Abstract

In 1975, Congress enacted a law eventually known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that children with disabilities receive a free, appropriate, public education. Since then, scholarly and popular debates about the effectiveness of inclusive education have proliferated and typically focus on the ability or inability of students with disabilities to succeed in so-called regular classrooms. These debates reflect widespread assumptions that the regular classroom is rightly the province of nondisabled students and a neutral, value-free space that students with disabilities invade and disrupt via their very presence and their costly needs for adaptation. But as many scholars in the field of Disability Studies in Education (DSE) have argued, these discussions often fail to recognize that the space of the regular classroom, far from neutral, is constructed for a nondisabled, neurotypical, white, male, middle-class "norm" that neither reflects nor accommodates the wide range of diverse learners within it, regardless of whether these learners have been diagnosed with a disability. A DSE perspective sees the educational environment, not students with disabilities, as the "problem" and calls for a Universal Design for Learning approach to education, or the design of instructional materials and activities that allows the learning goals to be achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities and backgrounds. Agreeing with this DSE perspective, this article uses an autoethnographic approach to reexamine inclusive education and to consider how university classrooms, pedagogy, and curricular materials can be improved in order to accommodate all students, not just those with disabilities. Ultimately, the article argues that Universal Design for Learning has the potential to radically transform the meaning of inclusive education and the very concept of disability.


Introduction

Disabled students are inconvenient.
How varies by disability….
Autistic? Depressed? OCD?
They don't want to deal with that.
So it just doesn't exist.
We don't have those problems here.
They do, of course, but they pretend it's not there.
With no obvious difference, nothing you can see that says there is something different, they can pretend.
They can pretend that we are making things up.
They can pretend that we are just being difficult.
They can pretend that we are simply lazy.
They can pretend that our inconvenient behaviors are there for any reason at all.
So it is for a reason which makes it purely our fault.
So it is for a reason that does not require accommodation or education, but shame and punishment.
It exists, but they can pretend it doesn't.
And then we pretend it doesn't exist either, not wanting to face what they dish out when we try to make them see what is in front of their eyes.
Disability becomes an inconvenient part of ourselves that we would simply rather ignore, and then they have won. I refuse.
I will be inconvenient, and they will just have to deal with it.1
—Alyssa Hillary

What would happen if our society fully recognized and validated human variation? What if we cultivated rather than reduced this rich distinctiveness? How would the public landscape change if the widest possible diversity of human forms, functions and behaviors were fully accommodated? How would such an understanding alter our collective sense of what is beautiful and proper? What would be the political significance of such inclusion? 2 —Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

Zoey is a bright, precocious, funny, quirky ten-year-old girl who loves Lalaloopsy dolls, Taylor Swift, cookie dough ice cream, chess, and the color pink. By the time she was seven, Zoey had been diagnosed with a variety of neurodiversities.3 Yet, she did not fully understand the implications of disability until she had been expelled from three private schools that proved for a variety of reasons unable to accommodate her neurological diversities, sensory processing needs, and behavioral challenges. In the fall of 2013, Zoey's parents enrolled her in their neighborhood public school on the assumption that, by law, the school would provide a range of services and programs to help her succeed socially and academically. They were thus unprepared for the school's determination to keep Zoey in a regular classroom without any supports until the conclusion of a lengthy evaluation process despite the recommendations of their private therapists and doctors; these professionals had already evaluated and diagnosed Zoey and had been offering her therapeutic services since she was four years old.

By the sixth week of the semester while the evaluation continued, Zoey was experiencing crisis in a classroom and school environment that had failed on every level to accommodate her. Her frustration and anxiety led to frequent, violent outbursts, which resulted in social rejection from her peers and abandonment of all attempts at education from her teacher, who simply allowed Zoey to wander about the classroom while the other students participated in collaborative learning. Left largely unsupervised, Zoey often slipped out of the classroom undetected and roamed the school hallways until someone eventually noticed that she was missing. During one such excursion, she decided to hide in one of the empty classrooms to see how long it would take someone to find her. No one in her classroom, including her teacher, was aware of her absence until an hour later, when the principal was alerted. After several minutes of searching produced no result, the school called to tell Zoey's mother that they could not locate her. Alarmed, she raced to the school and walked up and down the hallways calling for Zoey, who, on hearing her mother's voice, emerged laughing from her hiding place, delighted by her trickery and completely oblivious to the chaos and panic she had caused.

Zoey's parents grew increasingly concerned as they realized how little training and experience the principal and most staff members had in working with and responding to students with disabilities. When the school continued to insist that Zoey remain in the regular classroom without any supports, they began to suspect that the school's determination to pursue inclusion was less about Zoey's needs and more about a lack of funds. Their suspicions were confirmed during a routine meeting with school administrators when the principal explicitly acknowledged that Zoey's ability to succeed in a regular classroom depended on the assistance of a full-time, one-on-one, highly trained paraprofessional but that the school district did not have the funds to provide one. When Zoey's parents asked what they could do to persuade the district to provide a classroom aide, the principal shrugged and suggested that they join a parents' advocacy group. It was during this same meeting that the principal felt the need to tell them that she had been fielding calls from other parents, who were concerned that their children no longer enjoyed attending school because "Zoey was ruining all of their fun."

Following a disturbing incident in which Zoey's mother witnessed a teacher responding to Zoey's verbal and physical aggression by wrestling her to the floor and pinning her down by the arms and legs, the principal managed to produce a classroom aide who lacked any formal training or experience and was not assigned to Zoey individually but was required to float from classroom to classroom as needed. This meant that Zoey would largely remain on her own in a regular classroom with one well-meaning but completely flummoxed teacher and twenty-five terrified students with no supports or accommodations (save a scheduled, once-a-day trip to the resource room at a time that was convenient not for Zoey but for the overworked school counselor). On her second day on the job, the aide—who had not been properly apprised of Zoey's particular needs and challenges—allowed Zoey to visit the restroom on her own, something that she was never permitted to do given her habit of slipping out of her classroom and wandering the hallways. Taking full advantage of her sudden freedom, Zoey decided that she would try to find her way home and made it all the way to the lobby and nearly out the front door to the parking lot before being stopped by her mother, who happened to be in the lobby that morning waiting for a meeting with the principal.

Determined never to return Zoey to that school environment, Zoey's parents began home schooling her until they managed—after a lengthy and costly battle—to have her transferred to the only elementary school in their district that provided a full-time, self-contained special education program run by a team of highly trained staff. When Zoey started the program, she attended school for only a few hours a day, regularly reacted violently to her classmates and teaching staff, cared little about her appearance or personal hygiene, and made few if any attempts to socialize with her peers. Now, nearly three years later, Zoey is thriving. She is earning excellent grades, participating in after-school activities like honor choir and art lessons, learning to manage better her anxiety and emotions, and even making friends.

Zoey's story is all too familiar to students with disabilities and their caregivers. As Zoey's mother, it is intimately and painfully familiar to me.

