First, I suggest that readers begin here:
Yergeau, Melanie, Elizabeth Brewer, Stephanie L. Kerschbaum, Sushil Oswal, Margaret Price, Michael J. Salvo, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Franny Howes. “Multimodality in Motion: Disability and Kairotic Spaces.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy 18.1 (2013).
- This powerfully collaborative, deeply engaged, fully accessible, interactive site presents issues surrounding disability, education, and multimodal composition. A wealth of scholars have contributed to this project, itself a contribution to Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy: Melanie Yergeau, Elizabeth Brewer, Stephanie Kerschbaum, Sushil K. Oswal, Margaret Price, Cynthia L. Selfe, Michael J. Salvo, and Franny Howes. (Kairos is a free journal accessible to all interested readers; it is also recommended reading for those who wish to delve deeper into issues I raise in these pages.)
- Essays geared toward “rethinking normal” in education encourage a reconsideration of traditional features of the composition classroom, including ability, access, physical and mental presence, communication, terministic screens, inclusive language, safer spaces, and academic expectations.
Scholarship available for free online:
Brewer, Elizabeth, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Melanie Yergeau. “Creating a Culture of Access in Composition Studies.” Composition Studies 42.2 (2014): 151-154. PDF available from the University of Cincinnati.
- This collaborative article calls into question many current problematic practices plaguing academia. For example, many texts and materials are not accessible to a variety of readers–students and teachers alike. It further details recent projects and efforts designed to increase accessibility in a university setting, and many of the authors’ ideas can be extrapolated directly into the composition classroom. Though short, the article proves useful in that it urges composition/rhetoric professionals, as well as upper-level decision makers, to consider a “radical transformation of the profession” rather than merely implementing what is known as retro-fitting (153). All too often, individuals with disabilities are placed in the marginalized position of the Other; now is the time to dramatically alter this discourse.
Davy, Laura. “Philosophical Inclusive Design: Intellectual Disability and the Limits of Individual Autonomy in Moral and Political Theory.” Hypatia 30.1 (2015): 132-148. Available at Wiley Online Library.
- Though Davy utilizes slightly different linguistic terminology (“inclusive design” versus “universal design”), and though her piece is philosophical in tone, she highlights concerns salient to educational professionals encountering students with intellectual disabilities. Specifically, in addressing contemporary autonomy theory, which has often discounted the intellectually disabled, she invites her readers to reconceptualize the very nature of individual autonomy. For Davy, autonomy should be considered an inherent potential of all individuals, regardless of intellectual (or physical, it can be extrapolated) ability. Furthermore, in highlighting that not even neurotypical individuals exert complete autonomy–for they, too, require the assistance of family, friends, professional networks, and government assistance to navigate the hurdles of life–she suggests a revising of the very structure of society. To her, everyone has a moral obligation to facilitate the autonomy of everyone else.
- Davy’s work is useful here because it highlights the potential political role of the composition instructor: she can both help disabled persons realize their potentials for autonomy, inclusion, and sufficient education, and she can engage all of her students with Davy’s discourse. The emphasis here is upon the social nature of education in which students and teachers alike contribute to the learning of all involved individuals. Teachers may specifically wish to create collaborative, inclusive classroom atmospheres or assignments designed to encourage students to discursively address selfhood and education.
Dolmage, Jay. “Disability Studies Pedagogy, Usability and Universal Design.” Disability Studies Quarterly 25.4 (2005). Found here.
- This essay presents Dolmage’s take on a research project he conducted in 2004 that was intended to examine and address the funtionality of UDL in specific composition courses. In it, he explains his methodology and the reasoning underlying the project, but the significant element of the paper lies in the ramifications of UDL and his advice for practical implementation. He addresses issues that may arise in asking students to contribute to the planning of courses, how to build continuous feedback into curricula, and proactive practices that may better facilitate teacher-student communication. The purpose of Dolmage’s paper is to instigate dialogue amongst composition/rhetoric teachers and theoreticians, ending with a series of questions that I encourage all readers to consider in regard to their own pedagogies and classroom practices.
- Jay Dolmage also has a somewhat robust academia.edu profile to which he uploads materials that may not be available elsewhere. Membership is not required to view his texts.
