Network of Academics with Disabilities and Chronic Conditions

We are Chronically Academic, a network of academics with disabilities and chronic conditions. We welcome members across all academic disciplines. Our aim is to create a network of mutual support and resources for academics with disabilities and chronic conditions and to raise public awareness for our cause. Our team members all have personal experiences with disabilities and/or chronic conditions. We aim to help others with practical advice in finding concrete solutions to the issues they are facing and to share our own experiences. Most of us are early career researchers; however, we look forward to and encourage supporting and mentoring more advanced academics. 

Besides peer support, we are also working to offer an overview of useful resources and to establish a formal mentoring network for academics with disabilities and chronic conditions. We hope to promote a societal attitude shift towards disabled academics. We believe that the current academic system needs to be transformed in order to achieve proportionate employment of academics with disabilities.




Disability in the Graduate Assistant's Contract

Written by Alyssa Hillary We have kindly been given permission to repost this from: Two years ago, I suggested to my graduate assistants union that disability and accommodations should be covered in our contracts. I could understand why it hadn't been there before: It's not the sort of thing most people automatically think of unless they are themselves D/disabled or have a disability. The accommodations/access side is theoretically covered by laws like the Americans With Disabilities Act anyways. But for a few reasons, I thought it needed to be there: Enforcing the ADA is really hard for most people, because it...


Disability Accommodations

Written by Jennifer Mankoff We have kindly been given permission to repost this from I have spent the past two weeks exploring what it means to work with Lyme disease from a new perspective. I’ve blogged before about why I think it’s valuable to view Lyme disease through the lense of disability . I’ve also blogged extensively about work and Lyme disease . However, I’ve never really put the two together. An important question, for those of us who work with Lyme disease is what accommodations, if any, are appropriate to ask for, and how one might go about doing that. First, it is important to know about the Americans with Disabilities...


Taking time off your PhD for recovery

Written by Daniel Rough At some point in our PhD lives, nearly all of us experience feelings of self-doubt. We may feel that we aren't 'good enough' to be doing a PhD. We might feel like despite our best efforts, our progress has hit a standstill. The pressures of academic life can end up taking their toll on our mental health. Indeed, an article in The Guardian reported that there is a 'culture of acceptance' of mental health issues pervading academia (you can read this article here ). Cycle showing that lack of progress leads to stress and anxiety which in turn leads to lack of focus and a further lack of progress. One part reads: "...I see students and academics who view the researcher...


Tips for Success in Academia When You are Different

Written by Temple Grandin I learned a lot by reading my student evaluations of my teaching. There are two kinds of critical evaluations. They are: 1) Ones that provide constructive suggestions on how to improve my teaching and 2) Nasty comments. I learned that I had to disregard the nasty comments and learn from the constructive criticism. Early in my career a student who was in more than one of my classes commented that I always gave the same lecture. The mistake I had made was using the same introductory slide for two different lectures in the two classes. I immediately made the introductory slides different. In any job, it is important to keep copies of all your annual evaluations....


Uncovering the Interpretation Process: Emphasizing Flexible Communicative Practises in Academia

Written by Rachel Kolb “Let’s turn to talking about Derrida’s ideas about psychoanalytic temporality, and how this affects the construct of the signifier and the signified.” This kind of sentence comes up on a regular basis in my graduate seminars, and immediately I see my American Sign Language interpreters’ faces contort and go, huh? Granted, my interpreters are usually good at working through this, good at parsing through rapid-fire auditory information spoken in academese (truly more exotic of a language than ASL!) by a group of humanities scholars who do not need to access our institution, as I do, through real-time transliteration. Even while my professors and peers see me sitting...


Ten Ways to Make Conferences Accessible to People with Disabilities

Written by Debra Guckenheimer Debra kindly gave us permission to re-post this article from The original can be found here: ten-ways-to-making-conferences-more-accessible-to-people-with-disabilities Attending workshops, lectures, symposium, conferences, and other events are difficult or even impossible for some people with disabilities. Rarely have I seen disability given much thought in conference planning, even when the topic is diversity and inclusion. Here are ten ways to making your conferences more inclusive of people with disabilities. Many of them cost little to nothing other than a little forethought. Accommodation Point Person: Assign a person to be responsible for...