When I shared this story during a roundtable discussion at an academic conference a few months ago, I was dismayed when the general consensus among the scholars present seemed to be that "inclusion is not always the best answer for students with disabilities." I am not sure that this was the moral of my story. Too often, inclusive education is narrowly understood as the education of children with disabilities in "regular" classrooms.4 Zoey was educated in the regular classroom, but it was far from inclusive; in her situation, inclusive education meant the mere presence of a child with a disability without any real supports, no individualized attention to her particular needs, little or no training of staff, and utter failure to teach students about the nature of disabilities or how to interact with peers who have a disability. In no way, shape, or form was this inclusive education. Moreover, the statement that "inclusive education is not always the best answer for children with disabilities" suggests that inclusive education is only about the education of students with disabilities and that the "failure" of inclusion is the responsibility of the child, not the inadequacies of the education provided. Scholars in the field of Disability Studies in Education (DSE)5 have challenged such views by arguing that inclusive education is about the education of all students; is concerned with identifying and removing all barriers to learning; and is committed to investigating and changing cultural practices of schooling that marginalize and exclude not only on the basis of disability but also on the basis of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, and religion.6 "Taken together," write Susan Baglieri, et al., "these departures of the DSE discourse on inclusive education from the dominant special education discourse around inclusive education are radical."7

Agreeing with and drawing insights from the DSE perspective on inclusive education, I use an autoethnographic approach in this article to produce knowledge about disability and inclusive education from my unique vantage point as a mother navigating the special education system with her daughter. This vantage point has led me to call here for a "radical" shift in focus away from pathologizing discourses and policies that attempt to fit students with disabilities into classrooms and curricula designed for a mythical "able-bodied," neurotypical, white, male, middle-class "norm" and toward a consideration of how classrooms, pedagogy, curricular materials, and cultural practices of schools can be transformed in order to accommodate all students. After analyzing the many inadequacies of so-called inclusive education approaches as currently practiced in American public schools, I advocate the wider application of the social interpretation of disability to education, one that sees the learning environment, not students with disabilities, as the "problem" and that works to promote an educational system based on social justice and the full and equal participation of all students.8 As Mara Sapon-Shevin has written, "When one student is not a full participant in his or her school community, then we are all at risk. By embracing inclusion as a model of social justice, we can create a world fit for us all."9 In the last section of the article, I discuss how social justice in education is achieved through Universal Design for Learning (UDL)—or the design of instructional materials and activities that allows the learning goals to be achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities and backgrounds—and how I have attempted to refigure my own college courses and the learning environment at my university through the application of UDL principles. Ultimately, I call on educators at every level to implement Universal Design for Learning, which has the potential to radically transform the meaning of inclusive education and the very concept of disability.

Unpacking Inclusive Education

In 1975, Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures that children with disabilities receive a free, appropriate education. IDEA requires that each child with a disability have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) designed by parents, teachers, and school staff to guide the delivery of special education supports and services to improve educational outcomes. By law, states are required to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and, if possible, in a "typical" education setting with nondisabled students and can remove a student with a disability from the regular educational environment only when such education "cannot be achieved satisfactorily."10 The push for inclusive education emerged by the late 1980s and gained strength throughout the next decade in response to parents' advocacy groups and education reforms sparked by IDEA. Since then, debates have swirled over the benefits of inclusive education for children with disabilities, their classmates, and school personnel.11

Many proponents of inclusion argue that all children are entitled to equal participation in every aspect of the educational experience, and that all students benefit from interacting with children with a range of abilities and differences. In particular, parents want their children to form friendships with their peers and to participate in all of the typical social activities of childhood.12 Other supporters of inclusion stress the harmful impact of educating children with disabilities in separate, special education classrooms, a setting that they claim is inferior to the regular classroom environment for the following reasons: limited, less rigorous curriculum; lower expectations that can lead to diminished academic and post-secondary opportunities; less access to nondisabled peers; and social stigma.13 A 2012 study from the Association of Black Psychologists, for example, claims that for students in separate special education programs, "the long term, detrimental effects of labeling, stigmatization, lowered expectations, inadequate instruction, limited access to enrichment opportunities, and special segregation can be debilitating."14 In an article published in the Trotter Review, scholars at Yale University argue that, "special education classes often become the 'dumping ground' for so-called problem students, instead of the supportive and nurturing environment required for students who have a genuine need for these services."15

Multiple accounts written by students diagnosed with various disabilities confirm the inadequacies of many special education programs. Diagnosed with a learning disability when she was in the third grade, Lachrista Greco, for example, spent the majority of her elementary and middle school years in a special education classroom. Immediately following her diagnosis, she was placed in special education "because that's what people do with you when they can't figure you out."16 While her new classroom environment allowed her to "be myself" without the pressure of conforming to the academic performance of her peers in the regular classroom, she nevertheless felt "stupid" and "different," particularly because her teachers lowered their expectations of her and even explicitly told her that she would not be able to do things like the other children because she was "not as smart." In her special education classroom, academic standards were very low; teachers were caring, she notes, but often at a loss for what to do with a large population of children with vastly different challenges and needs. It ended up feeling like "'The Room for the Unwanted," Greco writes. She wanted desperately to fit in and be "normal" but she felt like her special education placement marked her as a permanent outsider, an object of ridicule and pity. "My time in Special Ed wasn't all bad," she concludes, "but it seems as though some education professionals still have no idea what to do with kids who have disabilities of any type. Not to mention, the stigma is ever present."17

Several experts, however, question the effectiveness of inclusion as typically administered in U.S. public school systems. They argue that children who struggle to learn through "traditional teaching methods" and an increasingly standardized curriculum in the regular classroom might benefit more from individualized instruction from special education teachers.18 Some parents of children with disabilities are among the opponents of inclusive education because they fear a loss of accommodations and the benefits of special education classrooms, including individual educational programming, smaller student-teacher ratios, and teachers who have special training in working with children with disabilities.19 These parents rightly point out that too often, inclusive education means the mere physical presence of children with disabilities in the regular classroom. As Sapon-Shevin argues,

Inclusion without resources, without support, without teacher preparation time, without commitment, without a vision statement, without restructuring, without staff development, won't work…. There are children who are dumped into classrooms in the name of inclusion, when in fact, nothing is in place to make that an inclusive classroom except that they've put a child with significant disabilities into it. That's not a problem about inclusion; it's irresponsible planning, irresponsible fiscal management, irresponsible teaching. But to call that inclusion is a real mistake.20

Such a situation is not uncommon among financially strapped school districts across the nation, according to Melinda Clayton. With IDEA's initial passage, Congress promised to provide states with an additional forty percent of the per pupil cost of education each year to cover the higher cost of educating students with disabilities. Year after year, however, Congress has failed to keep this promise. In 2014, for example, IDEA federal spending should have amounted to $28.65 billion in order to cover forty percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities in the states. Instead, spending that year amounted to only $11.48 billion and covered a mere sixteen percent of the estimated cost.21 Today, state and local sources pay approximately ninety percent of the cost of special education, an expense that far outweighs the cost of including children with disabilities in regular classrooms where they are unlikely to receive the specialized services they need. As Clayton argues, "We do a disservice to these children when we cite 'equality' as the reason for removing supports when what we really mean is 'funding.' … If we're going to take services away from special populations, let us at least be honest about our reasons for doing so."22

The most ubiquitous aspect of the inclusion debates emphasizes the impact of inclusion on so-called "able-bodied" or neurotypical children. Inclusion's supporters argue that the acceptance and understanding of one another as diverse individuals with differing abilities is one of the primary goals of education. "Inclusion is consistent with multicultural educations, and [with] a world in which many more people have opportunities to know, play, and work with one another," writes Sapon-Shevin.23 Critics of inclusion, by contrast, tend to stress the negative impact of inclusion on "regular" education students. In a briefing before the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 2007, for example, Abigail Thernstrom stated:

