Summer 2021 began on a historic note with the proclamation that Juneteenth would become a federal holiday, and I am proud of how swiftly UC President Michael Drake acted, declaring June 28 as the day that we would observe, celebrate, and reflect on Juneteenth in 2021.
Juneteenth is a stark contrast to July 4, a federal holiday that we’ve been celebrating since 1870. Both celebrate freedom and independence, but while our time as British colonial subjects is firmly in the past, we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to abolish and correct the impact of anti-Black racism.
At UCSF, we’re also living through a particularly historical moment as we return to full capacity. While we might be resuming pre-pandemic ways of life, please don’t be complacent! Vaccinations are what got us to this point, but we must continue to practice safety protocols and, for goodness’ sake, please urge all eligible people to get vaccinated.
In this month’s installment of Expresso, you’ll read why we need to support the inclusion of individuals with disabilities as part of our DEI efforts. We’ve also included a check-in with our Chief Security Officer about the recent spate of cyberattacks and what you need to do.
- Cyberattacks: Protect Yourself and Your Data
- Awareness and Empowerment: Supporting disability inclusion
- Meet UCSF’s Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer: Wendy Tobias
I recently started coming to Parnassus on occasion – and I have to tell you – I really miss meetings in person! What are you looking forward to the most as COVID-19 restrictions ease? Please let me know at [email protected].
With best wishes and gratitude,
Cyberattacks: Protect Yourself and Your Data
There’s no vaccine against cyberattacks. Large segments of U.S. and international economies are being hit with increasing frequency, and UCSF is not immune. In recent weeks, hackers held hostage data from Colonial Pipeline, a major supplier of gasoline to the East Coast, and JBS, a huge meat supplier. (I recommend listening to New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth explain what’s happening on her podcast.)
Those attacks come on the heels of last year’s ransomware attack on UCSF, and this spring, the University of California revealed that some of its data – including some of ours – made its way onto the dark web after a breach at UCOP in December, part of the widespread Accellion breach. UC published a list of frequently asked questions, and UCSF Chief Information Officer Joe Bengfort posted an informative message.
“The last year and three months have been insane in the world of cybersecurity,” says Patrick Phelan, chief information security officer for UCSF. “It’s reached the level of a national crisis, and I’m not being hyperbolic.”
“UCSF leadership has been taking this seriously for years,” Patrick says. “We’ve been running to improve our security. There have been big investments. But the attacks are just so lucrative that the attackers are not going to stop. They have a strong motivation to circumvent the controls that we put in place. I don’t want to be defeatist, but even the most prepared organizations are going to get hit.” So we need to be cyber-fit.
Patrick says there is some positive news. He was pleased with the White House open letter last month urging companies to step up their defenses (he notes that the FBI caught one of the hackers involved in the UCSF ransomware attack and recovered some money). And, it’s key to know some ways to protect ourselves and how to be resilient when, not if, we are attacked.
Many times, when the hackers get into our systems, they look for backups and destroy them. That way, when they steal our data, we have almost no choice but to pay the ransom to get it back. To compound the situation, hackers often don’t have to look for backups because many researchers are not following best practices by backing up most of their data in the first place. IT can help you make sure you have immutable, tamper-proof backups. It might be a physical drive that’s offline, or it might be a cloud system that has strong security controls.
If your data was hit in one of these recent attacks, Patrick recommends taking advantage of UC’s offer of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. He also notes that attackers frequently enter systems in some of the least sophisticated ways – through simple phishing emails that get people to unwittingly click on links or send a response. Please keep your guard up and utilize our Phish Alarm – it really does help.
In addition, when a threat is detected, Microsoft and other software providers will often send an update to seal off the system. Install those updates! Don’t just click and wait another 24 hours or more. Get it done. Also, do not leave a remote access open, like a VPN. When you are done with it, disconnect. Unattended openings can create vulnerabilities.
We’re all getting a crash course in this dangerous new world, and the last eighteen months compounded our dependency on computers, but it’s created a way for those with nefarious motives to cause trouble like never before. Please do what you can to keep us all safe.
