Click above for more information about the journal itself and to subscribe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

RDS Commitment to Honoring Diversity

Editorial: RDS Commitment to Honoring Diversity
Megan A. Conway, PhD
RDS Editor-In-Chief

In March, 2017, I authored an RDS Editorial titled Disabled Lives Matter. The Editorial was inspired by a 2017 report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center on how the 2016 Presidential Election impacted school climate for marginalized people including people of color, religious minorities, women and LGBTQ people. The survey revealed that a shocking 90% of respondents saw a negative impact on school climate, but neglected to offer up “disability” as a possible reason for marginalization. The larger point of my editorial was to emphasize that disability – like race, religion, gender, and sexuality – is a critical category to consider when pondering such questions, yet it is often overlooked as the very framing of this survey revealed. However, when the editorial was recently re-released it received a slew of criticism on social media. Especially given the title of my editorial, critics argued that it seemed to rank these various social categories as if some mattered more than others and also seemed to ignore simultaneously experienced disability, race, gender, sexuality, etc. RDS Editorial Board member Jenifer Barclay summed up this criticism pointedly when she wrote:

“[It is] problematic to appropriate the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter,’ especially given the significant backlash and actual violence that people who use that phrase have experienced in recent years. For instance, people peacefully protesting against police violence who invoke the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ have been met with militarized police, SWAT forces, tear gas, and physical abuse (e.g. Ferguson, Baltimore). Others, like Colin Kaepernick, are blackballed from their professional livelihoods. Conservative news outlets and neo-Nazis/white supremacists alike routinely frame ‘Black Lives Matter activists’ as angry, lawless, irrational people of color who ‘hate’ white people. Given these realities, I can understand - and agree with - the frustration of those who criticized the editorial and interpreted the (mis)use and distortion of that phrase as insensitive.”  

In the wake of criticism about the Editorial, I issued an apology for any offense that it may have caused some readers, including the following statement:

“These are very difficult times for all of us who are personally and professionally impacted by social justice issues. I as much as anybody understand the power of language to convey meaning, and the importance of maintaining the sanctity of the meaning that words convey. My goal as Editor of an academic disability studies journal is to further understandings of diversity.”

With these words in mind, I would like to take the time to reaffirm my commitment, and RDS’s commitment, to representing and respecting through the promotion of Disability Studies, the richly diverse community of individuals with disabilities and their allies.

First, a reminder about ways RDS has already demonstrated our commitment to diversity:

  • RDS was founded in 2003 with a mission to “provide an international forum for people with disabilities, academics, professionals, artists and creators from all backgrounds and expertise to express ideas relevant to disability studies and people with disabilities.”  
  • The RDS Editorial Board, Manuscript Review Board and core staff hail from  multiple countries and disciplines and have diverse cultural identities.
  • RDS has published over 530 authors from 43 countries around the world.
  • RDS publishes articles on a wide range of topics. Some examples of past titles around topics of diversity include Unsettling the Resettled: An Intersectional Analysis of Autism in the Somali Diaspora (v14i1), Changing Disability Status of Immigrants in Australia - Three Cases (v132), Strategies to Create a Culturally Responsive Learning Environment (v11i4), Precarious Inclusions; Re-Imagining Disability, Race, Masculinity and Nation in My Name Is Khan (v10i2), Performing the Pain: Opening the (Crip) Body for (Queer) Pleasures (v6i3) and Physical Disability, Gender, and Marriage in Jordanian Society (v10i1&2).

But of course, we can do better! Here are some of the ways RDS is seeking to remain on the cutting edge of Disability Studies by improving our commitment to diversity now and in the future:

  • The RDS Editorial Board is working on a permanent statement and revised author guidelines reaffirming our commitment to language that respects diverse identities, including gender neutral language, and established and evolving understandings of respectful language.
  • Led by Forums Editor Jenifer Barclay and Research Editor Mary Jean Hande, RDS will publish 2 forums focused on intersections between disability, diversity and marginalization (target publication dates v15i3, Sept 2019, and v16i1, March 2020). One forum will be focused on these themes within academia and the other within social justice movements.
  • RDS is launching a student internship program, to be pilot tested this summer, with a particular focus on recruiting a variety of individuals with disabilities who are interested in gaining experience in academic publishing.
  • In order to ensure that work published in RDS is accessible to all, RDS will transition to entirely Open Access in September, 2018.

We look forward to your contributions to RDS as authors, reviewers, readers, and yes, critics.  It is essential that those of us involved in Disability Studies think deeply about the complex relationship between power and injustice and embrace a diversity of experiences and perspectives even if they contradict our own.  This will ensure that Disability Studies remains vibrant and relevant for years to come.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Let's Get Aware