Antisocial acts have become expressions of an illness…. My concern here is with the regular students eager and ready to learn in a classroom in which just a handful of kids can make schooling extremely difficult…. If schools try to go to bat for the regular students whose education is disrupted by troublemakers, they risk, at best, endless hours compiling a proper paper trail, and, at worst, defeat in the courtroom many years down the road, with huge legal bills on their hands. And yet, the education of students who are ready to learn must be severely compromised when one of their peers repeatedly screams at a teacher, while another rolls around on the floor and eats paper clips and staples.24

Using language less explicitly disparaging of children with disabilities but no less ableist in meaning and implication, a study on inclusion published in the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals (JAASEP) asked:

Do we favor the few so sensitively that we are unwilling to be concerned about the Regular Ed Students whose classrooms are being adapted to meet the needs of others? Are we truly committed to the educational experience of all students, and if so are we as educators willing to ask the frightening questions regarding the impact of Inclusion on all students? If as much as $60 billion a year is spent on the 12 percent of Students with Disabilities, do we not have an obligation to document whether that lopsided expenditure represents any benefit to Regular Ed Students?25

This JAASEP study reflects the widespread assumption that the so-called regular classroom is rightly the province of nondisabled students and a neutral, value-free space that students with disabilities invade and disrupt via their very presence and their costly needs for adaptation. What this view fails to recognize is that this space, far from neutral, is constructed for a mythical, "able-bodied," neurotypical norm that neither reflects nor accommodates the wide range of diverse learners within it, regardless of whether these learners have been diagnosed with a disability.26

Inclusive education, then, rarely means the full and equal participation of all students within a democratic learning environment that recognizes and accommodates multiple human diversities. Instead, inclusive education pivots around a mythical, unexamined norm against which students are measured and often labeled, marginalized, and pathologized. "Consequently" write David Mitchell, Sharon Snyder, and Linda Ware, "there is no inclusionism that does not come replete with a strategy of making estranged bodies better fit normative expectations."27

Race, Gender, and Disproportionality

As many scholars have pointed out, the American public school system also makes far-reaching assumptions about racial, cultural, and gender norms that mark black bodies as deviant, that marginalize or exclude cultural and ethnic differences, and that use male-centric models and criteria for diagnoses and educational placement.28 Such assumptions have led to tremendous racial, cultural, and gender disproportionality in "judgmental" disability categories (i.e., categories that depend on professional interpretation) and special education programs and services.29 For example, although African Americans represent only seventeen percent of elementary and secondary students in the United States, they constitute twenty-one percent of total enrollments in special education. Black, male children comprise eighty percent of all school children labeled Emotionally Disturbed and thirty-five percent categorized as Learning Disabled.30 Similarly, Latino students represent just over twenty percent of the school population but almost twenty-four percent of students classified with learning disabilities. American Indian/Alaska Native children are one and one-half times more likely than white students to receive services for specific learning disabilities. Of all students who currently receive special services, fifty-four percent come from a variety of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds, and many have limited English-language proficiency.31 And minority students—particularly black boys—who are assigned to disability categories are more likely than their white counterparts to be disciplined, suspended, expelled, and placed into more restrictive educational settings.32

Reasons for the disproportionate representation of minority and CLD students in special education are numerous and varied but include cultural differences in language expression and communication styles; less opportunity for early exposure to school-related academic or curricular experiences; preferred learning styles, e.g., learning primarily through listening or through physically interacting with learning materials; parents' inability (due to lack of time, resources, ability to communicate in English with school personnel, etc.) to challenge the results of evaluations or the placement recommendations of school districts; stereotypic or lower expectations of teachers or family; and lack of culturally responsive eligibility criteria, assessments, and curricular materials that accommodate students with diverse backgrounds and learning needs.33 Investigating the issue of racial disproportionality in special education, a report published by the United States Commission on Civil Rights outlined the following concerns:

  • Teachers referring minority students for special education testing, but not referring similarly situated white students.
  • Evaluators using different types of tests, more testing, or different interpretations of test results to determine that minority students need special education services.
  • Schools placing minority special education students in self-contained classrooms, while similarly situated white students are placed in regular classrooms.
  • Delays in evaluating and placing students that affect children of all races and national origins.34

Taken as a whole, these factors suggest that schools privilege and are structured to the advantage of the "cultural repertoire" of the white middle class. Measured against such cultural "norms," the academic performance and behaviors of minority and CLD students are much more likely to be seen as problematic and requiring the interventions of special education.35 As Beth Ferri and David Connor note, "It is clear that special education, despite being designated to meet the needs of individual learners, has nonetheless been used to create and perpetuate the marginalization of students based on the interconnected discourses of race and ability."36 Putting it more explicitly, Zanita Fenton concludes that, "special education has been used as a tool of racial discrimination."37

Questions of disproportionality in special education have concentrated almost entirely on race and, in particular, on the over-representation of African-American males. Yet, figures from the Department of Education demonstrate a significant disproportionality along gender lines. Approximately two-thirds of students receiving special education services under IDEA are boys, who constitute seventy-five percent of students assigned to Emotionally Disturbed and Learning Disability categories.38 Since 2004, with amendments to IDEA, states are required to collect, evaluate, and report rates of disproportionality in special education, but only for racial disproportionality. States use various methods, and no single way to measure disproportionality exists. In fact, each state is allowed to decide what level of disproportionality is significant.39 And states are not required to report rates of gender disproportionality.40 Clearly, then, gender disparity in special education has not received the attention from states and the federal government that it seems to merit. And while scholars are increasingly paying attention to gender gaps in special education, most, according to Emily Arms, Jill Bickett, and Victoria Graf, tend to ask why boys are overrepresented in special education categories and programs rather than to question whether girls are underrepresented.41

The underrepresentation of girls in special education is related to the underrepresentation of girls in certain disability categories like autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is four and a half times more common among boys than girls. One in forty-two boys in the United States has been diagnosed with autism, while the ratio for girls is one in 189.42 Yet, a number of recent studies suggest that the gender gap in autism diagnoses is less the result of biology and more the product of androcentric research methods and diagnostic criteria.43 Unlike many boys with ASD, girls with ASD seem more able to develop strategies to compensate for autism-associated traits (such as difficulty recognizing emotion) and less often exhibit the kind of behavioral problems associated with autism.44 "Findings from the analysis of boys and girls separately," writes Radha Kothari, "may provide support for the theory that girls adapt better than boys to the impairments associated with ASD, making it less likely that behavioral characteristics in girls will reach the severity required to meet criteria for a clinical diagnosis."45 In other words, because of social conditioning, autism often presents differently in girls than it does in boys. However, because researchers assume that autism is far more common in boys, they are much more likely to conduct their research using male, as opposed to female, subjects; consequently, their understanding of ASD is based on how it presents in boys, who are in turn much more likely to be diagnosed.46

