Disability and Disciplines 2015
Julie Allan (University of Birmingham)
Peter Beresford (Brunel University London)
David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder (George Washington University)
When we think of disability in Higher Education we are likely to think in terms of access, Learning Support Plans, and so on. These and other such things are of great importance but only represent part of the approach proposed at the conference. What we explore is a more complex understanding of disability that challenges assumptions and prejudicial actions but also recognises qualities and positivity. While inclusive education is generally an improvement on integration and segregation, it often constitutes little more than what, in The Biopolitics of Disability (2015), David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder call a weakened strain of inclusionism. Until disability is recognised in the context of alternative lives and values that neither enforce nor reify normalcy we cannot truly encounter the material and ethical alternatives disabled lives engage. Inclusion may well be a legal requirement in some parts of the world, and perhaps a moral imperative everywhere, but it is also an educational opportunity. Not only students but also staff who identify as disabled should, as Mitchell and Snyder assert, recognize this peripheral embodiment as something to be cultivated as a form of alternative expertise, meaning that disability can become an active, unabashed, and less stigmatising part of classroom discourse. The aim of this conference is to encourage the transformation of academic disciplines by appreciating rather than avoiding disability.
Disability and Disciplines 2015 is the focus of a JLCDS comment (10.2) by Owen Barden and a few of the sessions are available via the CCDS YouTube channel.