Disability in Higher Education: A Social Justice Approach
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Create campuses inclusive and supportive of disabled students, staff, and faculty

Disability in Higher Education: A Social Justice Approach examines how disability is conceptualized in higher education and ways in which students, faculty, and staff with disabilities are viewed and served on college campuses. Drawing on multiple theoretical frameworks, research, and experience creating inclusive campuses, this text offers a new framework for understanding disability using a social justice lens. Many institutions focus solely on legal access and accommodation, enabling a system of exclusion and oppression. However, using principles of universal design, social justice, and other inclusive practices, campus environments can be transformed into more inclusive and equitable settings for all constituents.

The authors consider the experiences of students, faculty, and staff with disabilities and offer strategies for addressing ableism within a variety of settings, including classrooms, residence halls, admissions and orientation, student organizations, career development, and counseling. They also expand traditional student affairs understandings of disability issues by including chapters on technology, law, theory, and disability services. Using social justice principles, the discussion spans the entire college experience of individuals with disabilities, and avoids any single-issue focus such as physical accessibility or classroom accommodations.

The book will help readers:

  • Consider issues in addition to access and accommodation
  • Use principles of universal design to benefit students and employees in academic, cocurricular, and employment settings
  • Understand how disability interacts with multiple aspects of identity and experience.

Despite their best intentions, college personnel frequently approach disability from the singular perspective of access to the exclusion of other important issues. This book provides strategies for addressing ableism in the assumptions, policies and practices, organizational structures, attitudes, and physical structures of higher education.


NANCY J. EVANS is a professor in the School of Education and former coordinator of the master's program in student affairs at Iowa State University. She is the coauthor of Student Development in College, Second Edition and Foundations of Student Affairs Practice, both from Jossey-Bass.

ELLEN M. BROIDO is an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

KIRSTEN R. BROWN is a student affairs professional at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a part-time faculty member at Madison College.

AUTUMN K. WILKE is assistant dean of disability resources at Grinnell College, in Iowa.


List of Tables and Figures ix

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xiii

About the Authors xxv

Introduction: A Social Justice Foundation 1

Part One: Foundational Concepts 9

1 A History of Disability in Higher Education 11

Deaf Education 13

Influence of War Veterans 23

Disability Activism 33

Conclusion 45

Discussion Questions 46

Appendix: Significant Moments in the History of Disability in the United States 46

2 Disability Models 54

Established Models 55

Critical Approaches to Disability 66

Social Justice (Ableist or Disability Oppression) Model 71

Emerging Models 76

Conclusion 78

Discussion Questions 80

Appendix: Summary of Disability Models 81

3 Disability, Law, and Education in the United States 91

Historical Overview 92

Legislative Implications 101

Pending and Future Legal Issues 110

Conclusion 120

Discussion Questions 120

4 Dimensions of Impairment and Disability 122

Creating Categories and Labels 123

Categorizing Impairment 125

Impairments Commonly and Increasingly Seen in College Populations 131

Conclusion 139

Discussion Questions 139

Part Two: Population-Specific Experiences 141

5 Disability Identity Development and Multiple Aspects of Identity 143

Multiple and Intersecting Social Identities 144

Disability Identity Development in College Students 145

Self-Identification as Disabled 155

Social Identities 157

Areas for Future Research 168

Implications for Higher Education 169

Conclusion 172

Discussion Questions 173

6 Student Populations 174

Adult Learners 176

Community College Students 177

Transfer Students 180

English Language Learners and English as an Additional Language 181

First-Generation Students 182

International Students 183

Parenting Students 184

Student Athletes 186

Students of Size 187

Undocumented Students 189

Veterans 191

Favorite Hobbies, Yappy Dogs, and Now What? 193

Conclusion 195

Discussion Questions 196

7 Faculty and Staff with Disabilities 197

Perspectives on Disabled Faculty and Staff 199

Barriers That Disabled Faculty and Staff Face in Higher Education 204

Experiences of Disabled Staff and Faculty 209

Creating an Inclusive Climate 214

Conclusion 220

Discussion Questions 221

Part Three: Environmental Issues 223

8 The Campus Environment 225

Physical Environment 226

Organizational Environment 227

The Human Aggregate 230

Social Construction of Disability 237

Creating Campus Environments That Support Students With Impairments 240

Creating a Socially Just Campus Environment 249

Conclusion 251

Discussion Questions 251

9 The Campus Climate 253

Definition of Climate 254

The Campus-Based Experiences of Impaired Students 255

The Impact of Climate on Disabled Students 260

Studying Campus Climate 263

Transforming the Campus Climate 268

Conclusion 272

Discussion Questions 273

10 Universal Design 274

Principles of Universal Design 275

The Evolution From Barrier-Free Design to Universal Design 277

Application of Universal Design in Higher Education 280

Universal Design in Instruction 284

Critiques of Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning 295

Universal Design and Social Justice 298

Resources for Additional Information 300

Conclusion 301

Discussion Questions 302

11 Assistive and Learning Technology 303

History of Assistive Technology 304

Accessible, Adaptive, and Universally Designed Technology 305

Guidelines for Accessible Design 308

Technology as an Accommodation 312

Barriers and Inaccessible Technology 313

Legal Requirements for Technology and Postsecondary Education 316

Eight Steps to Creating an Accessible Campus Technology Culture 319

Conclusion 322

Discussion Questions 323

12 Classroom Instructional Interventions 324

Current Practice 325

Effective Classroom Practices 331

Practices of Specific Academic Disciplines 337

Alternative Instructional Approaches 343

Conclusion 350

Discussion Questions 351

Part Four: Serving Students 353

13 Disability Resource Offices 355

Historical Overview of Disability Resources 356

Disability Resources Today 357

Core Activities of Disability Resource Offices 363

Considerations for the Future of Disability Resources 379

Conclusion 380

Discussion Questions 381

14 Student Affairs 382

Persistence, Retention, and Graduation of Students With Disabilities 383

Importance of Knowledge About Disability in Student Affairs 386

Universal Design in Student Affairs 388

Functional Areas in Student Affairs 390

Conclusion 410

Discussion Questions 410

15 Transitions and Student Affairs 411

Entering Postsecondary Education 412

Transitions During Postsecondary Education 425

Exiting Postsecondary Education 431

Conclusion 437

Discussion Questions 437

Conclusion: A Social Justice Approach to Disability in Higher Education: Strategies for Inclusion 438

Strategies for Creating More Socially Just Campuses 440

Conclusion 447

References 448

Index 501