The androcentrism that contributes to the underrepresentation of girls in autism diagnoses contributes as well to gender imbalances in special education. Across all ethnic and racial groups, twice as many boys as girls are identified as needing special education services in primary and secondary schools.47 Research has shown that boys who are frustrated academically tend to act out negatively in class, while girls tend to internalize their frustrations and work harder to please.48 In addition, boys are more likely to express emotions in verbal outbursts, while girls who are experiencing depression or other emotional issues tend to keep silent. Because boys are more likely than girls to exhibit problematic behavioral characteristics associated with certain disabilities, therefore, they are more often referred to special education programs. Furthermore, girls are usually referred for special education services due to emotional disabilities only after they demonstrate behaviors typically associated with boys who already receive such services.49 Equally troubling, boys are more likely to be classified as intellectually disabled, learning disabled, and emotionally disturbed because the threshold for achievement is higher for boys than for girls; hence, characteristics and behaviors marked as disabilities in male students are simply considered "normal" for female students.50 Hence, these findings suggest that girls are underrepresented in disability categories and special education programs and that such underrepresentation can be explained at least in part by gender biases in assessment instruments and diagnostic criteria.51 The consequences of such underrepresentation are potentially dramatic. Because girls have to exhibit more severe challenges in order to receive the same education supports as their male counterparts, they are likely to be diagnosed later (if at all) and hence have to wait longer to benefit from needed services.52 They are also more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant as teenagers, and experience unemployment and poverty throughout their lives.53

If white, male, middle-class cultural norms are the standard by which students' abilities and behaviors are measured and if assessments and educational materials incorporate and reflect these norms, then we begin to understand disabilities, "problem" behaviors, learning "deficits," and poor student academic performance in a very different light. Hence, we need to analyze further how the culture and organization of schools constrain the achievement, overlook the needs, and pathologize the minds and bodies of students who deviate from these norms.

Reconceptualizing Disability and Inclusive Education Through Universal Design for Learning

The dominant conceptualization of inclusive education in the United States is the education of children with disabilities in regular classroom settings with supports and accommodations.54 Such a narrow view of inclusive education—as reflected in the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals study cited earlier—fails to acknowledge that "Regular Ed Students" might also benefit from the supports and accommodations designed to assist students with disabilities. In fact, by making a distinction between the "Regular Ed Students" and "others," the JAASEP study adheres to what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson calls the ability/disability system that creates rigid but false distinctions between bodies and minds perceived as "able" (the norm) and bodies and minds perceived as "disabled" (any and all deviations from the "norm"). Our built environment, policies, and attitudes make little room for human variation. Instead, they are modeled on, and thus privilege, bodies and minds perceived as fit, competent, and intelligent and thus devalue, stigmatize, and subjugate bodies and minds viewed as ugly, deformed, and incompetent. When individuals "fail" to think, move, act, and look in ways that fit expected norms, they are rendered "disabled." Although this binary understanding of bodies is ideological rather than biological, Garland-Thomson notes, it nevertheless produces material results and magnifies the precarity of disabled individuals by "legitimating an unequal distribution of resources, status, and power within a biased social and architectural environment."55

Disability scholars challenge such hegemonic discourses by reimagining disability as a wide-ranging continuum that encompasses all minds and bodies and a product of history and culture. "Disability," writes Garland-Thomson, "is not a natural state of corporeal inferiority, inadequacy, excess, or a stroke of misfortune. Rather, disability is a culturally fabricated narrative of the body, similar to what we understand as the fictions of race and gender."56 This social model of disability stands in stark contrast to the medical model that understands disability as an individual problem, affliction, or disease needing cure or a limitation to be overcome through hard work, pluck, and a great attitude. Criticizing this view of disability, the late activist and comedian Stella Young remarked:

And that quote, The only disability in life is a bad attitude, … it's just not true…. You know, no amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. Never. Smiling at a television screen isn't going to make closed captions appear for people who are deaf. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshop and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into Braille. It's just not going to happen.57

While acknowledging that certain impairments, including some neurological conditions and disorders that cause chronic pain, pose real difficulties, the social model of disability stresses that people are "disabled" primarily by environments, policies, and attitudes that fail to accommodate and include the vast array of human particularities. Hence, disability is not an individual problem but a human variation that needs to be accommodated through improvements in social, ideological, and economic structures. Many proponents of the social model of disability also recognize that the actual lived experiences of individuals with disabilities are multidimensional and shape the ways in which the environment is experienced. Hence, they stress the variability of the lived experiences of disabilities and their interaction with other identities such as gender, race, class, sexual orientation, age, and a host of other factors within varied environmental contexts.58

The social model of disability emphasizes the dependency of all individuals on external supports to survive and flourish. In an appearance on "The Colbert Report," Aimee Mullins, a Paralympian and disability activist, made this point explicitly in response to host Stephen Colbert's amazement that she had managed to walk competently onto the set on two prosthetic legs:

Colbert: "That completely changes my image of what it means to not have a leg. Cause I've got to tell you, that looks a lot like a leg to me and you just walked out here completely confident and completely poised. What has happened to prostheses in the last few years that I don't know about evidently?"
Mullins: "Well, you do know. You put on prosthetics every day. You have them on your face."
Colbert: "You mean the latex chin they put on me every— … You mean my glasses?"
Mullins: "It's glasses, yeah of course. Anything that functions as part of your body that you wear outside of your body is really a prosthetic, whether it's clothes, your cell phone, scissors, your glasses. So, the fact that so many new technologies right now are really allowing people to rebuild bodies and push past the limits that nature would impose on them, it's completely redefining what we think of as ability and disability."59

As Mullins noted, all bodies depend on an array of prosthetics and supports to increase functioning and to reduce pain and limitations. But we tend only to think of such supports in terms of dependency and "special" forms of accommodation when people with disabilities use them. Stephen Colbert needs glasses in order to see clearly. Aimee Mullins needs prosthetic legs to walk. Stephen Colbert is not a medal-winning athlete. Aimee Mullins has set world records in sprinting and long jump. Yet, curiously, he is not regarded as disabled and she is.

This curiosity is an example of what Alison Kafer calls the invisibility of nondisabled access and the hypervisibility of disabled access. Both steps and ramps, she notes, are forms of accommodation but only steps go "unmarked as access; indeed, it is only when atypical bodies are taken into account that the question of access becomes a problem."60 Similarly, Tobin Siebers argues that the built environment is full of technologies and interventions that allow people considered "able bodied" to survive, flourish, or to function more easily. Stairs, escalators, washing machines, leaf blowers, eggbeaters, chainsaws, and other tools help to relax physical standards for performing certain tasks. These tools are nevertheless viewed as natural extensions of the body, and no one questions their use. Nor does anyone question "able-bodied" people's reliance on computers, babysitters, protective laws, or warm clothing on a cold day. Yet, as debates over inclusive education illustrate, technologies and interventions designed to make disabled people's lives easier—wheelchairs, caregivers, assistance dogs, disability laws, psychotropic drugs—are often viewed as expensive additions, unnecessary accommodations, special treatment, or a burden on society.61 In reality, notes Lennard Davis, dependency is the common denominator for all individuals, who are completed only through external supports.62

Applied to education, the social model of disability refuses to mark as aberrant particular students' bodies and minds but instead recognizes the variability of all students and the need to modify, adapt, and manipulate the classroom environment, curriculum, and pedagogy to accommodate this variability. The concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the best example of the application of the social model of disability to educational approaches. Universal design involves designing products, buildings, or environments so that they can be used readily by the widest possible range of individuals. Although well established in architecture and other domains, universal design is relatively new to elementary and secondary education and even newer to higher education.63 Based on neuroscientific evidence that individuals with varied backgrounds, abilities, and motivations have different learning needs, Universal Design for Learning means the creation and implementation of teaching methods and materials that reduce barriers in the learning environment and that allow learning goals to be achievable by all students.

