Tuesday, April 27, 2021

How Can I Tell If This is a Harmful Representation of Disability?

A few weeks ago, I was honored to present a preconference on disability justice in libraries with a former student, Jennifer. It was awesome to talk about the overarching lies that the abled narrative tells us and having Jennifer talk about the ways that her library is countering these lies right now.

As I continue to learn and grow in my understanding of disability justice, my preconference (Inspirations, Burdens, and Other Lies: The Disability Community in the Library) continues to grow with me through many iterations, from the confronting name change to the examples I cover to how I cover it.  The following is information that didn't make it into the presentation this time, but it was referenced and provided afterward.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but is definitely a starting off point. I hope you find it helpful!

"Books and Media: A Disability Justice Approach"


When evaluating titles to recommend about disability, here are some things you’ll want to consider:


-Does the book focus on the experiences of a disabled character, or does it focus more on an abled sibling or friend and experiences of the disabled character from their perspective? A lot of media has been created from the perspective of abled people, leaving disabled people acutely aware of how we’re viewed and what society expects from us. Our self-esteem can consequently be formed around other people rather than our own self worth.

-Is the disabled character as fleshed out as other characters, or do they seem to not have thoughts or experiences independent of the abled characters? Besides having few disabled main characters, disabled side characters often are a metaphor or a tool through which an abled main character grows as a person. A clear message to disabled people here is that we aren’t people in the same way abled people are people. This is untrue. Disabled people are people, just like abled people are people, and we deserve our own stories.

-Does the disabled character have special abilities, extraordinary wisdom, otherworldly patience and kindness, or another quality to “make up” for the disability and increase their worth to abled characters? It can be great to see superheroes with disabilities, don’t get me wrong. But if a character is given powers so that it somehow compensates for their disability and makes them “good enough” to exist, disabled readers without superpowers can learn that they aren’t “good enough” just as they are.

-Are any good traits of the disabled character qualified in terms of their disability? (examples: “She was so stunning I hardly noticed her crutches”; “she was surprisingly smart for someone with her condition”) Disabled people have plenty of good qualities that don’t need to be couched in relation to disability; but lines like this tell disabled people plenty about how our worth will be measured.

-Can the character be happy living with their disability, or does their happiness increase when they do things that may be medically ill-advised in order to be more like abled people? Does a disabled person go against medical advice to show how brave or spontaneous they are? This is a common trope where a disability is a metaphor for something “holding back” an abled person. Abled people can read books with this theme and feel inspired. What disabled people learn is that we’ll never live a full life because we are disabled. This is untrue, and harmful.


-Does the character need to “overcome” their disability to achieve success, or is success possible with a disability? Disabled people are under no obligation to overcome their disability; living with a disability in itself is pretty badass. Unfortunately, media rarely teaches this message. Instead, we’re taught that we need a narrative of overcoming disability in order to claim space among abled people, or to explain and then minimize our disabilities in order to fit in.

-Are analogies made about abled characters “overcoming” negative traits like meanness and disabled characters “overcoming” disability, as if disability and meanness are the same? 

One way media uses disability as a metaphor is for a disabled character to overcome their disability while an abled character overcomes their past as a bully, for instance, being forever changed by the disabled character. Aside from the disabled person being used as a prop, it’s a tall order to burden disabled readers with the expectation that their disability means they need to have superhuman kindness and compassion. The world can be frustrating for disabled people, and there should be room for us to display anger and annoyance as well as gratitude. It’s not our job to teach abled people to be basically decent humans. These types of tropes, however, teach us that we shouldn’t automatically expect respect or even basic human decency from abled people, and any negative interaction is up to us to rectify.

-Does the disabled character spend a lot of time wishing they were abled? Just because it’s difficult for abled writers to imagine being content with living as a disabled person, doesn’t mean that disabled people constantly curse their luck. If we do, it’s mostly because of reminders that abled people don’t have to plan as much as we do, and can generally expect their basic access needs will be met at any given time. A disabled person could learn through media that we are expected to dislike our disabilities, which can be detrimental to our self-esteem.

