Feminist Disability Studies and Environmental Justice in Tech Comm

Smyser-Fauble and Johnson Sackey’s chapters fit together well within this text. Both place the material, environmental, and linguistic next to the ideological, pedagogical, and political, pointing to the importance of milti- and inter-disciplinary work. Both deal with issues of public intellectuals with Smyser-Fauble pushing for the enactment of such identities and Johnson Sackey considering the intellectual commodities involved in “doing science” (210-211). Both highlight the possibilities and challenges that present themselves to those involved in collaboration along with the tensions that come with a local/global divide. Both speak to the importance of context in different rhetorical situations, begging us to look at what is going on around us and put people at the center of our work. Both can be seen as responses to Grabill and Simmons’ call to develop ways through which we can push power issues into the foreground of tech comm (221). Although I realize that they authors would argue no, I can’t help but wonder if the bottom line of both is the dollar $ign.

Smyser-Fauble’s feminist disability framework (methodology and approach) articulates essential questions about accessibility and usability that push tech communicators and their teachers past the ambiguous language of our common comfort zones in legal literacies (99), universal design (103), and physical accessibility (100) into possibilities and responsibilities of social accessibility (117), inclusivity (119), and positioning students as agents of social change (119). While I greatly appreciate her ideas on the important of acting as public intellectuals (99 & 119) and responsible rhetoric activity (99) along with the two steps she offers for working to remove institutional barriers to inclusion and accessibility (120-121), I was hoping for and expecting more.

Throughout her chapter, she calls out broad (physical accessibility on page 117) and more specific (lists of common teaching techniques for accommodation on page 113) moves as “not enough”. And I agree with the author that they are not enough and tech comm seems perfectly situated to think with students about these issues, which is probably why I was looking forward to guidance on some ways that work toward consideration of “enough”. While I understand that part of her argument is that whatever “enough” is is context dependent, and she very well may be responding to the concerns credited to Agboka on page 204 of Johnson Sackey’s chapter. Although she doesn’t use Agboka to build her argument, it seems that she could use his and Johnson Sackey’s ideas of the various aspects of locale (204-205) to build a stronger argument for and construction of a feminist disability heuristic that could be used to respond to local situations in context.

I thought she might at least venture to imagine how ideas from the “readily available, easy to use, understandable” heuristic (118) could be reworked to reflect ideas from her feminist disability approach. That being said, the suggestions she offers are flexible and could be adapted to fit a variety of context, so they can serve as a good starting place. I would be interested to see how Smyser-Fauble’s approach could benefit from being put in conversation with Frost’s apparent feminism and Cox’s queer theory in tech comm.

Johnson Sackey’s discussion surrounding Keller’s concept of doing science peaked my interest in how it could be connected to Carter’s (2007) ideas on ways of knowing, doing, and writing in the disciplines. The implications and barriers of a doing science approach creates for issues of social justice remind me of challenges that are typical in WAC/WID work. As Keller reminds us, “sharing a language means sharing a conceptual universe” (Keller, 2001, 136 on p. 211). But sharing a language also creates access to what are otherwise intellectual commodities available to certain (and not all) people. As a classic equation of ECON courses, increased production/access without increased demand decreases the value of a commodity. I am left wondering if this calculation is what these chapters are really about…

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