Unlike traditional pedagogical approaches that expect diverse students to adapt to typically inflexible curricula, UDL adapts the curricula to increase access for everyone. Unlike traditional approaches that locate obstacles faced by students with disabilities, UDL understands that such obstacles are often the same obstacles encountered by students with different learning styles, backgrounds, and languages. Unlike traditional approaches that see accommodations and adaptive technologies as useful and appropriate only for students with disabilities, UDL recognizes the value and necessity of "cognitive prostheses" for enhancing the academic performance of all students. 64 Fundamentally, UDL acknowledges the unfairness of using one teaching approach, one form of assessment, or one type of curriculum that tends to privilege one type of learner. As a quotation attributed to Einstein cautions, "If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

My Applications of UDL in the College Classroom

My journey with Zoey through the murky and frustrating terrain of inclusive education has generated my outrage over how little our educational institutions, for whatever reason, truly fail to accommodate the needs of diverse learners. But it has also forced me to recognize the limits of my own teaching approaches. I had long prided myself as a disability advocate and ally, fully committed to working with individual students to ensure that they are able to access the course content. But it had never occurred to me that my view of accommodations was fundamentally flawed. It assumed that accommodations were something from which only students with disabilities benefitted. It offered accommodations on an individual, case-by-case basis. It was always an addition to existing curricular approaches, not something built into the curriculum from the start. Worst of all, my teaching methods, materials, requirements, and assessments made numerous ableist assumptions about my students' capacities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and remember.

The more I studied the benefits of Universal Design for Learning and how its appropriate application potentially erases disability as traditionally conceived, I began to see the tremendous possibilities of applying UDL to my own courses. My thinking about disability and accommodations had been transformed but I still needed to overhaul significantly my teaching materials and pedagogical approaches. As a professor of gender studies, I have for some time now recognized the effectiveness of exploring gender, race, disability and other concepts through the lens of popular culture. My course on the history and culture of vampires, for example, taps into current student interest in all things vampiric—generated in large part by the hugely popular Twilight series—and explores how changes over time in cultural perceptions and representations of vampires reflect shifting gender, race, class, and sexual norms and anxieties. Students who otherwise would not consider taking a class with the word "gender" in the title have proven very eager to take a course on vampires. As I grew to understand the concept of Universal Design for Learning, I recognized that such an approach is compatible in many ways with UDL goals to present curricular materials in ways that are familiar and engaging to students. And so, I launched my initial foray into UDL in the Fall of 2014, when I taught a class on the wildly popular Harry Potter book series—a highly familiar touchstone that perhaps more than any other aspect of popular culture captivated the imagination and influenced the coming-of-age experiences of the current generation of college students. But it would not be enough to teach a course on a theme both comfortable and familiar to my students. To truly achieve universal design for learning, I would need to implement the core UDL principles outlined by the National Center on Universal Design for Learning that call for providing 1) multiple methods of representation of course content, 2) multiple means for students to express what they know, 3) and multiple methods for motivating students to learn.65

Multiple methods of representation:

Students differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information, and all students face disability when information is presented to them in ways that they find difficult or impossible to access.66 Following the social model of disability, such inaccessibility is the root of the problem, not the "condition" of the student. Much like a wheelchair user is disabled by the lack of ramps on buildings, a deaf student, for example, is disabled through lack of interpreters or the availability of closed captioning. Visual learners are disabled when they are offered text-exclusive formats. And students who have nominal experiences in the dominant language, cognitive strategies, and culture of the "average" classroom are disabled when information is presented in a manner that assumes a common background among all students.

Particularly at the high school and postsecondary levels, presentation often consists of text-bound information—notes on the board, worksheets, and textbooks—and teacher-centric instruction—lecture and demonstration. The goal of UDL is not to eliminate these methods but to provide additional methods and materials for diverse learners to acquire the same information and knowledge. Additionally, by providing multiple means of representation, educators are better able to construct bridges between students' culturally influenced thinking systems and those that are unfamiliar to them.67 These forms of representation might include formats such as film, music, or web sites but also digital texts that allow for adjustability of display, integrated highlighting, electronic note taking, audio narration, embedded prompts, linked glossaries, and background information. Additionally, providing other course materials—including syllabi, Power Point lectures, discussion questions, lecture notes, assignment guidelines, review sheets, and course calendars—in digital formats allows students to use adaptive technologies, such as text readers and closed captioning, and gives all students greater access to course materials by allowing them to navigate course content at their own speed and on their own terms. Freedom from the strictures of print, then, allows students to construct meaning actively via customization of and interactivity with the text itself.68

To ensure multiple means of representation in my Harry Potter course, I offered course materials—e.g., syllabus, Power Point lectures, discussion questions, study guides—in digital formats that allowed students to change font style and size, adjust volume and speed controls, and to enhance text and images through closed captioning or voice narration. Within Power Point presentations and lecture notes, I embedded support for vocabulary, unfamiliar references, jargon, colloquialisms, and symbols within the text using hyperlinks to multilingual glossaries and footnotes with definitions and explanations. I made sure that students had access to various formats of the Harry Potter books, including large print editions, text readers, digital readers, and audio books. And we analyzed the themes of the Harry Potter series primarily through individual and group exploration of the novels, movies, web sites, blogs, music, and comics.

Multiple means of engagement:

Students also differ markedly in the ways in which they are motivated to learn. Some students are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty in the learning environment. While some students appreciate risk and challenge, others want certainty and clear guidelines. Group projects and collaborative learning attract some students, while others prefer individual assignments. Some students are independent learners while others seek teacher and peer support. Hence, alternative means of engagement are crucial, as no one approach will engage all students.70

To offer multiple means of engagement, I gave the students opportunities to work independently but also collaboratively with other students and created projects and assignments that allowed for active participation, creativity, individual expression, and exploration. The second day of class, I sorted students into the four Hogwarts houses featured in the series—Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff—and they remained in these Houses for the rest of the semester. Students collaborated with fellow House members in discussion and study sessions and worked together on House teaching presentations and group term projects. Houses competed for the highly coveted House Cup by earning points throughout the semester for individual discussion and scores on assignments, group projects, trivia games, and our hugely successful Halloween event, during which the students dressed as characters from the series and created Hogwarts-inspired foods and drinks. We invited members of the campus community into our classroom during the event to sample the concoctions and to vote for their favorite costumes. In order to further shift away from a teacher-centered to a student-centered approach, I attempted to include students as much as possible in course design. As Jay Dolmage notes, teachers should not be the only designers of course content but should work actively with students to develop pedagogy that is considered, flexible, and responsive to students' needs.71 Throughout the semester, students contributed to the creation of exam questions and other assessments and engaged in self and peer evaluations. Each House was responsible for creating a teaching presentation based on materials and themes that members of the House selected. When evaluating students' work, I made sure that my comments were positive and encouraging and contained specific information for how to improve performance, and I gave students the opportunity to redo assignments using my feedback and suggestions. No in-class activity lasted longer than twenty minutes, which allowed for variation in the pace of work and gave students opportunities for breaks.

Multiple means of expression:

Due to their wide range of physical and neurological abilities and cultural experiences and backgrounds, students differ greatly in the ways they can work within a learning environment and express what they know. 69 Yet, in most classrooms, options for the expression of knowledge are often limited to exams, essays, and class discussion. While some students effectively express their thoughts through these more traditional methods, other students better display knowledge through other means, such as performance, art projects, music, film production, digital chat rooms, and web site design. A Universal Design for Learning approach recognizes that there is no one means of expression that will be optimal for all students, nor one kind of scaffolding or support that will help them as they learn to express themselves. Providing diverse students with a variety of options for expressing what they know, therefore, is key.