-Are there any anti-disability slurs in the book? Do characters use the r-word? What about words like “m*ron” or “cr*zy”? There are lots of imaginative negative words to use without resorting to shortcuts to describe antagonists in a story, even if these words are used in dialogue to demonstrate how “mean” a character is.

-As a reader, how do you feel about the disabled character in general? As a whole, what does this book communicate to the reader about disability? What would this book add to a disabled reader’s self-concept? This is basically what it boils down to. Admittedly, it can be difficult to gauge whether a book or movie is a good representation of disability. But it can help to try to answer the question of what this media told you about the disabled experience. If you’re left feeling grateful you’re not the disabled character, that’s not a good sign.

 The truth is, decent representation--and especially #ownvoices titles -- are so few and far between that if you recognize the above tropes, a piece of media may still be an important piece of your collection until a time when it can be weeded and replaced by a more worthy representation, lest disabled children don't see themselves on your shelves at all (this is a point I would make about disability specifically, and only in some cases. It is possible for nothing to be better than something if that something is harmful to a child's fragile and growing sense of self). But promotion, obviously, is different.

I know that we can't always know everything about a book before we order it, and we rely on reviews a lot. One more way the abled narrative finds its way into publishing is in reviews themselves. Here is an article by Nicola Griffith on spotting ableism in a book review.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Talking Trauma and Libraries on the Library Leadership Podcast

 A few weeks ago, Adriane Herrick Juarez at the Library Leadership Podcast reached out to me to be a guest on the show and talk about trauma-informed libraries. It was my first ever podcast! This conversation gave me the opportunity to give a quick run-down of trauma-informed basics in a way that I hadn't before outside of my course and training materials I made locally. 

Circle with a white, blonde woman in a blazer smiling at the camera in front of a purple background


I recorded this on a Friday evening, after I had facilitated a 2-hour meeting and attended one more. As such, I broke one of my personal cardinal rules of presenting  and had about 4,000 cups of coffee that day. I stutter and mispronounce words I write but barely say. But, the content! The content is there!

New here?

If you're here because of the podcast, nice to meet you! I'm Bryce. I started this blog in 2011 with easy reader book reviews. They were terrible, so I quickly switched it up to talking about field trips and youth programming and reading research. A few years ago, I turned tides again and started using this space to be vocal about trauma and disability justice in libraries. What a bait-and-switch, eh? I swear I used to be funny, even!

Old here?

Head on over to listen to my episode of the Library Leadership Podcast. I emphasize workforce wellness and quote Uncle Ben from Superman. I don't know if transcripts are ready yet, but I will send you the Q&A list (which is basically the transcript) if you email me at brycekozla at gmail.

Bonus Links:

I mention in the podcast that I recommend reading/watching Laura van Dernoot Lipsky. Here are the resources I mention:

The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul

Beyond the Cliff

I couldn't have a post like this without a shout-out to Renewals: Promoting Empathy and Self-Preservation in the Workplace. I really admire Kaetrena Davis Kendrick's award-winning work.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Trauma-Informed Communication: webinar recording and bonus links!

 A couple weeks ago I got an email from my landlord with no context (just "please see attached" and a generically-named attachment. It was information about my utility bill. It looked like I had to pay something, but turns out I didn't.

Now, I know there's no way of them knowing that something like this would activate my stress response; but also, realistically, this is a pandemic. A time when we hear news stories everyday of people being evicted. A time when the housing and jobs crunch here in my area has only been exasperated by income loss across the community.

Did this notice activate my stress response? Yes. But did it also make me reflect on other interactions and inspire me to write to Emporia State with an idea for a new webinar? Also yes.

