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Embodied Injustice: Race, Disability and Health

Author Mary Crossley takes stock of the sometimes-vexed relationship between racial justice and disability rights advocates and interrogates how higher disability prevalence among Black Americans reflects unjust social structures. For example, these groups share harsh histories of medical experimentation, eugenic sterilizations, and health care discrimination. Yet the similarities in inequities experienced by Black people and disabled people and the harms endured by people who are both Black and disabled have been largely unexplored.

Mary Crossley is a Professor of Law and John E. Murray Faculty Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She is a member of the Pennsylvania State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and is widely published on health-related inequity. In this hour-long lecture, she shares excerpts of her book, Embodied Injustice, and suggests reforms to advance health equity for disabled people, Black people, and disabled Black people. The lecture is followed by a conversation with Kristy Trautmann, Executive director of FISA Foundation.

2022 Virtual Conference on Race + Disability 

PeoplesHub and FISA Foundation, with support from The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation, convened a half-day virtual conference to continue the conversation about intersectional justice. 

For ease of reference, the event recording is divided into three sections:

Part 1:   Welcoming remarks

Funder panel: Why are we still talking about Race and Disability?Presenters: Kristy Trautmann, Executive Director, FISA Foundation; Carmen Anderson, Interim Vice President of Learning, The Heinz Endowments; Michelle McMurray, Vice President, Program and Community Engagement, The Pittsburgh Foundation

Keynote: Understanding Disability as Political in Anti-Ableism Work

Presenter: Dustin Gibson, Director of Access, Disability and Language Justice at PeoplesHub

Part 2: Panel Discussion: Strategies to Fight Ableism in a Moment of Opportunity and Despair

Moderator:  Dustin Gibson, PeoplesHubPanelists: Azza Altiraifi, Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, Lorrell Kilpatrick 

Part 3:   Developing Analysis and Shifting Culture: The Journey of Practicing Disability Justice 

Description: PeoplesHub has led a year-long cohort of movement organizations in the Pittsburgh region focused on integrating a disability justice framework into their work. They participated in workshops, strategy clinics and coaching sessions to develop strategies to counter ableism, support disabled people, build and implement a set of access-centered practices, and shift the culture of access in organizing circles. Coaches and organizers will reflect on the shape this work has taken over the past year.

Moderators: Dustin Gibson and Alyssa Cypher


·        Cheryl Stephens, Community Organizer, Pittsburghers for Public Transit

·        Jordan Malloy, Pittsburgh Lead Organizer, Radical Youth Collective

·        Tacumba Turner, Farm Manager, Oasis Farm and Fishery

United Way coined the term ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) to describe families who are struggling to meet basic needs. This webinar will introduce you to United Way’s ALICE in Focus project that spotlights financial hardship among people with disabilities and advocates for policies that would close the gap, supporting disabled families to gain financial stability

Links and Resources Shared during the webinar:

Panel discussion: RACE + DISABILITY 

Local advocates speak about the barriers and discrimination encountered by people of color with disabilities.  Panelists include:

  • Paula Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh
  • Jamie Upshaw, Executive Director, Autism Urban Connections
  • Tiffany Sizemore, Esq., Director, Youth Advocacy Clinic at Duquesne University
  • Aurelia Carter, Executive Director, Multicultural Disability Leadership Center
  • Chaz Kellem, Director, PittServes

Early Childhood Suspensions and Expulsions:  Pushing out kids of color and kids with disabilities 

The Race + Disability webinar series has explored various aspects of the school-to-prison pipeline, examining how children of color and children with disabilities are disproportionately excluded from school and referred to the justice system. This process of exclusion begins even before kindergarten.

  • Child care center expulsion rates are 13 times more than K-12 rates.
  • State-funded pre-k programs expel children at three times the rate of K-12 schools.
  • Young children who are suspended or expelled are 10 times more likely to hold negative attitudes about school, drop out of high school, and face incarcerations.

These resources were shared during the program:

Digging Deeper: School Policing in Allegheny County

We can all agree that schools should be safe places for learning. But the increased investment and prevalence of police in schools has made schools less safe for some students, particularly students of color and students with disabilities. Across the country, these groups of students are referred to the criminal justice system at alarmingly high rates, often for relatively minor, non-violent disciplinary infractions.

As school administrators, school boards, parents and advocates seek to better understand the role police are playing in their schools, it is important to both listen to students and to critically examine data. But can the community count on data about school policing in schools? A recently released report by ACLU of PA, Student Arrests in Allegheny County Schools: The Need for Transparency and Accountability, has found serious discrepancies and inconsistencies in how schools are reporting on student arrests and citations. While flawed, some patterns clearly emerge, including that race and disability-based disparities in policing are greater in Pennsylvania than the national averages, and that Pittsburgh has higher rates than other parts of the state.

Race + Disability: The Student Experience of School Policing

When police are present in schools, what are the consequences for students of color and students with disabilities? This webinar will focus on the experience of students who are disproportionately impacted by school policing and the external efforts to elevate their experiences. Dr. Claire Cohen, who has practiced child and adolescent psychiatry in Pittsburgh for over 30 years, will discuss the psychiatric trauma that students of color face when police are present in schools. West Resendes, from the American Civil Liberties Union, will showcase the Disability Rights project, which aims to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and advocates for additional school-based support.

