Disability as Diversity: Reflecting on Intersectional Experiences

Dear Members of the College of Education Community,

As the semester starts to find a rhythm and the temperatures cool (slightly), we hope you are in good health and spirits. There are many observances this month. This Monday, October 11 was the first Indigenous People’s Day recognized by a U.S. president. Also, though many of us celebrated Pride in June and August, October is also  LGBTQIA+ History Month. Additionally, we are recognizing October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which has its origins in a 1945 awareness week, and finally became a federally recognized month in 1988.

Our signature impact areas are salient to ensuring that all members of our community, including people with disabilities, are able to excel and thrive in their learning and development. In each of our departments and centers, our faculty, staff, and students are engaging in research and teaching that supports students with disabilities. While this is our work every day, it is important to take the time to commit ourselves to schools, workplaces, and communities that are inclusive and welcoming to all members. Much of this work is happening thanks to the efforts of members of the College of Education community, such as those working to establish the Disabled Faculty Equity Council, co-chaired by Dr. Stephanie Cawthon and Dr. Alison Kafer. The council is presently accepting nominations.

To that end, we’d like to share some of the opportunities for members of the COE community to learn more and engage in dialogue advancing equity for the disabled community. One of our signature events will be an invited presentation on October 25 from Dr. Alison Kafer, Associate Professor of Feminist Studies who will speak on the occasion of Disability Employment Awareness Month.

This month is also an excellent opportunity to highlight the work of the college’s National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC), a deaf-led effort. This recent data report spotlights employment trends and disparities within deaf communities. Only 53% of deaf people were employed, compared to 76% of hearing people. The NDC’s data shows that systemic barriers related to employment are further magnified for deafdisabled people, deafblind people, and deaf people of color. Along these lines, this newsfeed post highlights some of the NDC’s research about the benefits of role models for deaf youth, and offers some resources for connecting with role models virtually.

Additionally, the NDC is launching a new expansion of their groundbreaking online game for deaf teenagers, Deafverse, that focuses on job readiness. As a part of Disability Employment Awareness Month, the NDC is hosting a “behind the scenes” panel spotlighting the talented deaf professionals who are part of the game’s development team.

Other observances this month include White Cane Day on Friday, October 15, to educate the world about blindness and how the blind and visually impaired can live and work independently while giving back to their communities, to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world, and to honor the many contributions being made by the blind and visually impaired. Disability Studies at UT is sponsoring an event to increase awareness that day.

The Gender and Sexuality Center is partnering with the Center for Disability Studies to do two events around LGBTQIA+ and Disability Justice, and one on intersex identities, to celebrate Intersex Awareness Day on October 26. On October 19, Cal Montgomery, a transgender, disabled, and autistic activist, will speak on “No Such Thing as a Stupid Student: How Thinking Through Cognitive Accessibility Can Set Students Up to Succeed” as part of the Crip Conversations Speaker Series. This will be a hybrid event, both in-person and on Zoom.

While there are a multitude of events and activities happening in the larger Austin community, we’re sure that the events here in the College of Education and at UT Austin will provide ample opportunities to discuss, engage, and learn with colleagues and friends. We wish you the very best as we enter the midpoint of the semester.


Dean Martinez and Associate Dean Reddick

College of Education | The University of Texas at Austin

RICHARD REDDICK | Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach College of Education | The University of Texas at Austin