This webinar was tough to develop and present and I'm actually taking two days off work as a result (I did this without knowing how I'd feel just in case but: Thanks, Past-Bryce. You're the best. Love, Bryce). I share this just so you know where I'm at; I may not have the best time replying to emails right now. Thanks for understanding.

Here's the blurb for it for some more info:

2020 was quite the year, to put it mildly. 2021 promises new opportunities and challenges amid continued demands for normalcy against the backdrop of a collective traumatic event. Oh, by the way, did you respond to that email from a few weeks ago? No, the other one. There’s no doubt the pandemic and other high-profile crises are affecting our brains and our lives. How can we effectively communicate with one another in order to maintain trust and transparency for our staff and patrons?

Bryce Kozla, presenter of “Being Trauma-Informed During a Pandemic” is back with some go-to tips for successful interactions when possibly everyone involved is affected by prolonged, toxic stress.


There's a part in the middle where it cuts out for a minute, but it comes back, don't worry!

I wanted to make sure to share some links related to this presentation:
Grounding/Safety Box example (I like this one because it gets into explanations)

I also wanted to be sure to highlight some other wonderful resources:
"Pandemic! Productivity! Life! Hacks!" (the title is a little tongue-and-cheek)

Thank you so much for your interest in this webinar. Hang in there.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Call for Participation: Study on Accessibility and Makerspaces!

 I'm delighted to share this awesome opportunity from Dr. Amelia Anderson and Dr. Abigail Phillips!:



"We are preparing a study about accessibility in public library makerspaces. This study will help to inform public librarians how to make their spaces more accessible for all, creating more inclusive libraries. We want to know about your experiences in public libraries and in makerspaces. We will be conducting a series of focus groups with disability self-advocates and public librarians across the United States.

We would like to invite you to take part in this process, to share your knowledge and experiences with us. For your participation, you will receive a $30 Amazon gift card. Your involvement is voluntary. Any information you share with us will be kept private and confidential. If you want to participate, please complete this brief online form"

If you have any questions, please contact the principal investigators, Dr. Amelia Anderson and Dr. Abigail Phillips: amanders AT odu DOT edu ; abileigh AT uwm DOT edu"


Accessibility in Making: Perspectives from Disability Self-Advocates is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the National Leadership Grants for Libraries.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Join me! Trauma-Informed Care: An Introduction for Libraries

UPDATE 9/25/2020: The class is now full! Here goes nothing...

Trauma-Informed Care: An Introduction for Libraries, Oct 5-Nov 15 through UW-Madison iSchool.

 So. Things are interesting, to say the least.

A cat sitting next to a computer, watching the screen
For instance, Larry attends Zoom meetings.

When I last taught "Trauma-Informed Care: An Introduction for Libraries," one of my main objectives was to build empathy for people with backgrounds in trauma through sharing real-life experiences as myself, a person with a brain rewired to expect stress due to trauma. The course was approached with the assumption that there would be a mix of people who would see themselves in the content, people who had some familiarity with the content, and people who possibly needed some convincing that trauma isn't just some buzzword or excuse.

Well, times have changed since *checks post date* last September. My April 30 webinar on trauma responses during a pandemic has been viewed over THREE THOUSAND times. Only like 5 of those were my parents (Twenty, tops). Every day there's new evidence of a population whose brains are overflowing with stress and are acting on ill-planned, counter-intuitive, and counterproductive attempts at self-preservation (to be clear, I'm talking about people who ignore reasonable health guidelines and/or are violent about their need for a haircut, for instance; and not people protesting police brutality). Amid this backdrop public-facing service workers are being met with vitriol for trying to keep themselves and the community safe.

The need for a commitment to trauma-informed principles is, I'd say, pretty clear.

My course on this topic is not the do-all-end-all in healing the world, but it can help you and your colleagues approach work in a way that is helpful for everyone (including yourselves).

Topics I'll cover include:

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Oregon City Public Library: The Disability Community in the Library

Bryce note: Long time, I know. I hope to catch y'all up at some point. I hope you're hanging in there. Black Lives Matter. Trans Women are Women. Healthcare is a Right. Access is Love.

