The Writing Institute is delighted to host a series of spring events focusing on creating a culture of access. The list below contains information about speakers and workshop leaders. We will continue to update this page as more information is available. 

This series is also supported by the Composition Program.

Past Events

Friday January 20, 2023, 1-3pm, Zoom. 

Book talk and conversation with Jo Hsu: "Bodyminds as Archives: Crip Wisdom and Communal Resilience." Hsu will share a passage from their book, Constellating Home: Trans and Queer Asian American Rhetorics, focusing on how disabled and other marginalized communities use storytelling to drive collective action. The discussion will continue with a conversation led by Jessie Male, inviting (but not requiring!) audience engagement. Topics may include storytelling as a means of connection and cultural critique; coalition as a messy, difficult practice; and disabled embodiment/enmindedness as sites of resistance and imagination—but attendees are very welcome to bring their own directions and interests. 

Learn more about Hsu’s work.

Monday February 6, 2023, 12-2pm, in-person. Alumni Hall 121. Open to the public. 

Public talk with Jay Dolmage on "Ableism, Accommodation, Access." This work is based on Dolmage’s influential book Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education. 

This in-person presentation will chart the ableist attitudes, policies, and practices that are built into higher education. We will also interrogate the minimal and temporary means we have been given to address inequities, and the cost such an approach has had for disabled students and faculty. We will explore our own ableist biases, apologies and defenses in an effort to build tools for a much more accessible future. 

Learn more about Dolmage’s work

Tuesday February 7, 2023, 11am-1pm, in person. Location TBD. Pre-registration required

Workshop with Jay Dolmage on "Moments and Modalities of Access: Composing Disability." This in-person workshop will be capped at 15 and is open to anyone at the university, though priority will be given to graduate and upper-level undergraduate students. 

Multimodality. Multiliteracies. These concepts have been championed in scholarship in the discipline of composition, but also across the humanities and across the contemporary university, with extraordinary volume and enthusiasm. This trend has signaled progress in higher education, yet has often reproduced old exclusions. So, while the arguments that support these concepts of multiplicity are ambitious, democratic, often incisively careful and critical, and hopeful, this energy does not always lead to inclusive classroom practice. Taking this as a discursive and pedagogical test case, in this workshop I will argue that Universities argue for change through the invention of specific types of (normative, even ideal) student minds and bodies. Together, we will ask: is it possible to argue for educational change without reinforcing the stigma of disability? What other pedagogical movements can be analyzed in similar ways? 

Friday March 17, 2023, 11am-1pm, in person. Location TBD. Pre-registration required. 

Workshop with Bojana Coklyat on Alt-Text as Poetry, based on the workbook developed with artist Shannon Finnegan. During the workshop participants will reframe alt-text as a type of poetry and practice writing it together. They will look at examples of poetic and creative approaches to alt-text, then do several writing exercises designed to focus on issues that often come up in alt-text, including attention to language and word economy, alt-text as translation, structuring and prioritizing, subjectivity, identity, and representation. The workshop will be capped at 20 and is open to anyone at the university, though priority will be given to graduate and upper-level undergraduate students.

Learn more about Coklyat’s work with Alt-Text as Poetry

Friday, March 31, 2023, 11am-1pm. Location TBD. Pre-registration required. 

Workshop with Amy Jo Burns and Jessie Male on "Writing to Navigate and Process Trauma," based on the work of memoirist and craft scholar Louise DeSalvo. Participants will consider the questions: Through writing, how might you attempt to recover what is lost? How might you reclaim power through creative expression?  How might writing reveal insight from painful experiences? The goal of this workshop is not to complete a piece of writing but rather to discover an entry point to further exploration and to expand understanding about the impact of trauma. During the workshop, participants will be taken through a cycle of prompts to write, reflect and share in a comfortable and safe environment. This workshop will be capped at 20 and is open to anyone at the university. 

Learn more about Burns’s work

Friday, March 31 2-3:30 room 548 William Pitt Union: "Livebility and Well-Being: A National Disability Awareness Month Reading"

This event is not part of the Access Series, but is partly funded by the Writing Institute. Six Pittsburgh-area writers with disabilities will share their work in a free reading at the University Pittsburgh. Light refreshments will follow the reading.

This event will also be livestreamed at, with captioning provided.

Writers Ava C. Cipri, Selene dePackh, Alana Gibbs, Cristina Hartmann, Emilio Rodriguez, and Heather Tomko will read from the e-/audiobook anthology, Pittsburgh Live/Ability: Encounters in Poetry and Prose. The collection includes interviews and collaborations between 11 Pittsburgh authors—more than half of whom identify as disabled—and a diverse group of 11 Pittsburghers with disabilities. The book, published in September of 2022 by City of Asylum, is free and available at the cultural organization's website. 

In the collection's Afterword, award-winning poet Sheila Black observes that Pittsburgh Live/Ability is "a nuanced and complex articulation of some of the values and practices of what I’d like to call disability culture. Most importantly, it suggests how the values and ideas that have informed disability experience can be an important force in revitalizing and rebuilding our sense of community." 

You can read more about the event on the Pitt calendar.

Note: These events are also part of Creating a Culture of Access (ENGLIT 2925), a one-credit seminar facilitated by Jessie Male, postdoctoral associate in Disability Studies. For this seminar, four 1-hour discussions on Zoom (Jan. 27, Feb. 10, March 24, and April 7 from 11 to noon) will supplement the workshops listed below. In addition, there will be reflective writing assignments and a final project. The seminar is open to any interested graduate or undergraduate students. Faculty members are also welcome and do not need to register for the credit; if they complete the seminar, they will receive a certificate of completion. We'll offer the seminar again in spring 2024.

Please note that we are committed to curating accessible events. Contact Jessie Male if you have any questions about access or specific accommodation requests.