To offer multiple means of expression, I allowed students to participate actively through a variety of means, including in-class discussion, course chat rooms, handing in written notes on course readings, and outside-of-class reflective essays. Students also demonstrated knowledge through short response papers, film reports, group teaching presentations, and a collaborative term project, which could be based on any subject relevant to Harry Potter and American culture and be submitted in any format the students chose, including film, music composition, art work, performance, or forms of written expression. I was astounded by the level of creativity and enthusiasm the students exhibited in creating and presenting their projects. Members of Slytherin House performed a dating game called "How to Date A Slytherin"; members of Hufflepuff used drawings by creating a set of story boards that reimagined the series from Neville Longbottom's point of view; Ravenclaw House wrote a prequel to the Harry Potter series, with each member contributing a chapter to the story; and members of Gryffindor used film to create a tabloid-style newscast narrated by Rita Skeeter featuring some of the more colorful Harry Potter characters.

The overwhelmingly positive response, high academic performance, and enthusiasm of my students, along with the comfortable, joyful, and inclusive classroom atmosphere we worked diligently to construct, affirmed my faith in dialogic teaching and the tremendous possibilities of Universal Design for Learning in addressing the needs of all students.72 Still, I encountered barriers to student learning that remained challenging to overcome through the application of existing UDL models and approaches; my exploration of the literature on UDL up to this point revealed that the "universal" part of UDL focused primarily on accommodating a variety of learning styles and much less on how UDL can accommodate a variety of behaviors or mental health needs in the classroom.73 In other words, it seems to me that UDL experts need to address more fully how classroom spaces, teaching materials, and pedagogical approaches can be adapted to meet the needs of students at all levels with severe processing disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, ADHD, depression, personality disorders, and aggression. How does UDL accommodate students who are too depressed to attend class, whose anxiety or distractibility prevents them from responding to any task or learning approach, or whose disruptive or aggressive behaviors distract or even frighten their peers? How does UDL help to create an environment in which students feel safe and comfortable disclosing an "invisible" disability, including ADHD, autism, and psychiatric disabilities?

Those of us invested in truly inclusive education also need to consider more fully how a UDL approach can move beyond an emphasis on accommodations for physical and learning differences to a consideration of all constructed barriers to learning, including systematic and institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and religious oppression.74 According to Heather Hackman, while existing UDL theories rightly criticize the historic exclusion of students with disabilities from educational resources, they are not as thorough in analyzing the systems of power and privilege responsible for this exclusion and how such systems operate to privilege certain ways of thinking and knowing. In other words, a truly "universal" design for learning would adequately consider how teaching materials and approaches that present heterosexuality, whiteness, maleness, ableness, or Christianity as "norms" create barriers to learning for diverse students. As Hackman writes, "whether a quiz is done individually in class, as a take home, or in small groups is irrelevant if the questions on it are inherently biased to White, male, middle-class ways of knowing, thereby making it still inaccessible to a wide range of students."75 Hence, Disability Studies in Education scholars such as Mitchell, Snyder, and Ware, call for the creation and implementation of "curricular cripistemologies," which foreground the actual lived experiences of disabled and all "nonnormative" people within teaching materials and approaches regardless of the subject. Curricula that contextualize and fully integrate the history, culture, and experiences of diverse people work "to create a receptive atmosphere for productive engagements with embodied differences in school" and lessen the othering of "nonnormative" students that produces stigma and discriminatory treatment.76

To these suggestions for reducing the biases of curricular content, I would add that the current literature on Universal Design for Learning also needs to address more fully how UDL helps to dismantle the barriers created by gender and racial segregation in special education. After all, when students look around their school environment and notice that the overwhelming majority of children assigned to special education services and classrooms are black boys, what messages about gender and race are they absorbing, and how does this awareness affect the learning of students outside of and within these classrooms? And, as Hackman notes, future scholarship needs to address more fully how UDL's emphasis on the implementation of universal design through technology interacts with issues of class, gender, age, and race. Due to generational differences, patterns of gender socialization, and the unequal distribution of economic resources in schools, students who are female, nontraditional, working-class, or persons of color, for example, are disproportionately affected by the "digital divide," that is, forms of economic and social inequality created by lack of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies. "To assume that making classrooms accessible without attending to these issues is naive at best," Hackman writes, "and a reproduction of those very forms of oppression at worst."77

Finally, how do we promote a universal approach to learning without collapsing important distinctions between the perceptions, treatment, and lived experiences of students categorized as disabled and students categorized as "able bodied?" Within a UDL framework, how do we recognize that the actual lived experiences of disability give some students particular identities and narratives that allow them to make epistemological claims about ableist assumptions and policies within their educational institutions and wider communities and the need for greater social justice? And how do these sorts of situated knowledges, as well as the social locations of all students, contribute to the democratic production of knowledge in the classroom?

Again, Mitchell, Snyder, and Ware remind us of the importance of curricular reform in making the lived experiences of disability an active part of and a source of knowledge within the UDL classroom from which all students can learn. In such an environment, students with disabilities are not required to adapt their minds, bodies, and ways of knowing to a hegemonic norm but can actively draw from the authority of their personal experiences to contribute to collective understandings.78 According to Dene Granger, who grappled with being labeled as learning disabled due to her dyslexia, situated knowledges springing from the lived experiences of disability have the potential to revolutionize how students and teachers think about learning. Individuals with disabilities, she writes, "have the power to revolutionize schools because our bodies have been the instrument or the center, where we enact and embody learning in beautiful, in complex, artful, tactile, and sensual ways… . We know how essential this kind of creation is, how this passion can create a powerful river."79 As Granger acknowledges, then, disability (along with other forms of "discredited knowing" such as gender, race, sexuality, etc.) becomes an important way for students to understand their world. "The non-normatively embodied classroom that emerges within curricular cripistemologies," write Mitchell, Snyder, and Ware, "becomes a place in which diversity operates as a nuancing agent of knowledge" that "leaves no body behind."80

Conclusion

Ultimately, Universal Design for Learning locates value in productions of knowledge that have been traditionally ignored, marginalized, or denigrated. I was reminded of this recently while watching Zoey work on an assessment with her speech therapist. The therapist was showing Zoey a series of pictures and asking her to form story arcs based on the stories that the pictures collectively illustrated. The "correct" subject of one of the pictures, for example, was a mother nervously waving goodbye to her son who was boarding a school bus for the first time. But instead of focusing on the picture's central subject, Zoey fixated on the lower frame of the picture where a cat sat looking rather forlornly, in her view. To whom did the cat belong, she wondered? Clearly the cat was hungry—who would feed it? Where would the cat sleep at night? Despite the therapist's insistence that her focus was incorrect, Zoey stubbornly refused to alter her gaze and instead continued to worry about the cat. And as the therapist grew visibly more frustrated, I stifled my impulse to laugh. After all, why was Zoey's concern for the cat wrong or misguided? Why was attention to the mother and her son more valued? And perhaps most importantly, who gets to make this decision? Zoey's tendency to create knowledge from the margins led her to form new meanings about what she was seeing that necessarily disrupted and challenged the pictures' master narratives. In much the same way, Universal Design for Learning gives students and teachers the power to form new discourses that have the potential to radically transform restrictive ideologies and institutions and that create new, multiple understandings of the "right" way to see, hear, think, and know.

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  • Salend, Spencer and Laurel Garrick Dehaney. "The Impact of Inclusion on Students With and Without Disabilities and Their Educators." Remedial and Special Education 20:2 (March/April 1999): 114-126. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193259902000209
  • Sapon-Shevin, Mara. "Inclusion: A Matter of Social Justice." Educational Leadership 61:2 (October 2003): 25-28.
  • Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.309723
  • State of Oklahoma. "Identification of Children with Disabilities, 2014." Accessed September 3, 2015. http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/2014/ok-acc-statedatadisplay-12-13.pdf.
  • Sullivan, Amanda and Aydin Bal. "Disproportionality in Special Education: Effects of Individual and School Variables on Disability Risk." Exceptional Children 79:4 (Summer 2013): 475-494.
  • Tschantz, Jennifer and Joy Markowitz. "Gender and Special Education: Current State Data Collection." Project Forum, January 2003. Accessed August 2, 2015. http://www.nasdse.org/DesktopModules/DNNspot-Store/ProductFiles/143_49aabfa1-ef5c-4ece-9cbc-cedc6a405578.pdf.
  • United States Commission on Civil Rights. "Minorities in Special Education." (December 3, 2007): 1-117. Accessed June 1, 2015. http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/MinoritiesinSpecialEducation.pdf.
  • Wigle, Stanley and Daryl Wilcox. "Inclusion." Remedial and Special Education 17:5 (September 1996): 323-329. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193259601700508
  • Young, Stella. "I'm Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much." TEDxSydney, April 2014. Accessed March 3, 2015. https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much?language=en.