This summer, I'm running my course "The Disability Community in the Library" through the UW-SLIS iSchool. If you want more information on what that would entail, here's a post I wrote  about what to expect. Register here to join me July 13-August 23!

This time, I thought I'd turn over my course announcement post to Jennifer Giovanetti at Oregon City Library, who has done A TON for the disability community since taking my course in the Fall of 2018.

OR library staff: if you're interested in this course, please look forward to an upcoming free professional development opportunity with the State Library of Oregon. 

And now, handing it over to Jen:




Oregon City Public Library: The Disability Community in the Library
B.A.M (Because Accessibility Matters)


The Oregon City Public Library is dedicated to serving its whole community as equitably and inclusively as possible. Our mission is to empower every Youth, Adult and Senior in our service area through:


  • Innovative and varied resources and programs
  • Responsive, well trained and personable staff
  • Connections to other community resources and events
  • Inclusive, accessible services to all
  • Welcoming spaces to gather and build community

To this end the library has made sincere efforts to ensure that we are serving our whole community including those that are often most marginalized. When library staff noticed that there seemed to be a significant community of adults with disabilities that visited the library, we knew that we wanted to be more intentional about reaching out and serving this part of our library community. We also knew that the best way to do this was to start by educating ourselves about how to best serve this community. This is where Bryce’s class “The Disability Community in the Public Library” came in. After taking this class through the University of Wisconsin, Library staff member Jennifer Giovanetti, began making community connections and developing the B.A.M. (Because Accessibility Matters) program for the Oregon City Public Library to help better serve people with disabilities in the community. Below are some of the things that the Oregon City Library has implemented specifically with our disability community in mind:

  • Universal Design Building Considerations: Since our building was fairly recently renovated and an addition was added in 2016, ADA requirements and Universal Design considerations were implemented as part of the building process. The Oregon City library building, as a whole, is highly accessible and all staff are encouraged to keep aware of any building accessibility or safety issues and report them to management or the disability community liaison (ie. Jen).
    • Some recent additions have been: Automatic bathroom doors, PAC accessibility station, and on-going evaluation of building accessibility.
  • B.A.M Advisory Council: The formation of an advisory committee was key to learning (from the Disability Community itself) how the library could better serve its community members. The B.A.M. Advisory Council is comprised of members of Local Disability organizations, providers and caregivers who with serve people with disabilities, library Board member, staff, and people with disabilities from the local community.
    • Council Mission: The mission of the B.A.M (Because Accessibility Matters) Advisory Council for People with Disabilities will be to serve as a resource to the Oregon City Library addressing accessibility issues, equal rights, removing barriers and promoting opportunities and programs for individuals with disabilities. What we envision is a community group where everyone understands the importance of equal participation and full inclusion of all citizens and is committed to making the Oregon City Library a more accessible place to visit and enjoy for people living with disabilities. 
  • BAM Programming: We started with our highly popular Art Lab program. This was a program that had been designed for Kids and Families, but one that we knew the disability community had been attending and really enjoying. With this in mind, we decided to make an adult version designed especially for Adults with Disabilities and to have the program open to everyone! Starting with something we knew the community already enjoyed helped with the early success of the B.A.M. programming. Other programming ideas grew out of suggestions made by Advisory Council members and BAM program attendees. Below are the on-going B.A.M. programs that the library offers. Of course, much of this is now cancelled/on-hold until the Library re-opens but, we will be starting a new B.A.M. virtual program in June!
  • B.A.M. Art Lab: Monthly Art Class https://www.orcity.org/library/bam-art-lab
  • B.A.M. Lego Lab: Monthly open LEGO studio https://www.orcity.org/library/bam-lego-lab
  • B.A.M. Academy: Monthly series of classes on topics of interest to the disability community (ASL, Emergency Preparedness, Self Determination, Container Gardening, etc.) https://www.orcity.org/library/bam-academy
  • B.A.M. Make-it Together (coming in June!): Maker program using Creative Bug 
  • On-going Education & Advocacy!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Being Trauma-Informed During a Pandemic: Webinar Archive and Other Links

