Responsibility in Technical Communications

“Regardless of the location, rhetoric remains a means (tactics/tools) whereby people come together to solve localized problems in movement that frequently oscillates between local and global foci” (Sackey, 227). Sackey brings out some very nice points regarding environmental justice. Her example from Dearborn, Michigan, is a nice illustration of how globalization is becoming more apparent in American businesses and communities. Here, the company at the heart of the pollution issue is Russian, but the community is predominately Arab-American, an increasingly marginalized population in a post-9/11 America. In her example, Sackey points out that no substantial action was taken to address the corporate violations from 2006 to 2014. Is this because the population affected was considered unimportant or undesirable to authorities? Is this because the problem was so large that no one knew how to address it? Or perhaps it was beyond the technological ability to address? If it were the later two options, the plant should have been closed. This brings in the question of economy as well. The surrounding communities rely on the industrial community to provide jobs. Is this a catch twenty-two situation? Live in the community for the work that will feed your children only to have the air, water, and environment kill them over time? If it is the first, we need to seriously question the foundation of American society. America, after all, was founded to provide all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or origin, the opportunity to live freely to the utmost potential of their ability. Racial bias and marginalization are ongoing problems in the country. We, as technical communicators, can employ rhetoric in our communications that can work to be more inclusive and strive to create change. If everyone one, at every level, advocated for social justice, maybe we would have a chance to eliminate marginalization as we raise the next generation to be more tolerant, more inclusive, and embrace equality.

Smyer-Fauble discusses inclusion in her chapter on Disability Accommodations. “For technical communicators this should be a priority, as the courses we teach emphasize the importance of constructing documents that are considered usable and accessible to a wide variety of audiences; our classrooms should be no different” (95). One of the points she brought out that hit home for me was how students in need of accommodation “are expected to play the roles of educator, self-advocate, and ‘normal’ student” (108). In the spirit of inclusion, these students have to fight to be recognized and that means standing up against the stigmatization of a disability. In an education setting, this is yet another marginalization factor. Autism diagnoses are on the rise, but many experts, my son’s therapist included, believe the cases aren’t increasing, simply the willingness of parents to have their children tested so they can get the educational accommodations they need for success, especially in a world increasingly dependent on an education. In our role as educators, communicators, and advocates, we should be willing to embrace not only the disabilities we see, but also those that we don’t. Our language, verbal and written, should also reflect that spirit. Smyer-Fauble states that 40% of students who receive accommodations in high school ask for allowances in college. Of those, 88% of the requests are granted (123). A fact I’d like to see is how many of those students who don’t request accommodations have post-secondary success in terms of graduation rates and employment opportunities. I’d also like to know how many of that 60% don’t ask for accommodations based on the way they interpret the language in the policies. By establishing those criteria, we can address the deficiencies in the rhetoric to create a more welcoming environment for those that need it.

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