A lot of the work and research that Brackenridge fellows pursue are in highly specific subjects well known to us. Since we are constantly surrounded by related information and people who may share our interest in those specific subjects, I oftentimes find myself forgetting to fill people in on the background and basics of my work. I must consciously remind myself to explain who Dick Thornburgh is and not just mention his name when I introduce my topic to peers as it is unlikely that they are familiar with him. The purpose of our research, as demonstrated in the many articles we have read, is not to be filled with the most complex of subject-specific jargon and complex, hard-to-follow methods and conclusions. Our knowledge is not meant to be gatekept within a specific niche because that defeats the purpose of the research, which is to be generalizable and accessible to all people, especially the people who are usually most impacted by our results.
The importance of my research project is the result of creating a framework/ list of instructions that could be used to create an optimal environment in which more legislation can be passed in the interest of people with disabilities. In my research, I emphasize the influence of empathy (with one’s own self or a relative) on increased yield of issue-specific legislation. Essentially, the goal of my research is to demonstrate how representation for people with disabilities in government bodies can lead to the passing of legislation that protects them, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For people who do not have specific knowledge about my research, I can help them understand the importance of my goals by paralleling them to better known ones and putting information into context. For example, I can parallel the ADA with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a landmark piece of legislation that protected the rights of marginalized people. Similarly, the ADA was passed to protect the rights of people with disabilities, also a marginalized group. Additionally, I can demonstrate how the ADA has been in place for a long time, 31 years, without any major changes to the protections it grants without any major changes despite active opposition from Republicans in congress. Putting the fortitude of this legislation into perspective, while explaining how Thornburgh was highly responsible for the successful passing of it because of his passion for disability rights because of his son’s disabilities, can make it easier for my audience to understand the extent to which representation and empathy matters in government.
My plan for my career in the future is to go into medicine, specifically psychiatry. There is a lot of unconscious and sometimes conscious bias in the medical field regarding patient treatment as medical r, after all, are human. Although healthcare workers are not the target audience for my research, I would like my work to help those in the medical profession to understand the importance of representation and learning about groups different from them so that they can empathize with, and consequently, provide better treatment for their patients.