Hardy – Week 10 Response (Smyser-Fauble and Sackey)

While reading Smyser-Fauble, I couldn’t help thinking of Margaret Price’s keynote address at the Southeastern Writing Center’s Association Conference last month, and how a feminist disabilities studies approach can and should be used to analyze and intervene in the ways in which students are accommodated in an academic institution. Intervention, Smyser-Fauble states, is one of the most important responsibilities of a technical communicator (113), but we must first understand how and under what conditions these policies were conceived and implemented (99). Over the course of this semester, I’ve slowly begun to overlay the roles and responsibilities of technical communicators with WPAs and, more specifically, writing center administrators. Universal design, inclusivity, and accessibility in general have recently gained traction as topics of interest in the writing center field, but I fear we may be coming to interrogate these issues a bit too late. Even discussions about what accommodation entails or what language is used to describe accommodation procedures has been muddied and ambiguous. Certainly, we can confront these issues in the technical communication classroom, but how do we seize a kairotic moment to take action in the name of social justice? Where do we begin at our own institution? I think, even within the context of the writing center, defining what encompasses the term “assistive technology” is a good place to start. If, as Steph said in a class a few weeks ago, technology is an extension of the body, then isn’t technology, by definition, assistive? And, further, I wonder if “accommodation” is a problematic term that “others” people simply because it implies something is required to normatize (?) a person. When does being universally inclusive venture into corrective or remediative behavior? If those of you are interested in what Margaret Price has to say about inclusivity, her SWCA keynote can be found here: https://margaretprice.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/on-inclusivity-12-point.docx.

Donnie Sackey had me at the first mention of “global rhetorical citizenship” (204). Attending to local concerns are important, of course, but those concerns are inextricably linked to global ones, and we must recognize and understand the dynamics at work in that relationship. There is no clear delineation between local and global environments, nor is there any way to address one without considering the other.  Perhaps I am discussing these terms too broadly. The incident in Michigan discussed on page 207, for example, demonstrates how administrative and regulatory entities operate within tangled layers of bureaucracy that affect very specific, localized populations (the microcosm, if you will), but these entities permeate the macrocosm as well. To oversimplify, these relationships are woven into an elaborate tapestry that makes our job as technical communicators — as well as social/environmental justice advocates — all the more difficult. As with my other posts, I want to reiterate that when I read for this course, I’m always thinking about what we can do with this knowledge. Where do we go from here? How can we apply this straight away? The most practical place to start, in my opinion, is learning how to communicate local-global issues (of a scientific or pseudo-scientific nature) to targeted communities. I am reminded here of Jeffrey Grabill’s Writing Community Change: Designing Technologies for Citizen Action, which compliments Sackey’s argument extraordinarily well. Sackey  states that “science has to be willing to translate its research into forms that local communities can more readily understand and use for purposes that suit their collective goals” (211), which goes beyond just revising content in layman’s terms. A strong command of rhetorical knowledge is necessary for communicating to these discrete audiences how these issues affect them. In other words, we have to make this information accessible.

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