Awareness and Empowerment: Supporting disability inclusion
I was listening intently to an installment of Radiolab (I encourage you to listen to the June 11, 2021 episode) when I heard the name “Alice Wong.” All of a sudden, I was transported back in time.
Alice came to UCSF in 1997 as a graduate student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. After receiving her MS in medical sociology, Alice stayed at UCSF working as a staff research associate for the Disability Statistics Center, Center for Personal Assistance Services, and the Community Living Policy Center. During her time at UCSF, Alice was part of a group that helped establish the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Disability Issues (CACDI) in the late 1990s and served as member, vice chair, and co-chair for several years. She was one of the recipients of the inaugural Chancellor Award for Disability Service in 2011, and in 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Alice to the National Council on Disability. In 2014, Alice launched the Disability Visibility Project, a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture.
Fast forward to present day when CACDI is now the UCSF Committee on Disability Inclusion within the Office of Diversity and Outreach, and others here have stepped up and carried the torch. A top priority of the committee was to establish a Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer (CAIO), an opportunity for UCSF to again set an example for others and demonstrate the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities are included in all aspects of university life. And last month, the culmination of the committee’s thoughtful work and advocacy became reality.
Why does UCSF need a leadership role to oversee accessibility?
“People with disabilities are often invisible and excluded,” says Janhavi Bonville, associate EVCP and one of the committee’s co-chairs. “We have a long, long way to go in this respect.”
“This isn’t just about physical accessibility or digital accessibility, which is the law,” she adds. “It’s also about people with disabilities feeling like they’re welcome here – that they’re included, and they can achieve the best of their potential at UCSF.”
Like many institutions, UCSF has long had people who make sure we comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A CAIO takes UCSF beyond that, bringing awareness to behaviors that, often unintentionally, exclude – actions and communication that may not be illegal, technically, but could be harmful – and promoting a welcoming, inclusive environment.
Elise Armstrong, assistant clinical professor of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, and Judy Rosen, director of Disability Management Services for the campus and health system, are co-chairs with Janhavi. The committee consists of diverse stakeholders – faculty, staff, and learners across UCSF, striving to make sure we are all aware that people with disabilities often feel as though they are living in the shadows.
In the 2012 Campus Climate Survey, people with disabilities said they felt they weren’t welcomed. Judy says, “Even though my office does hundreds of accommodations every year, people don’t acknowledge being an individual with a disability on the voluntary self-identification form. This leads me to believe that there is stigma attached to it. They either don’t feel as though they’re an individual with a disability or they feel they’re going to be discriminated against if they acknowledge that they have a disability.”
For that reason, Elise says, “disability is a difficult piece of data to capture. There are not only physical disabilities, but also invisible and temporary disabilities…. We are hoping to get more information from our patients, faculty, staff, and learners so that we can demonstrate that this is a large piece of our population.” Here is a resource to help understand invisible disabilities. Temporary disability can be defined as a disability that affects you for a short period of time. These conditions usually keep you incapacitated or out of work for a few days, weeks, months, or years but typically result in the eventual recovery.
The biggest disadvantage of not self-identifying is not being connected with helpful resources and information. Often individuals feel like they must work through obstacles on their own. Elise, who has a visual impairment, said she frequently finds herself saying, “It’s fine. I can do it myself.” And she’s not alone. Sadly, Elise has heard that sometimes managers don’t know where to send employees with a disability, so the employee ends up also saying, “It’s fine. It’s not ideal, but it’s fine.”
An important part of raised awareness of disability, Judy says, is increased empathy. People with disabilities also can serve as role models, showing others what’s possible despite obstacles. But for many, it takes personal experience to spark empathy. Judy reports having faculty and care providers say that after developing a health condition or a disability themselves, they have a better understanding how it feels to be on the other end.
All of these realities demonstrate why the role of a CAIO is important. “Having a Chief Accessibility Officer will help elevate awareness and empowerment of the population of people with disabilities,” Janhavi says. In Elise’s words, “We are chipping away at this iceberg of increasing people’s awareness of disability.”