Let’s Get “AWARE” of Preventing Violence through Good Mental Health Promotion
David Leake, PhD
University of Hawaii at Manoa
In February 2018, the United States experienced yet another devastating mass shooting, this time at a high school in Florida with a total of 17 people left dead. Once again, many politicians who are opposed to stricter gun control shifted the blame to “mental illness” despite themselves having records of seeking cuts to programs that promote good mental health and/or opposing parity between physical and mental health coverage in health insurance.
In fact, people with serious mental health challenges are much more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. There are relatively few with a psychosis or highly distorted thinking that might lead to a deadly shooting.  Of course keeping guns out of their hands should be a priority, but real solutions would focus on reducing factors that make some students feel unwanted and alienated, which is true of nearly all students who perpetrate violent acts in their schools.
It is notable that there are evidence-based practices that can be used in schools to promote good mental health and greatly reduce the likelihood of violence. Many of these practices are being promoted through the US government’s Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) grant program for states and school districts. This program was part of the Obama administration’s response to the notorious 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which remains the United States’ most deadly school shooting with 26 victims. As with the recent Florida shooting, the Sandy Hook perpetrator had a serious emotional disturbance.
The AWARE approach seeks to head off such events through prevention and early identification and treatment. A guiding principle congruent with the disability studies perspective is that students of all abilities need to feel socially valued and accepted if they are to reach their best possible mental and physical health status and gain the most possible benefit from their educations. Social inclusion and mutual respect are therefore strongly promoted.
Key AWARE elements being demonstrated and tested include:
  • Raise awareness and conduct program planning through collaboration among families, schools, and communities.
  • Establish school teams that collect and use data to identify and address high priority behavioral challenges on campus.
  • Increase school and community early intervention capacity.
  • Identify and attend to symptoms of trauma.
  • Promote social-emotional learning, thereby enhancing overall social skills and mutual acceptance.
  • Ensure mental health services are culturally relevant and developmentally appropriate.
  • Implement positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), which consist of rules, routines, and physical arrangements that channel students away from negative behaviors without the use of alienating punishments.
When effectively implemented, these practices are known to lead to more welcoming school climates, as reflected in reduced bullying and fighting, fewer students thinking about or attempting suicide, greater mutual respect and acceptance, fewer suspensions and expulsions, and improved academic performance.
Another notable aspect of the AWARE initiative is a focus on increasing interpersonal contacts between students who may be seriously troubled and caring adults. To this end, a required component of all AWARE projects is to train school personnel and community members in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), which is modeled on the CPR training approach for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The eight-hour course enhances the capacity of people to recognize symptoms of distress in youth and to know when and where to make referrals or otherwise provide support.

Mental health first aid courses were developed for the adult population in Australia beginning in 2000, with a youth version added later. Courses are now offered in at least 23 countries. We can all contribute to this movement by completing either or both the youth and adult courses, or even the more intensive train-the-trainer courses. In the United States, you can find courses scheduled near you at

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

CFP Forum on Shame

Deadline Extended: Call for Papers: Forum on Shame
Anticipated publication date: June 1, 2019 (Volume 15, issue 2)
The Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal is issuing a Call for Papers for a special forum on the subject of shame and disability, broadly conceived. It is hoped that through critical discourse addressing the historical and current contexts, contributing factors, effects, and responses to shame, greater understanding of this phenomena will diminish discrimination and violence.
Full papers should be submitted directly to RDS online at no later than June 1, 2018. Please submit to the category “Forum - Disability and Shame”.
For questions about the content of the Forum, please contact the guest editors John Jones,, Dana Lee Baker,, or Stephanie Patterson,
For questions about the submissions process, please contact
Submissions to this special issue will undergo a process of peer-review. Authors will be notified of whether their papers will be invited for consideration in the forum by August 1, 2018. Prospective authors are encouraged to consult the RDS website at for more information about the journal and its formatting guidelines. Authors are encouraged to review previous issues of RDS in preparing their paper. Please note that initial acceptance of an article does not guarantee publication in RDS. RDS is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, international journal published by the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The journal contains research articles, essays, creative works and multimedia relating to the culture of disability and people with disabilities.

Disability and Shame Forum Overview
Shame plays a powerful role in social interactions, beliefs, and institutions. Shame and shaming take varied and quite diversely motivated forms. Shame exists as both a cultural and psychological construct, stimuli for and reactions to which are heavily context-dependent. For much of history and across varied cultural contexts, disability provoked shame. Whether understood as the result of personal failings, sins of a family, misapplication of scientific findings, or empirical evidence of an unhappy deity, experiencing disability involved largely unquestioned shaming. During the last decades of the twentieth century, progress much attributed to disability rights movements finally created expanding space between disability and shame.  
Yet, shame remains a powerful and often-accepted tool of social control, an incorporated pillar of our social infrastructures along with cultural norms, popular culture, and public policy. For example, in September 2016, Satoshi Uematsu killed 19 patients at a center for disabled people outside Tokyo. In the aftermath, many family members of the deceased declined to speak to the media and asked not to be identified out of shame that others would know that their family members had a disability (Ha & Sieg, 2016). Such a tragic outcome in Japan in response to fear of disgrace signifies a decided need to examine the role of personal and societal shame and how it affects the lives of people with disabilities.

Topics to be Explored (suggested, but not limited to):
  • Shame, disability, identity
  • Labelling and shame
  • Shame and relationships
  • Shame and dependency/interdependency
  • Shame and culture
  • Shame and access to public programs
  • Historical connection between disability and poverty
  • Historical shame
  • Diversity and shame
  • Intersectional approaches to understanding shame
  • Reclaiming shame
  • Shame and employment
  • Societal and family shame resulting in violence against disabled people