Hamraie, Aimi. “Designing Collective Access: A Feminist Disability Theory of Universal Design.” Disability Studies Quarterly 33.4 (2013). Found here.
- Hamraie in “Designing Collective Access” approaches Universal Design from the standpoint of feminist theories of physical spaces to articulate the ways in which architecture does or does not enable accessibility for disabled/differently abled bodies. The focus here is on the physicality of disability, and her thoughts can be interpreted through the lens of education, inviting a reconsideration of the creation of educational spaces. Hamraie’s emphasis upon broad accessibility and the resulting interdependence and social sustainability that occur invites a sweeping reconceptualization of the infrastructure bolstering academia. Though the individual composition instructor may have no bearing on such concerns, she may wish to incorporate Hamraie’s theories into her pedagogies and syllabi, creating physical and intellectual spaces for her students to rhetorically engage in a discourse that has implications for all individuals regardless of ability.
Kerschbaum, Stephanie. “Avoiding the Difference Fixation: Identity Categories, Markers of Difference, and the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (2012): 616-644. PDF made available by Spelman College.
- Kerschbaum’s essay addresses the social and contextual nature of difference, specifically within the scope of the composition classroom. Identity categories and specific features of those identities are not always apparent in interactions, and they may affect communication in interesting ways. Kerschbaum advocates against the use of rigid categories in the classroom and in everyday life, emphasizing that such categories are often inaccurate or incomplete; further, they may elide certain features of an individual’s personality. Instead, difference ought to be recognized as an inherent feature of every life, not just of those who are marginalized, and teacher-student and student-student communication should attend to the differences that individuals wish to establish between one another.
- Difference–and disability–is relational, and the rhetorical examination of individual identity should be encouraged in the writing classroom, for such practices will ensure that neither teachers nor students will make assumptions regarding the needs of disabled students based upon hierarchical identity categories.
Wood, Tara, Jay Dolmage, Margaret Price, and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson. “Moving Beyond Disability 2.0 in Composition Studies.” Composition Studies 42.2 (2014): 147-150. PDF available from the University of Cincinnati.
- These authors draw attention to the ways in which disability might be centered in the composition classroom, rather than situated in a marginal position, as has traditionally been the case (in the rare instances when disability has been invited into academic spaces). In particular, Wood et al. advocate directly implementing pedagogical strategies surrounding the topic of disability, including initiating classroom discussions amongst students and teachers. They also encourage instructors to aggressively interrogate their own assumptions regarding disability, normality, and education. Finally, the authors highlight the rhetorical nature of disability and suggest best practices for developing writing assignments and incorporating the students’ voices into that development.
Wood, Tara, and Shannon Madden. “Suggested Practices for Syllabus Accessibility Statements.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 18.1 (2013). As always, Kairos is available for free.
- This essay is as practical as it gets, delineating virtually every aspect of the disability access portion of the syllabus. Though disability statements on syllabi are often required or encouraged by universities, most remain generic, brief, and insufficient. Wood and Madden provide guidelines for developing statements that are personal and flexible–ones that will reflect the collaborative and accessible environment many instructors (myself included) wish to create in their writing classrooms.
Traditional academic publications that may require professional affiliation or payment to access:
Lewiecki-Wilson, Cynthia, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, and Jay Dolmage, eds. Disability and the Teaching of Writing: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. Print.
- This anthology is so important that, rather than attempting to tease out a few salient articles, I am including it as a complete text in its own right. Compiling a strong collection of essays and bibliographies on teaching writing in the context of disability, the editors present scholarship designed to educate composition instructors and help them develop their own pedagogies and curricula in relation to disability studies and Universal Design for Learning.
Price, Margaret. Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 2011. Print.
- Price’s book, an extensive rumination on what it means to navigate academia with a mental disability, presents a profound articulation of the many invisible barriers preventing disabled individuals from succeeding in a university environment. She highlights issues afflicting both teachers and students, inviting a total reconceptualization of our definitions of education, access, disability, psychology, and composition. Price brings to light concerns not immediately recognizable to neurotypical individuals (as she shows us, the term “normal” is deeply problematic and ought to be avoided), all but forcing us to assess the ways in which we have been complicit in perpetuating exclusionary pedagogies and policies. Though such ideas are available only in print format, readers are thoroughly encouraged to read the book if they have the means to do so.