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Interdisciplinary Seminar Series

Tikkun Olam: Spirituality, Intellectual Disabilities, and Wholeness, a symposium presented by Bill Gaventa, M.Div.

March 17, 2021, 3 – 4:30 p.m. via Zoom

Bio: Bill Gaventa is the founder of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability (now Director emeritus) and the Coordinator of the Collaborative on Faith and Disability, linking a number of University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities who are addressing spirituality through initiatives in training, technical assistance, research, and/or dissemination. He was formerly Director of Community and Congregational Supports at the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities in New Jersey. Bill's primary areas of experience and expertise are spiritual and faith-based supports with people with disabilities, training for clergy, seminarians, and community services staff, aging and end of life/grief issues in intellectual and developmental disabilities, cultural competence, and community building. He served as the President of American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for 2016-2017.

As a writer and editor, he has edited newsletters and several books, written articles and chapters, and served as the Editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health for 14 years, now as an Associate Editor. His book, Spirituality and Disability: Recovering Wholeness, was published by Baylor University Press in the spring of 2018. Bill and his wife, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, moved in 2013 to Waco, Texas where she serves as Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Baylor University, and then on to Austin in 2018, where their son, Matthew, daughter-in-law Sarah, and grandson Charlie are living.

Summary: In the world of services and supports with people with intellectual disabilities, spirituality is a dimension of human life often overlooked. Assumptions about faith and belief, as well as a long history of exclusion from faith communities, are some of the reasons. In the world of spirituality and faith, disability is often overlooked, in both theory and practice. Thus the question is how to repair that breach in understandings of disability, a step that is crucial if we are to see and understand people with disabilities as whole human beings created in the image of God and part of God’s people.

Co-sponsored by Fordham's Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) and the Fordham Research Consortium on Disability (RCD): Interdisciplinary Seminar Series.

Doug Kruse: “COVID-19 and Employment Losses for the Disabled: An Intersectional Approach”

 Wednesday, March 3, 2021 | Online

Watch COVID-19 and Employment Losses for the Disabled

Bio:  Doug Kruse is Distinguished Professor and Director at Rutgers University. He conducts econometric studies on employee ownership, profit sharing, disability, worker displacement, pensions, and wage differentials. His recent co-authored books include The Citizen’s Share: Reducing Inequality in the 21st century (Yale University Press) and People with Disabilities: Sidelined or Mainstreamed? (Cambridge University Press). Dr. Kruse served as Senior Economist at the While House Council of Economic Advisers in 2013-14.

Summary: This paper studies the disparate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers with an array of physical and mental disabilities, using comparisons to otherwise-similar workers without disabilities, and within disability categories. We pay particular attention to an intersectional analysis of individuals with multiple identities, especially disability, race/ethnicity, and gender.  Results indicate that White and Black women with disabilities experienced relatively greater employment losses during the pandemic compared to White men without disabilities.  Our decomposition procedures reveal that the disability employment gaps increased during the pandemic and that a substantial portion of the increased disability gap is accounted for by how the pandemic differentially affected occupations and industries. There was also an increase in the unexplained component of the disability employment gap, which could partly reflect growing discrimination by employers against people with disabilities during the pandemic.

Alix Winter: “The social patterning of autism diagnoses reversed in California between 1992 and 2018”

Wednesday, Feb 3, 2021 | Online

Watch Alix Winter's Presentation

Bio: Alix Winter is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar working on INCITE’s Understanding Autism project at Columbia University. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard University. Alix studies how institutions and neighborhoods shape social inequalities, focusing, in particular, on the criminal justice system and the social determinants of health.

Summary: As rates of autism diagnosis increased dramatically over the past decades, prevalence rates were generally highest among Whites and among those of higher socioeconomic status (SES). Using a unique, population-level dataset, we find that rates of autism diagnosis continued to be on the rise in recent years, but who is diagnosed changed during the study period. Our data consist of birth records of all 13,272,573 children born in the state of California in 1992 through 2016 linked to autism caseload records for January 1992 through November 2019 from California’s Department of Developmental Services. California’s diagnosed autism incidence rate rose from 0.49 per 1,000 3 to 6 year olds in 1998 to 3.49 per 1,000 3 to 6 year olds in 2018, a 612% increase. But diagnosed incidence rates did not rise uniformly across sociodemographic groups. By 2018, children of Black and Asian mothers were diagnosed at higher rates than children of non-Hispanic White mothers. Furthermore, among children of non-Hispanic White and Asian mothers, children of lower SES were diagnosed at higher rates than children of higher SES. These changes align with sociological theories of health disparities and contain important clues for more fully understanding the autism epidemic.

Inclusive Design: Designing for the Overlooked
By Ralph Vacca, Ph.D.Ralph Vacca

Wednesday, Oct. 28 2020 | Online

In this seminar, Dr. Vacca explores the subfield of inclusive design – designing for the needs of people with permanent, temporary, situational, or changing disabilities. Through case-studies on his work with youth, he explores the ways in which inclusive design becomes both about design justice and innovation.

Dr. Vacca is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies. His research sits at the intersection of media studies and human-computer interaction. Dr. Vacca specializes in the use of design methodologies to explore how digital media can be developed and used to support emotional wellbeing, with a particular focus on the role of culture and data. Before joining the Fordham faculty, he co-founded a successful technology company ( that focused on the design of mental health simulations. He is currently a Co-PI on a National Science Foundation grant to co-design and rethink data literacy learning with middle school teachers through the visual arts approaches.

Past Interdisciplinary Seminar Series Events