About the Pathfinders Series
Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.
Bill Bowman: Disability Advocate
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This month, I spoke to librarian Bill Bowman, who has a strong background in Disability Advocacy.
Bill, who is the proud father of one, jokingly tells me that he is also, "proudly owned by two cats." Bill's life's work is no joke, though. He is a proud advocate for people with disabilities.
His journey began when he obtained his Master of Library and Information Science at San José State University. His focus there was in serving the community of people with disabilities. He tells me that he was involved with many organizations that served the community of disabled people:
"I did internships at the California School for the Deaf, United Cerebral Palsy (UCPA), and Disabled Programmers, Inc. (DPI). I wrote a research paper for DPI on how to modify their program to teach computer programming to Deaf students."
After completing his Master's, Bill says that he has continued his advocacy:
"I've also done volunteer work for the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center (SVILC) and helped with the Adults with Cerebral Palsy conference here in San Jose for two years. I speak a few words of American Sign Language (ASL) and am in the process of learning more. I'm currently on the Disability Access Committee [(DAC)—part of our Equity and Inclusion Services Unit] with San José Public Library to help improve access to the Library for people with disabilities."
Blogging for the Library
But how does Bill use his advocacy as a blogger for the Library?
Bill is a blogger for disability awareness at the Library.
Bill, who loves to write, says that he "jumped at the chance" to become a blogger when an opportunity was provided through the Library's Web Team.
"It (blogging) also gave me a podium to write about some of the things that I was passionate about—disabilities and mindfulness to name just two of many—and hoped to reach out to people who might not have thought about or known about these topics before."
"Right now, I'm writing a series of blogs on juvenile fiction, featuring kids with disabilities. The first in the series was on Cerebral Palsy. My next one will be focused on autism. This one is hard because there are so MANY books for kids on this subject, and I'm finding it quite a challenge!"
Bill wants to write about people with disabilities in order to shine a light on a little understood area in American society.
As a long-time blogger for the Library, Bill has thought deeply about the subjects that he writes about, which mostly revolve around informing the public about people with disabilities.
He and I both agree on how difficult it is to engender understanding about the individual, in the face of the adversity of having a disability. He tells me,
"I've found that the most difficult part to having a disability is being understood in the wider world, not with the disability itself. This can make navigating in the able-bodied world a challenge for many people with disabilities."
Inclusion is the far-reaching goal for people with disabilities, supported by the powerful instruments of empathy and acceptance of different viewpoints from one's own. Bill shares how he feels that his blogging fulfills this lofty goal:
"By writing about being disabled, or guiding readers to books featuring disabled characters—particularly for children—people can develop empathy for an entirely different viewpoint than their own. This in turn creates a more inclusive and inviting society. Sympathy is not sufficient; it is necessary and essential to be able to see things from another person's point of view. To be able to relate to that experience is powerful. I think that by writing about disabilities and directing readers to books that feature people with disabilities, this is the most effective way to foster that empathy."
In the future, be sure to keep a look out for Bill's book club for people with disabilities!
More Blogging Interests: Running & Mindfulness
Bill has other interests as a blogger: running and mindfulness.
Bill tells me that he ran one marathon, but is not interested in running in another. He still loves running, though! Like running, Bill's other major interest is mindfulness.
Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn is known for promoting mindfulness in the West. Last January, Thich Nhat Hahn passed away at the age of 95. Bill tells me,
"I felt strongly that his life needed to be lifted up with a blog for (the Library.)"
"The people who responded to that blog also admired Thich (pronounced "Tic"), and were grateful that I highlighted him for the Library. I am a great admirer of his philosophy of kindness and empathy to all people in the world."
"I'm hoping that the people who did read the blog but who haven't commented on it will seek out his writings and find a new and very profound way of looking at the world and at other human beings. This is something I believe in passionately and is not limited to just cultivating empathy for people with disabilities."
Bill's interests are wide and varied! Please check out his blogs!
Here are some comments about his blog for Thich Nhat Hahn:
"I hope you are doing well. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your blog post on Thich Nhat Hanh. His words and teachings come to me when I have needed them through the years and have become touchstones for me in developing my spiritual practice and perspectives."
"I just wanted to say nice blogpost on Thich Nhat Hanh."
"I just started reading his books maybe two years ago."
Please leave a comment in the section below!