A few weeks ago, Emporia State put out a call to people who were going to present at the Oregon Library Association's annual conference to see if we'd be willing to turn our workshops into webinars. I had a great preconference in the works with a former student from my Disability Community in the Library course, but that wouldn't fit into a 40-minute webinar. I instead proposed a webinar on "WTF is happening to your brain", and was accepted. I figured I'd piece together a couple of other resources I made and bam! Easy-peasy.

HAHAHAH welp, the VERY last thing my brain wanted to let me do during a pandemic was write about dealing with trauma during a pandemic. 
If you need a transcript of the webinar for personal use, feel free to email me at brycekozla at gmail.


I only practiced it once before the live viewing, and I don't think I'll be revisiting it anytime soon. If you watch it and want to process it with someone, please do that with someone who is not me unless you know me personally, thanks. I've talked before about the power of validation before and as much as I appreciate where this is coming from, I need to invest my energy in specific places right now. (this is not for people who have already reached out to me, because this is a boundary I didn't set until right now. Thank you)

I'll talk about less heavy stuff all day though. Have you heard about Fostering Readers

One thing I wanted to make sure to say plainly because I didn't in my presentation: the pandemic is hitting BIPOC communities harder than white communities. There is also a lot of historical trauma and institutional oppression rearing its head for many marginalized communities when dealing with work, government benefits, and hospitals.This is NOT the time to say that equity and inclusion is not a priority. They are CENTRAL to the health of your staff and community. ALL of the time.

I wanted to make sure to share some links that were mentioned in the presentation:

I also wanted to be sure to highlight some other wonderful resources:
"Pandemic! Productivity! Life! Hacks!" (the title is a little tongue-and-cheek)

Thank you so much for your interest in this webinar. Hang in there.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WTF Is Happening to Your Brain and What You Can Do About It

There's been something I've been thinking about a lot lately but haven't really had the energy to talk about it in any comprehensive way.

I still don't think I'm going to, because investing energy where it needs to go is incredibly important right now. But I will say this:

Visiting this blog, right here, right now, I am allowing you the space to admit and accept that what we're going through is a stressful and potentially traumatizing situation.

People are different. Two people can experience the exact same thing and one can emerge traumatized and the other unscathed.

One thing that might help right now is knowing what might be going on with your brain and central nervous system. The following is something I shared yesterday with friends and family. It's based on the training I received from Trauma-Informed Oregon, which led to me to create a unique introductory course in Trauma-Informed Care that is library-specific. It's not a lot but I hope it helps.


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Why "What Happened to You?" Isn't Trauma-informed

I just finished up my first run of my Trauma-Informed Care: An Introduction for Libraries course.

I hope to run it again next year, but something came up that I felt I should clear up.

There are a lot of different training opportunities lately coming at trauma in the library at different angles.

Quite a few of them start attempting to shift thinking about trauma with the notion that trauma-informed care "seeks to shift the clinical perspective from 'what’s wrong with you' to 'what happened to you'". I can't pinpoint the origin of this quote, but it's been used by such respected organizations as SAMHSA.

This phrase, quite deliberately, does not appear in any of my training materials. That's because I don't believe it's true.

title text in black on a blue and green background


At its most basic, I can understand what this is trying to do: make people who have not experienced trauma that has reshaped their brains start to blame circumstance rather than the people themselves when they have a frustrating interaction. Apparently, wondering what happened to someone is supposed to build empathy so we can act more compassionately.

I humbly submit that thinking this way can have the opposite impact, and instead can inspire pity and possibly resentment. I also contend that asking this question isn't trauma-informed, and is potentially harmful. It also assumes that library staff do not have backgrounds in trauma, which is not universally true.

