by Andrea Bown, Educational Publishing Freelancer
July 2019 was the initial step in this process. April 2020 was another one, and now, here in 2021, I’m about to take the third step by attaching my name to my words. I’m Andrea Bown, I work as a freelancer in educational publishing, and I was born with a physical disability. It has (and will always have) an impact on the way I (successfully) do my job.
We’re currently in a time where diversity and inclusion are hot topics in educational publishing, and that includes people with disabilities. I assure anyone reading this update that I’m not the only person who works in the industry who has a disability. There are many of us out here. I’m certain my fellow colleagues are also wrestling with disclosure, whether they’re thinking about doing it or are in the midst of doing it, because disclosure is a process. In my case, I’ve been disclosing with Kevin (and others at Westchester) since July 2019, and I continue to do so. It’s not one conversation, or five, or ten. It’s so many I’ve lost count, and the conversations are ongoing….or at least they ought to be.
More than one person has asked me why I have chosen now to reveal myself. I review curriculum as a member of Westchester’s culturally responsive education review team. One of the dynamics that comes into play during a review is the presence and influence of power. I have tried to convey to Kevin how much that fear and power can drive (and often derail or prevent) the process of disclosure. I have been able to do that with him because there was a time years ago where my fear directly collided with his power. I don’t admit that to make this about the two of us. I admit that in an attempt to get everyone to understand that dynamic wasn’t (and isn’t) unique to the two of us. It sucks to be in that position. It absolutely sucks, but it happens all the time. Right now, employees with disabilities are dealing with that same scenario. I know it, and unless we actually talk about it, nothing will ever change.
This moment in time can’t be wasted, and staying anonymous felt like wasting an opportunity. I have a big mouth. (It’s been described to me in more polite circles as “having candor.”) However it’s described, it means that people like me have to talk, and we have to be willing to do so in the open. This is an opportunity to expand professional opportunities for people with disabilities. This moment starts with a partnership like the one I’ve built with Kevin and the members of his Westchester team. This moment also involves people in my position being loud so that more people like Kevin want to start this process and more people like me aren’t afraid to start this process. It’s particularly important to have these conversations in educational publishing so that we can engage in successful and meaningful collaborations that will matter to students now and in the future.
People with disabilities often choose the people they disclose to with tremendous thought and care, especially when they’re disclosing to their employers. Educational publishing says it’s all about hearing diverse voices. The voices of people with disabilities are part of that chorus. We’re here, and we have things to say. We’re simply looking for people we trust to talk to us and be willing to really work with us.
Read the blog post Inclusivity: Disability and the Workplace, to learn about Andrea’s journey.