In recent months, we have seen a renewed interest in creating more diverse professional and academic spaces. Many of these initiatives, though long overdue, focus on race and gender, with little attention toward advancing disability rights. 

With Black History Month underway, the organizers of Disabled in Higher Ed — a social media initiative designed to share the experiences and support members of the disabled academic community — have launched Black Disabled Empowerment in Higher Ed (#BlackDEHEM), a month-long campaign that celebrates Black and disabled academics.

A full calendar of events is pinned to the top of the Disabled in Higher Ed Twitter page.

Jennifer White-Johnson, disability activist and assistant professor of graphic design and visual culture at Bowie State University, says the campaign isn’t just about celebrating Black and disabled voices, it’s also about increasing representation.

“In 2021, for myself being an educator, artist, and Black, Disabled in Higher Ed means that my design activism must empower and represent all Black and Brown disabled people,” White-Johnson says.

“A true call to action that amplifies disabled lives as an act of collective liberation. This act of collective liberation cannot be created in a silo. I challenge the disabled and able-bodied white community to ask what design conversations are you having with folks that don’t look like you? Sound like you? Move like you? How is your design work feeding and freeing others different from yourself?” 

#BlackDEHEM also aims to make connections for the Black and Disabled community in higher education. Organizers have created a Discord chat to further this goal, and interested individuals are invited to visit this link to request access.

Graphics courtesy: Jennifer White-Johnson/Disabled in Higher Ed.

A full breakdown of #BlackDEHEM events is available on this Google doc . 

If you would like to share your story anonymously, you may use this Google Form to do so.