PhD funding during illness: cancer, consequences & suggestions for change

Written by Claudia Pama The last thing I wanted this blog post to become is some whining account of my personal experiences, but if you sense any of that while reading it, I sincerely apologise and greatly admire your perseverance if you make it to the end. At the same time, I really hope you do (make it to the end, that is), as it’s not about my experiences (which solely function as an example), but about changes that should be made to a system where PhD students who fall ill are currently being punished for doing so. Brace yourself (admittedly, it's rather long, too). The message that you have cancer is never easy to digest, and the timing is never right. I received mine on an evening in...


Achieving Greater Acceptance in Academia

Based on an interview with Ian Shipsey I grew up in a working class district on a notorious council estate (housing project) in London's East End. I was hearing at that time. My high school had 180 students per year. Only two of us went to university. My parents had left school at 16. As far as I am aware none of my fellow students had parents who had attended university either. I went to the local university; Queen Mary, in London to study physics. I then took a PhD in particle physics at Edinburgh where Peter Higgs was one of my teachers. Shortly after arriving at CERN, the main particle physics lab in Europe, I fell in love with a wonderful Italian physics student who was heading to the...


Wanted: Disabled Faculty Members

Written by Jay Dolmage and Stephanie Kerschbaum We have kindly been given permission to re-post this article from: Advice Hiring Faculty Members Essay When one of us -- Stephanie -- was on the job market for the first time more than 10 years ago, she agonized over whether and how to mention her disability (she is deaf) in her job materials. She knew from past experience that by not saying anything, she ran the risk of creating potential misunderstandings during interviews. When she managed to secure more than a dozen interviews at the Modern Language Association conference, where English departments perform much of the preliminary interviewing for hires, she set to work. In addition to...


An Undergraduate Perspective on Recovery

Written by Krishna Udaiwal In the winter semester of my second year undergrad for philosophy/biology major, I underwent a period of uncontrolled pressure and a breaking point leading to severe depression & social anxiety, as well as cancelling the entire semester before the exams. It was a horrible experience, one which I wouldn’t prescribe to my worst enemies. During the worst of it, there was a breakdown event, loss of interest, severe self-deprecation and quarantine-like isolation. Fortunately, I took the seemingly irrational, but courageous, step to book an appointment with a doctor. Unfortunately, it was over 3 weeks after the initial month of agonizing despair, where hounding social...


Developing Disability Cultural Competence

Written by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson Here’s my advice for people with disabilities so they can come out and flourish in the professional environment. Our ultimate goal is to develop disability cultural proficiency. This begins with disability cultural competence, which is learning how to live effectively as a person with disabilities, not just living as a disabled person trying to become non-disabled. Competence moves toward proficiency as one carries out living with a disability over time and working toward achieving a high quality of life while living with a disability. Developing disability cultural competence begins with identifying openly as a person with disabilities. Cultivate...


Why I'm unhappy with "Imposter Syndrome"

Written by The Questioning Aspie The author has kindly given us permission to re-post this article from her own website. The original can be found here: So, I may have mentioned that this blog is likely to be a pile of contradictions – and that I might end up changing my mind, or refining ideas about things as I go along. Well, this is one of those times … I wrote a blog recently about how I feel that my autism diagnosis makes having confidence in my ability to do my PhD really hard (it’s here if you’d like to take a look). In the post, I mentioned how frequently the term “Imposter Syndrome” was...


Coming back to work after a long illness

Written by Raul Pacheco-Vega Raul has kindly given us permission to re-post this article from his own website. The original can be found here: Coming-back-to-work-after-a-long-illness If you followed my Twitter feed in the past couple of weeks you’ll know that I fell really ill right after my two weeks of fieldwork in Madrid. My family doctor says it was a combined influenza plus overexhaustion plus almost-pneumonia kind of illness, and he got me on a two-week course of antibiotics (one week of injections and one week of pills). I am barely finished with the antibiotics and have started feeling like a human again. The first week was terrible. I had to sleep 24 hours in a row, for two days...


Metrics of Productivity

Written by Wanda Diaz Merced During the month of September 2015, I was invited to an inclusion summit by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). On my way to the summit I took a shared shuttle ride. A very nice and talkative couple shared the journey with me. Their destination was their house and mine the AAS office in Washington DC. Of course, we chatted all the time. I love chatting! The lady introduced herself as a member of staff at the Fulbright Commission. We chatted and laughed all the way. The conversation reached a point where she mentioned her various trips to a country in Africa, to which I replied "I have been there many times too!". That led me to explain why and to talk...


