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Disability Awareness Week : Karlyn Forner

Karlyn Forner

Name & Pronouns: Karlyn Forner (she/her)

A little about myself:

I am from Central Minnesota and work as the grants partner at the Research and Grants Office at CSBSJU. I am also a historian and work with  veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, scholars, and archivists to tell the history of the Movement from the bottom-up and inside-out. My partner and I have 3 kids -- a six year old, a four year old and a two year old, so life is busy!

How my disability has impacted my life:

I live with multiple sclerosis (MS). I have been diagnosed for a year and half, but have been living with MS long before that, both physically and through an extensive family history. Receiving the diagnosis has profoundly impacted my life and the choices I make. While right now MS does not prevent  me from doing the things I need to, it’s made uncertainty a central part of my life

How my disability functions as a strength in my life:

MS adds weight to everything. In some ways it has been a gift. I have deep gratitude for the moment and what I’m capable of today, right now.  It makes me acknowledge that I have only so much capacity to invest in things. If I push myself too much, that can have physical effects for me. MS has been an opportunity to prioritize what’s really important to me

Barriers to accessibility I would like to bring to light:

In many ways, COVID outed me and my MS. Before July when CSBSJU called employees back to work in their offices, I had not told colleagues about my diagnosis.  I am immunocompromised  because of the  medication I take,  so being called back to campus in the middle of a  pandemic forced me to make difficult choices. Some of the institutions’ decisions around COVID, especially removing the indoor mask mandate, have left me feeling less safe on campus. Even though I’m mostly able to  work remotely, I carefully weigh the  level of risk I take on when I go to  different meetings or events in person. How safe will I be in that space? The institutions’ policies have made individuals, especially immunocompromised individuals, assume a higher level of risk in campus spaces. I’m grateful that the universal  mask policy has been reinstated for after Thanksgiving.

“MS has made me live from moment to moment much more and be grateful for that moment. I know what I have and what I am capable of right now. I can't tell you what it looks like tomorrow or the day after that. It might change, and it might not change, but learning to live in the unknowns of that and being able to exist. It has reoriented how I move through the world, and how I prioritize things.”