Sunday, March 29, 2015

Importance of Hiring an ADA Coordinator with a Disability

Hi all,

I'm pasting a Letter to the Editor that Nick Holzthum, Steve Kuusisto, and I composed to submit to the Daily Orange below. Please comment if you're interested in adding your name to the list of signers. Also, I'm of course interested in hearing any feedback you might have. Thanks!

"As a result of THE General Body’s activism last fall, particularly the student occupation of Crouse-Hinds Hall, the University is currently in the midst of a search for an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator. The ADA Coordinator is responsible for ensuring compliance with the law and, perhaps more importantly, for ensuring that the appropriate structures and processes are in place to foster a climate of inclusivity for students, staff, and faculty with diverse abilities on campus. The final three candidates have now been announced, and we want to insist on the importance and significance of hiring a candidate who identifies as disabled. 

We are not making an essentialist claim that because someone has a disability he or she is necessarily more qualified than a non-disabled candidate. However, hiring a disabled ADA coordinator would undoubtedly make a powerful and influential statement about the University’s commitment to combatting the structural oppression of individuals with disabilities. The unemployment rate of highly qualified, readily employable people with disabilities is 60-90 percent. Thus, there are indisputably people with disabilities who are qualified to fill the position of ADA coordinator. We feel the University has a responsibility to seek out those candidates and to make it clear to qualified people with disabilities that SU is invested in fighting ableism not just with words but through action.

Furthermore, we believe a disabled ADA coordinator would be more inclined to connect with  students, faculty, and staff who  have disabilities.  We strongly believe  an ADA Coordinator with a disability will prove better suited to find culturally appropriate and informed solutions to obstacles faced by disabled members of the Syracuse University community than a candidate who has not personally experienced disability-based discrimination."


  1. Do any of the current candidates have a disability?

  2. Ugh.. I just commented and the page lost it when I hit "publish". Frustration.

    It was a fairly long comment, but the gist of it was:
    Could SU actually screen for something like this? It can't be asked on the application.. SU could "urge" candidates with disabilities to apply and consciously post the job listing in places where those with disabilities are more likely to look. But could they make disability a factor when analyzing their candidates? And what if the person has an invisible disability that doesn't need accommodations? Should that person make that public knowledge to get "preferential treatment" from the University? Should the University be looking for someone with a physical disability simply to make a point?
    Do I agree with you that a person with a disability would be a great asset to this position? Absolutely. Would it be great to see someone with a disability take on this position? Absolutely. Do I think the University could find a qualified candidate with a disability? Abso-freakin-lutely. I just don't know if what you're asking is practicable... ::shrugs::

  3. As far as I know, none of the candidates identify as disabled, but I don't know much about the third candidate (her talk is tomorrow at 10 am in Schine 304, if anyone's interested).

    Susan, really good points. I know the job call urged candidates with disabilities to apply, but I don't know anything about the legality of making that a factor in screening candidates (seems kind of like "reverse racism" line of illogic, though). I definitely thought about the invisible disability question, and I certainly don't think that hiring someone with a physical disability as opposed to an invisible one simply to make a point is preferable. However, as far as I know (at least the first 2 candidates) do not identify as disabled. Also, I wouldn't look at it as making their disability known in order to get "preferential treatment" (which I think is a really problematic and dehistoricized conceptualization), but rather as claiming disability and thereby identifying and aligning with a historically oppressed social group.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking questions!