The recording is available below.  Additional resources shared during the webinar include:

Race, Disability, Organizational Culture, and Social Change: Promising Practices from Centers for Independent Living

Historically, disability services were designed to accommodate a singular identity: person with a disability; all other aspects of an individual’s experience were considered secondary. But structuring services that ignore the lived experience of racism has created and exacerbated inequities within disability services. Treating disability as race-neutral has also created unwelcoming and sometimes unsafe working conditions for people of color with disabilities who are on staff.

This session will explore promising practices in cultivating a welcoming and equitable culture, designed to include people of color with disabilities who are both consumers of services and staff offering support. Presenters represent various Centers for Independent Living. All panelists are multiply marginalized people with disabilities who are recognized for their efforts to advocate for equity in both the provision of supports and the leadership of staff.

Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color and Students with Disabilities

Description: In schools across the United States, Black students and other student of color are being harshly punished, arrested and issued citations at school for behavior that is not very different from white students. Students with disabilities are being excluded from the classroom through suspensions and expulsions and referred to the police for manifestations of their disabilities. And students of color who have disabilities experience compounded harms of racism and ableism in schools.

  • Students with disabilities are referred to juvenile justice at rates 5 times higher than students without disabilities.
  • Pennsylvania has the 2nd highest arrest rate in the country for Black students.
  • 45% of Black boys and 26% of Black girls that Pittsburgh Public School Police refer to juvenile justice have disabilities.

Most of the infractions that result in criminal charges are minor and do not threaten school safety: being “disruptive,” using “offensive” language, arguments where no one is injured. These patterns of over-policing further the myth that students of color engage in actions that are more dangerous than their white peers, which is unsupported by data. When police become involved in non-criminal disciplinary matters, the consequences for students, particularly students of color and those with disabilities can be profound and long-lasting.

Materials from the session:

School-to-Prison Pipeline: Examining the Role of Police in Schools and the Impacts of Policing on Students of Color and Students with Disabilities.

Nationally and locally, Black students and other students of color are being harshly punished, arrested and issued citations at school for behavior that is not very different from white students. Students with disabilities are being excluded from the classroom through suspensions and expulsions and referred to the police for manifestations of their disabilities. Arrest rates for Allegheny County public school students are more than double the state average and 3.5 times the rate of Philadelphia. This session will share new local data on disparities in school arrests by race, gender and disability status. Presenters will explore the consequences for students when police become involved in non-criminal disciplinary matters and discuss the steps school administrators can take to better define the role of police and to limit police involvement to criminal matters.

Sizemore slides about Police in schools 10.5.21

Fostering Cultural Humility in Disability Services

Description: This workshop provided tools and strategies to increase multicultural awareness, knowledge, and the skills necessary to effectively work with and relate to ethnically and culturally diverse clients receiving disability services. Topics covered include intersectionality, disability justice and advocacy, implicit bias, cross-cultural communication, and microaggressions. Cultural Humility was introduced as a process to help build authentic cross-cultural relationships and will provide a culturally relevant strategic approach to reducing disparities. Presented by Dr. Channing Moreland, Director of the Wellness Pavilion at the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center in Homewood.

You can access the slides here: Fostering Cultural Humility Workshop 04 07 2021

Inside-out work: Embedding racial equity in organizational culture

In recent years, many organizations have expressed a commitment to racial equity and justice and taken important first steps.  Truly integrating this commitment into the fabric of a nonprofit’s mission takes leadership, intentionality, and tangible, practical work. The journey requires authenticity, vulnerability, and a willingness to make mistakes, learn and do better. Please join us for this conversation between Michelle McMurray, Vice President of Program and Community Engagement at The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Tricia Gadson, CEO of Macedonia FACE, about what it takes to embed equity into organizational culture.  Speakers will share progress that organizations have made in this area and note challenges associated with this work.

To view full-screen or share with others, use this link:

Meeting the Needs of Human Trafficking Victims with Disabilities

People with disabilities (including autism and intellectual disabilities) are at high risk for both sex and labor trafficking, with many cases including an element that is unique to people with disabilities: traffickers stealing their government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance. This session will explore the issues facing victims of trafficking who have disabilities, including the unique ways they are trafficked and implications for service providers.

Materials from the session:

From Classroom to Dorm Room: Serving Survivors with Disabilities on Campus

Undergraduate students who have disabilities are nearly twice as likely as those without to report sexual violence. However, survivors with disabilities have been historically excluded by campus programs designed to prevent abuse and support survivors. This session will provide an overview on the barriers that student survivors with disabilities face in seeking out and receiving services on campus as well as solutions that educational institutions can implement to meet the needs of all students who experience sexual assault.

Materials from the session:

Use this link to view the video full screen or share with others:

Transformative Justice in the Lives of Survivors with Disabilities

With high rates of victimization and incarceration, people with disabilities have an elevated likelihood of having contact with the criminal legal system. This contact can be deadly, with 50% of people killed by police in the United States having a disability. This long history of being harmed by the state-sponsored justice system has led people with disabilities, and specifically people of color with disabilities, to seek alternative ways to heal and promote accountability. Transformative Justice (TJ) was created by and for people from marginalized communities to respond to violence when calling the police may not be a viable or safe option.

Use this link to view the video full screen or to share with others: