An unknown number of medical school faculty have disabilities, and their
experiences have generally escaped notice and scrutiny. Although most medical
schools offer long-term insurance and extended leaves of absence for disability,
relatively few have policies explicitly addressing accommodations for faculty
with disabilities as they perform teaching, research, and clinical duties.
We discuss accommodating active medical school faculty with disabilities,
drawing on University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine initiatives exploring
the concerns of faculty with sensory and physical disabilities. Anecdotal
reports suggest that many faculty, fearing reprisals, resist seeking job accommodations
such as those mandated in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Although some faculty with disabilities have found supportive academic mentors,
others report that lax institutional enforcement of ADA requirements, including
physical access problems, demonstrates a tepid commitment to disabled staff.
Potentially useful job accommodations include adjusting timelines for promotion
decisions; reassessing promotions requirements that inherently require extensive
travel; improving physical access to teaching, research, and clinical sites;
and modifying clinical and teaching schedules. Faculty with disabilities bring
identical intellectual and collegial benefits to medical schools as their
nondisabled counterparts. In addition, they may offer special insights into
how chronic illness and impairments affect daily life.
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