaces, normative departmental cultures and ’empowering’ university systems have all contributed to the continued underrepresentation and exclusion of researchers with disabilities in the geosciences, according to one. article published in Nature Geoscience.

The article argues that changes in both workspaces and attitudes are urgently needed if institutions are to attract, protect and retain people with disabilities.

Anya Lawrence, an early career researcher with a disability at the University of Birmingham’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and author of the article, says: “Disabled geoscientists like me face daily at barriers, just to get by in academia. My goal in writing this article was to capture some of the common challenges faced by geoscientists with disabilities, particularly struggles that may be less obvious or less apparent on a superficial level, but are important nonetheless. For example, I think it may surprise some that traditional cultures in the workplace, like communal coffee breaks, can in fact be a source of exclusion for people with disabilities. Likewise, ‘feeling sorry’ and showing pity for fellow disabled colleagues may sound well intentioned, but simply serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about disability.

The article makes a series of suggestions on how people with disabilities can be attracted, supported and retained in academic geosciences, such as academic leaders taking advice from external agencies experienced in mainstreaming inclusion on the market. workplace, while making visible commitments in favor of initiatives to hire people with disabilities. .

Anya adds: “I think there are many good practice examples already in other sectors. The question is whether people at different levels of the academic hierarchy, from the most senior officials to academics “in the field” and doing research in geoscience departments, are committed to creating respectful cultures and welcoming spaces. for academics with disabilities. . “

“Although I have encountered many obstacles myself, I am fortunate to have an incredibly supportive supervisor and school principal, as well as my parents who face the challenge of taking care of a child on a daily basis. disabled child with great courage and altruism. I realize that so many researchers with disabilities just don’t have that kind of close support network and are quite isolated and lonely in academia.

Another potential initiative described in the article is increased collaborative research involving mixed groups of geoscientists with and without disabilities.

“Collaborating with other geoscientists without disabilities or with different disabilities has been really beneficial not only on a personal level, but also for the research itself,” says Anya.

“By working with people who have different opinions, life experiences and areas of expertise from myself, I have learned so much; I was invited to try new methods and techniques of analysis, to publish my findings in media I had not even heard of, and to think critically about my research every step of the way – all of this n wouldn’t have been possible if I had continued on her own.

“It’s also nice to feel included and valued – working with people who value my involvement and who see disability as different, not deficient, means the world to me. To this end, I would like to thank the editors of Nature Geoscience, especially Dr James Super and Dr Simon Harold for being sensitive and deeply respectful in their communication and most importantly for inviting someone with lived experience disability to contribute to the discussion. on disability in geosciences!

Notes for Editors:

  • Lawrence, A. (2021). ‘Between a rock and a workplace‘. Geosciences of nature. DOI: 10.1038 / s41561-021-00775-4
  • For media inquiries, please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel. : +44 (0) 781 3343348. You can also contact the Press Service outside opening hours on +44 (0) 7789 921165.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked among the top 100 institutions in the world. His work brings people from all over the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

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