I mentioned Alice Wong’s 2014 project Disability Visibility Project. Be sure to check out UCSF’s Faces of Ability II – Mental Health Resilience, a follow-up to the insightful 2018 Faces of Ability Project – In Their Own Words, which gave a platform to faculty, staff, and students to share about living and working with a disability.
Meet UCSF’s Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer: Wendy Tobias
Let’s all give a big, warm welcome to Wendy Tobias, who joined us last month as our inaugural Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer (CAIO). Wendy brings a wealth of experience and passion for making the world accessible for everybody, no matter their ability, and is sure to make our university a better and more inclusive place.
Wendy’s appointment as CAIO is the start of something big. Not only is it a way for UCSF to once again set an example for other institutions and demonstrate the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities are included in all aspects of university life, but as you read in the previous story, it’s the culmination of years of thoughtful work and advocacy from UCSF’s Committee on Disability Inclusion.
Our search and recruitment led to Wendy, who was right in our proverbial backyard at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where she was director of its Disability Programs and Resource Center.
Wendy is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and is certified in Rehabilitation Counseling. A Bay Area native, she’s worked almost her entire career for either state government or SFSU, including 11 years at the California Department of Rehabilitation helping people develop plans for gaining and maintaining employment.
She attributes her “caring gene” to her mom, who happens to be a UCSF School of Nursing alum! Being legally blind, Wendy also followed a path focused on helping others, earning a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling from SFSU, where she is now pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership. Wendy is, indeed, a self-proclaimed SFSU Gator for life!
Her research is focused on disability identity formation and how that relates to a student’s academic success, which she says, “plays into how universities resource disability services.” Often universities and other institutions comply with the laws, but don’t go any further. Even more, Wendy says, “accommodation is based on something that we call the medical model of disability – basically, that a person with a disability needs to be ‘fixed.’” Instead, Wendy promotes a social model of disability, as an act of equity and social justice, which seeks to make the environment accessible, decreasing or eliminating the need to request individual accommodations. “Certain things that are part of the environment, whether it be physical or attitudinal, actually create disability. If we modified our environment, we would actually make life more accessible for many people.” This is the ideal that she strives to achieve.
Creating community is one of Wendy’s goals. While many universities have multi-cultural identity centers, Wendy could only find nine disability identity centers in the whole nation, so when she saw the opening for Chief Accessibility and Inclusion Officer at UCSF, she jumped at the chance.
“It’s a well-known but little-acknowledged piece of information that, when there are discussions about diversity, the subject of disability or disabled people is sometimes not invited to the table.” Having experience with that herself, she notes, “One in four people have disabilities. It is the largest minoritized identity. It crosses all races, all spectrums of gender. Yet there is a lot of stigma.”
“Part of the challenge is, you have both physical and invisible disabilities.” Wendy, who identifies as queer, understands that standing up to stigma takes courage. “For somebody with a hidden disability, it can be a little like the coming out process for an LGBT person...What will be the acceptance? Will I get to move forward? How will my supervisor react? Will people see me differently?”
Her new job, one of very few in the country with such a title, will certainly help to bring disability to light. “This is a leading institution,” Wendy says. “People are doing high-level work. The fact that UCSF is allocating resources to this position is an important increased commitment to this necessary work.”
She considers the way UCSF is approaching support for all of its constituents with disabilities, including patients, as a holistic approach upholding the greater initiatives of diversity – and maximizing the opportunities for individuals to realize their fullest potential without barriers.
Dan’s Tip of the Month
Play a lot of card games during shutdown? Here’s a lesson in questioning everything. Consider the traditional deck and look at the face cards. Have you ever asked yourself why Kings are valued more than Queens? Why face cards look similar and present as white? Well, my friend and colleague, Matt Springer, recommended Queeng, the creation of a young entrepreneur named Maayan who asked those very questions and decided that the world needed its first non-patriarchal, multi-ethnic deck of cards. Don’t we want our games and our children’s play to affirm humanity’s diversity, gender equality, and a world in which everyone is valued? We do, and Queeng is a timely, beautiful step in that direction!