Thoughts on Critical Disability Studies and the Role of Teachers

An area of critical pedagogy that I am genuinely interested in is critical disability studies. While I have connected disability studies to some of my interests in literary criticism and library science, I have slowly been realizing the need to connect critical disability studies to my pedagogy and my view of the classroom. One of the biggest revelations that I had, which initially interested me in critical disability studies was the invisible qualities of many illnesses and disabilities. A common occurrence discussed in disability circles is a disabled individual using public or private utilities designed for them (parking spaces, mobility scooters, etc.) and being accosted by a stranger because their disability is not obvious. This kind of interaction can also happen in the classroom, and often manifests itself in the form of instructors and professors assuming a quality of ability among their students. There are some ways in which institutions try to protect and accommodate students with disabilities and inform instructors about their students’ disabilities; there is a fundamental flaw with disability accommodations in the classroom. This fundamental flaw of relying entirely on disability accommodations programs the nature of self-reporting of disabilities that put the burden of classroom relations on the student rather than the institution or the instructor. The instructor believe that they are aware of students who require assistance and do not need to change or improve how they structure their classroom outside of the known accommodation needs. Instead of relying entirely on these critical and necessary programs, instructors should integrate disability awareness and critical disability studies into their curriculum by integrating anti-ableist language, creating a space in their classroom for individuals of all statuses, and supporting their students with disabilities regardless of the visibility or perceived difficulties that the student experiences. It is the role of the critical pedagogist, then, to implement critical disability studies in their pedagogy and praxis with the students they teach or interact with in any job.

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