To demonstrate how this framing might be problematic: here's how a person whose brain has been rewired to expect stress might answer these questions, speaking from experience:

Monday, September 16, 2019

New Course this Fall! Trauma-Informed Care: An Introduction For Libraries

As long-time readers may recall, I've been interested in and studying topics related to trauma since I first learned about the Adverse Childhood Experiences study in 2013.  I've written a lot related to trauma since, and to be quite honest my research has transformed the way I approach my work, as well as my relationships to other people and the world in general. In April 2018, I was chosen by Trauma-Informed Oregon to be trained as a community trainer, and have developed and delivered library-specific training to local library staff, which has been well-received.



So I'm so pleased to announce that I will be running the course:
Trauma-Informed Care: An Introduction for Libraries through UW-SLIS Continuing Education, November 4-December 15, 2019! Register before October 20 for a 10% discount!

Like my past, well-reviewed courses, this course is designed to have an extremely reasonable workload and will be a mix of reflection, action, and tips you can use right away. The class is asynchronous, which means we won't be meeting live and you can engage with each week's content when you can. Each week there will be one or two discussion questions. There will be final project that will consist of anything that will help you going forward (a presentation to your board, a letter to your director, a blue print, something else? It's up to you!).

As always with my courses, you're welcome to download all the material to share among others in your library, so I hope you will see this as a good investment.

I've said on Twitter previously that preparing for this course has made my Disability Community in the Library course feel like Sunday brunch. Like that course, Trauma-Informed Care: An Introduction for Libraries is steeped in my lived experience and so may be different from other training you may have gotten about these concepts.

Here's some of the topics we'll cover:

Monday, July 22, 2019

It's here! Fostering Readers, a FREE Toolkit to Support Beginning Readers

[Bryce note: everyone, I AM PUMPED. After some dreaming and scheming over email and in a coffee shop in NE Portland back in 2016, my coworker Katie and I have been co-project-managers on an LSTA grant-funded initiative to help library and afterschool staff all over boost their programming, support, and confidence with beginning readers in grades K-3 (learn more about our story and our amazing team here). 

I cannot even tell you what this means to me.

So here is the official press release.]

Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) and OregonASK are thrilled to announce the Fostering Readers resources are available to download and use in whatever way that makes sense for your library. These resources are designed to help you plan and implement fun research-based literacy programs for children in K-3rd grade who are learning to read.

Two children reading under a tree


We recruited two children’s librarians and two elementary reading specialists, two of whom are bilingual, to develop the Fostering Readers resources. The materials were tested and updated through a pilot project. All the resources are available at no cost to you on the Fostering Readers website. Resources include:

 Pre-made activity plans to get you started supporting K-3rd grade beginning readers

Ideas for passive programming and storytimes and book clubs for beginning readers

Handouts for parents and caregivers to encourage reading at home

Videos that introduce research-based key elements and key strategies to enrich your K-3 activities with literacy

An extensive research review with easily digestible key findings and implications

…and more!

To accommodate our large and growing population of Spanish-speakers, Fostering Readers handouts are available in both English and Spanish. In the materials, library and afterschool staff will find tips for working with families who speak languages other than English, and Spanish vocabulary to use with the activities.

 Preview some of the research-based key elements and strategies with these video playlists (just kidding they don't link to the playlists here they are:
Key Strategies
Key Elements):






We hope that these materials will help library and afterschool staff:

Increase their knowledge of the reading process
Feel more confident in supporting children who are learning to read and their families
Plan, implement, and evaluate fun research-based literacy programs for children in K-3rd grade

Libraries and afterschool programs are essential community partners in the effort to increase the number of children reading at grade level by the end of third grade, which is a key indicator for high school graduation.

We are proud to provide you with Fostering Readers materials to champion this important work.


Fostering Readers is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the State Library of Oregon.