Giving Yourself Permission; especially for invisible illnessess

Written by Sophia Frentz The most important thing I’ve ever learned how to do is to give myself permission. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re an overachiever, that you’ve pushed yourself to (and past) breaking point multiple times, and that you’re not very good at saying no. I understand; I’m all that and more when it comes to toxic relationships with work. I’m pretty sure the only reason I survived my honours year is that the sound the heaters made at night scared me so I had to go home regularly. My Coping Mechanism When it comes to being chronically ill the most important coping mechanism is to give yourself a break. I have had depression for most, if not all, of my life. My...


Taking medical Leave: What I would tell myself now

Written by Stephanie Let me start by saying I have no professional qualifications whatsoever to give anyone advice as to making a decision about taking medical leave. So I won’t. What I will do is tell you what I would have told myself when I was faced with this very decision in my own career, not so long ago. First, here’s the brief backstory of how I found myself at the point of medical leave. I was in the second year of my PhD. Anyone from the outside looking in would have said things were going very well. I had completed and passed my qualifying exam (called various things in different country contexts, but essentially the big exam in which you defend your research proposal). This...


Illness in the Ivory Tower: Coping with chronic illness in academia

Written by Scott Elias I have spent my whole adult life in Academia – the kind of person who just fell in love with university life as an undergraduate, and have stuck around this stimulating environment ever since. Since I began my ungraduated studies in 1972, that makes 44 years, including eight as a student, 20 as a professional researcher, and 16 as a lecturer. My health started to break down in 1986, and I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I had my entire large intestine removed in 1991, which should have dealt with the colitis, except that new inflammation developed in my small intestine, so I was re-diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I have lived with an ileostomy for 25 years,...


Live in the Now - Some Strategies to Tackle Academia with Chron's Disease

Written by Katharina Spiel I am an overachiever and have Chron's. Both things that are more or less affecting my life. I love to be in academia and back in 2008 I started my second bachelor already with the goal of being in academia as long as possible. My first really bad episode of Chron's came in 2009. I struggled managing class attendance and basically fell back by a year at some point. However, I learnt to deal with things my way and am now on the path to a PhD even if it is an even rockier path than I thought it would be. Here, I share some strategies that seemed to work for me. They are in no way complete and are partly intertwined with other conditions that I deal with in different...


How to get your foot in the (lab) door - a subjective guide

Written by Maria Niedernhuber "Hypophyse" by Inga Scharf da Silva (20x20cm, mixed media, 2010) When you apply for an entry-level job (e.g., research assistant, small student projects) in a lab, first go to a paper search engine (e.g., to google scholar or PubMed), or to the publication section of the lab’s website and read their latest publications. Sign up for field-specific email lists and facebook groups (for me, this would be, e.g., SPM list, multisensory list, ISCON) and watch out for project ads. If you are planning to apply to a small lab, first send your preferred professor a short email with your background (i.e., your field of study, your specialization, your general interest,...


The Importance of Support

Written by Hazel Lowe I was asked to write about coping strategies that I have used as a PhD student with a chronic illness. I have had mixed experiences as someone who was diagnosed at the beginning of my 3 rd year, which made my funding situation complicated but also left me struggling to adjust to my abilities being different. Accept the support that is available I disclosed to the Disability Service and my Department as soon as I had a diagnosis. At my university in the UK you can disclose confidentially to the Disability Service if you do not want your Department to be made aware of your disability but in my case it was obvious I was ill so I decided it was to my advantage to make my...


Lessons from Writing a PhD with a Chronic Illness

Written by Amber Davis I wrote the first half of my PhD when I was healthy, or at least healthy enough to function ‘normally’. I suffered from low energy, and had a collection of intractable seemingly unrelated health issues pop up regularly, but they were manageable. With lots of self-care I was all right. That changed from one day to the next when the disease that had been lurking in the shadows decided it was on top and my health crashed spectacularly. I didn’t find out until over six years into it what that disease was: Lyme disease (Borreliose), a bacterial infection caused by a tick bite, as well as co-infections, that weaken the immune system and mess with every other bodily system...