We are excited and honored to introduce Nell Koneczny as the first accessibility and meetings coordinator at the American Anthropological Association. As a physically disabled, neurodivergent, hearing, and sighted anthropologist, Nell has dedicated the majority of her academic and professional career to disability activism and creating accessible and welcoming spaces for her community. Nell is thrilled to have the opportunity to be among the pioneering leaders promoting academic accessibility through and within the AAA, particularly as this position represents a new direction for academic associations.
The AAA created the accessibility and meetings coordinator position as a way to dedicate resources and time to centering disability and accessibility and promoting a cultural change within the discipline. The role developed from the advocacy work of the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Disability Research Interest Group (DRIG), both by disabled individuals and abled allies. Accessibility must be considered from the beginning of any project to ensure any space or item is welcoming to, available to, and inclusive of everyone. Ideally, the accessibility design process is led by a member of the disability community and incorporates the feedback and experiences of various individuals from the community. DRIG recognized this and worked with AAA to develop this position so that accessibility would be at the forefront of AAA decisions and activities.
This is a big move forward for the Association. And Nell dreams big! Her vision is for all of us to be members of a discipline that can be pursued, studied, and enjoyed by anyone. To help us build a more accessible AAA, Nell has completed the following projects since June:
Nell hopes that through our work the field of anthropology will become more welcoming to all individuals interested in anthropology, because those of us with bodily and mental differences are also active members of and participants in the human experience, not just the subjects of research. Nell is dedicated to the ongoing changes necessary to make this happen and hopeful that this role will open the space for us to make these changes. We want the work we do in AAA to nourish accessibility in the field of anthropology and to encourage anthropologists to maintain accessible practices inside and outside of anthropological spaces.
Nell is happy to be a resource to fellow anthropologists regarding accessibility and disability issues. Always feel welcome to reach out to her with your questions, ideas, or comments. You can also participate in conversations about accessibility in the anthropology discipline by following or using the #AccessibleAnthro hashtag on Twitter.
For more detail about Nell's academic and professional experience, please read the “New AAA Staff” article in Anthropology News.