UC System Needs Open Discussion on Disability

UC System Needs Open Discussion on Disability

Dear Editor,

I have been an employee of UCSD for 12 years. But as a disabled employee, I no longer feel safe at work. I disclosed my disability to my department with the hope of getting the support I need to overcome the difficulties I have at work. I provided two letters from my doctor identifying the functional limitations that would enable me to continue working.
The University Interactive Process has failed. The doctors’ letters I provided and three meetings held on this issue have failed to ensure that the accommodations I need to function at work are met in a way that is consistent and fair. Instead the accommodation has been provided only sporadically and begrudgingly — thereby ensuring continued stress, difficulty and ultimately failure to meet the requirements of my job.

During a Disability Interactive Process meeting convened by the department, I was subjected to derogatory comments about my illness. These comments undermined trust going forward, as they indicate a troubling pattern in the department and perhaps throughout the system.

It is important to note the significance of a functional limitation and its attendant accommodation: A disabled employee cannot function without the accommodation in place. The employer has the power to enable the disabled employee to succeed by providing a minor adjustment — or to ensure their failure by withholding the specified accommodation. In this case it is not only my ability to work, which is at stake, but the success of the course and its students.

I believe an open discussion about disability in the workplace is in order. A culture of discrimination should not be allowed to perpetuate within a public institution. I believe in the UC system and hope to send my son to school here. But by ignoring these troubling signs the very values of the University of California are compromised. The majority of Americans WILL, at some point in their lives, live with disability. As our society ages, accommodating disability in a way that is consistent and reasonable will help ensure the success of the institution and our society.

— Naomi Spellman

Department Lecturer,
Interdisciplinary Computing Arts Major

The Guardian welcomes letters from its readers. All letters must be addressed, and written, to the editor of the Guardian. Letters are limited to 500 words, and all letters must include the writer’s name, college and year, department or city of residence. The Guardian Editorial Board reserves the right to edit for length, accuracy, clarity and civility. The Editorial Board reserves the right to reject letters for publication. Due to the volume of mail we receive, we do not confirm receipt or publication of a letter.
 
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