Notes

  1. Alyssa Hillary, "Inconvenient," Yes, That Too, January 21, 2013, accessed July 3, 2016, http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com/2013/01/inconvenient.html.
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  2. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, "First Person: Rosemarie Garland-Thomson," Emory Report 56 (July 6, 2004), accessed April 25, 2016, http://www.emory.edu/EMORY_REPORT/erarchive/2004/July/er%20july%206/7_6_04firstperson.html.
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  3. As John Elder Robison describes, neurodiversity is "the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome. This represents a new and fundamentally different way of looking at conditions that were traditionally pathologized." See John Elder Robison, "What is Neurodiversity?" Psychology To-day, October 7, 2013, accessed July 6, 2016, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-life-aspergers/201310/what-is-neurodiversity.
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  4. Mel Ainscow, Tony Booth and Alan Dyson, Improving Schools, Developing Inclusion (London: Routledge, 2006), 2.
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  5. Susan Baglieri, Jan W. Valle, David J. Connor, and Deborah J. Gallagher, "Disability Studies in Education: The Need for a Plurality of Perspectives on Disability," Remedial and Special Education 32:4 (2011): 267-278. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932510362200
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  6. Susan Baglieri, Lynne Bejoian, Alicia Broderick, David Connor, and Jan Valle, "[Re]claiming 'Inclusive Education' Toward Cohesion in Educational Reform: Disability Studies Unravels the Myth of the Normal Child," Teachers College Record 113:10 (October 2011): 2126-2128. See also Alicia Broderick, Heeral Mehta-Parekh, and D. Kim Reid, "Differentiating Instruction for Disabled Students in Inclusive Classrooms," Theory Into Practice 44:3 (Summer 2005): 194-202. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4403_3
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  7. Baglieri, et al., "[Re]claiming 'Inclusive Education' Toward Cohesion in Educational Reform," 2128.
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  8. For multiple views of social justice in education, see William Ayers, Therese Quinn, and David Sovall, eds., Handbook of Social Justice in Education (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008).
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  9. Mara Sapon-Shevin, "Inclusion: A Matter of Social Justice," Educational Leadership 61:2 (October 2003): 28.
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  10. Full text of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, United States Department of Education, accessed March 3, 2015, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/osep-idea.html.
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  11. David Connor and Beth Ferri, "The Conflict Within: Resistance to Inclusion and Other Paradoxes in Special Education," Disability and Society 22:1 (December 2006): 63-77. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687590601056717; Stanley Wigle and Daryl Wilcox, "Inclusion," Remedial and Special Education 17:5 (September 1996): 323-329. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193259601700508
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  12. Laurel Garrick Duhaney and Spencer Salend, "Parental Perceptions of Inclusive Educational Placements," Remedial and Special Education 21 (March 2000): 124-126.
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  13. The National Education Association, "Truth in Labeling: Disproportionality in Special Education," (2007), 2, accessed July 111, 2016, http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/EW-TruthInLabeling.pdf.
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  14. Jamilia Codrington and Halford H. Fairchild, "Special Education and the Mis-Education of African American Children: A Call to Action," February 13, 2012, 5, accessed February 3, 2015, http://www.abpsi.org/pdf/specialedpositionpaper021312.pdf.
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  15. Valerie Maholmes and Fay Brown, "Over-representation of African-American Students in Spe-cial Education: The Role of a Developmental Framework in Shaping Teachers' Interpretations of African-American Students' Behavior," Trotter Review 14 (January 1, 2002), 46.
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  16. Lachrista Greco, "It Happened to Me: I Was in Special Ed," xojane, August 10, 2012, accessed July 3, 2016, http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/it-happened-me-i-was-special-ed.
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  17. Greco, "It Happened to Me."
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  18. Duhaney and Salend, 126. See also Spencer Salend and Laurel Garrick Dehaney, "The Impact of Inclusion on Students With and Without Disabilities and Their Educators," Remedial and Special Education 20:2 (March/April 1999): 114-126. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193259902000209; and Dev Poonam and Leslie Haynes, "Teacher Perspectives on Suitable Learning Environments for Students with Disabilities: What Have We Learned from Inclusive, Resource, and Self-Contained Classrooms?" International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 9 (May 2015): 53-64.
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  19. Duhaney and Salend, 124.
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  20. John O'Neil, "Can Inclusion Work?" A Conversation with Jim Kauffman and Mara Sapon-Shevin," Educational Leadership 52 (December 1994/January 1995): 7-11, accessed August 15, 2015, http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/dec94/vol52/num04/Can_Inclusion_Work¢_A_Conversation_with_Jim_Kauffman_and_Mara_Sapon-Shevin.aspx.
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  21. Clare McCann, "IDEA Funding," EdCentral, accessed July 3, 2016, http://www.edcentral.org/edcyclopedia/individuals-with-disabilities-education-act-funding-distribution/.
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  22. Quoted in Celia R. Baker, "Teaching Students with Intellectual Disabilities in Regular Classrooms Good for Kids or Good for All?" Deseret News, January 7, 2013, accessed May 3, 2015, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865570116/.
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  23. O'Neil, "Can Inclusion Work?" 7-11.
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  24. The United States Commission on Civil Rights, "Minorities in Special Education," December 3, 2007, 109-110, accessed June 1, 2015, http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/MinoritiesinSpecialEducation.pdf.
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  25. Bonnie Dupuis, et al., "Does Inclusion Help Students: Perspectives from Regular Education and Students with Disabilities," Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals (Summer 2006), accessed February 20, 2015, http://aasep.org/aasep-publications/journal-of-the-american-academy-of-special-education-professionals-jaasep/jaasep-summer-2006/does-inclusion-help-students-perspectives-from-regular-education-and-students-with-disabilities/.
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  26. See Baglieri, "[Re]claiming 'Inclusive Education' Toward Cohesion in Educational Reform," 2123-2154.
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  27. David Mitchell, Sharon Snyder, and Linda Ware, "'Every Child Left Behind': Curricular Cripistemologies and the Crip/Queer Art of Failure," Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies 8:3 (2014): 298.
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  28. See, for example, David Connor and Beth Ferri, "Integration and Inclusion: A Troubling Nexus: Race, Disability, and Special Education," The Journal of African American History 90 (Winter 2005): 107-127; D. Kim Reid and Michelle Knight, "Disability Justifies the Exclusion of Minority Students: A Critical History Grounded in Disability Studies," Educational Researcher 35:6 (August/September 2006): 18-23; Wanda Blanchett, "Disproportionate Representation of African American Students in Special Education: Acknowledging the Role of White Privilege and Racism," Educational Researcher 35:6 (August/September 2006): 24-28. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X035006024; Carla O'Connor and Sonia DeLuca Fernandez, "Race, Class, and Disproportionality: Reevaluating the Relationship between Poverty and Special Education Placement," Educational Researcher 35:6 (Aug/September 2006): 6-11. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X035006006
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  29. Many scholars have written about racial disproportionality in judgmental disability categories. See, for example, Roey Ahram, Edward Fergus, and Pedro Noguera, "Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disproportionality in Special Education: Case Studies of Suburban School Districts," Teachers College Record 113:10 (October 2011): 2233-2266.
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  30. Zanita Fenton, "Disabling Racial Repetition," in Righting Educational Wrongs: Disability Studies in Law and Education, eds. Beth Ferri and Arlene Kanter (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2013), 113.
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  31. Terese C. Jimenez, Victoria I. Graf, and Ernest Rose, "Gaining Access to General Education: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning," Issues in Teacher Education 16 (Fall 2007): 44.
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  32. Fenton, 94; Maholmes and Brown, 49.
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  33. National Education Association, "Truth in Labeling," 14-15. See also Connor and Ferri, "Integration and Inclusion," 114.
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  34. The United States Commission on Civil Rights, "Minorities in Special Education, December 3, 2007, 22-23, accessed March 3, 2015, http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/MinoritiesinSpecialEducation.pdf.
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  35. O'Connor and Fernandez, 8.
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  36. Beth Ferri and David Connor, Reading Resistance: Discourses of Exclusion in Desegregation and Inclusion Debates (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), 181.
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  37. Fenton, 87.
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  38. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, "IDEA Section 618 Data Products: Static Tables, Table 1-12: Children and students served under IDEA, Part B, in the U.S. and outlying areas, by gender and age group," accessed July 15, 2016, https://www2.ed.gov/programs/osepidea/618-data/static-tables/index.html.
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  39. National Education Association, "Truth in Labeling," 14.
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  40. Martha Coutinho and Donald Oswald, "State Variation in Gender Disproportionality in Special Education," Remedial and Special Education 26:1 (January/February 2005): 8; Jennifer Tschantz and Joy Markowitz, "Gender and Special Education: Current State Data Collection," Project Forum, January 2003, 2, accessed August 2, 2015, http://www.nasdse.org/DesktopModules/DNNspot-Store/ProductFiles/143_49aabfa1-ef5c-4ece-9cbc-cedc6a405578.pdf.
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  41. Emily Arms, Jill Bickett, and Victoria Graf, "Gender Bias and Imbalance: Girls in US Special Education Programmes," Gender and Education 20:4 (July 2008): 349-359. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540250802190180. See also Coutinho and Oswald, 7-15; Amanda Sullivan and Aydin Bal, "Disproportionality in Special Education: Effects of Individual and School Variables on Disability Risk," Exceptional Children 79:4 (Summer 2013): 475-494. Martha Coutinho, Donald Oswald, and Al Best, "The Influence of Sociodemographics and Gender on the Disproportionate Identification of Minority Students as Having Learning Disabilities," Remedial and Special Education 23:1 (January/February 2002): 49-59. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193250202300107; Kathy Piechura-Couture, Elizabeth Heins, and Mercedes Tichenor, "The Boy Factor: Can Single-Gender Classes Reduce the Overrepresentation of Boys in Special Education?" College Student Journal, 47:2 (Summer 2013): 235-243.
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  42. Centers for Disease Control, "Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2012," Surveillance Summaries 65 (April 1, 2016): 1–23, accessed July 3, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/ss6503a1.htm.
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  43. See, for example, M. Gill, "The Other 25%: Autistic Girls and Women," European Psychiatry 33 (March 2016): 432-432. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2016.01.1246; Katharina Dworzynski, Angelica Ronald, Patrick Bolton, and Francesca Happe, "How Different Are Girls and Boys Above and Below the Diagnostic Threshold for Autism Spectrum Disorders?" Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology 51 (August 2012): 788-797. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2012.05.018; and Agnieszka Rynkiewicz, Erik Marchi, Björn Schuller, Stefano Piana, Antonio Camurri, Amandine Lassalle, and Simon Baron-Cohen, "An Investigation of the 'Female Camouflage Effect' in Autism Using a Computerized ADOS-2 and a Test of Sex/Gender Differences," Molecular Autism 7 (January 21, 2016): 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-016-0073-0
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  44. Rynkiewicz, et al., 1-8.
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  45. Radha Kothari, David Skuse, Justin Wakefield, and Nadia Micali, "Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Social Communication and Emotion Recognition," Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology 52 (November 2013): 1155. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2013.08.006
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  46. Jolynn Haney, "Autism, Females, and the DSM-5: Gender Bias in Autism Diagnosis," Social Work in Mental Health 14:4 (2016): 396-407. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332985.2015.1031858
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  47. Donald Oswald, Al Best, Martha Coutinho and Heather Nagle, "Trends in the Special Education Identification Rates of Boys and Girls: A Call for Research and Change," Exceptionality 11 (2003): 223-237. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327035EX1104_3; Beth Ferri and David Connor, "'I Was the Special Ed Girl': Urban Working-Class Young Women of Colour," Gender and Education 22:1 (January 2010): 105-121. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540250802612688. See also Coutinho and Oswald, 7-15; Sullivan and Bal, 475-494; Coutinho, Oswald, and Best, 49-59; and Piechura-Couture, et al., 235-243. Most scholars note that the underreprentation of girls in disability categories is evident across all racial and ethnic groups. But Subini Ancy Annamma claims that while girls as a whole "are underrepresented in disciplinary actions and special education, . . . young women of color and young women who identify as queer are overrepresented in both categories." See Subini Ancy Annamma, "It Was Just Like a Piece of Gum: Using an Intersectional Approach to Understand Criminalizing Young Women of Color with Disabilities in the School to Prison Pipeline," in Practicing Disability Studies in Education: Acting Toward Social Change, eds., David Connor, Jan Valle, and Chris Hale, (New York: Peter Lang, 2015), 84.
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  48. Arms, et al., 352.
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  49. American Association of University Women Public Policy and Government Relations Department, "Educating Girls with Disabilities," July 2009, 3, accessed March 3, 2015, http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/position-on-disability-education-111.pdf.
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  50. Merle Froschl, Ellen Rubin, and Barbara Sprung, "Connecting Gender and Disability," Gender and Disability Digest (Newton, MA: Women's Educational Equity Act Resource Center, 1999), 3.
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  51. Amity Noltemeyer and Caven McLoughlin, eds., Disproportionality in Education and Special Education: A Guide to Creating More Equitable Learning Environments (Springfield: Charles C. Thomas Publishing, 2012), 51-52.
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  52. Noltemeyer and McLoughlin, 51.
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  53. Arms, et al., 355; Ferri and Connor, "I Was the Special Ed Girl," 107.
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  54. See Baglieri, et al., "[Re]claiming 'Inclusive Education' Toward Cohesion in Educational Reform," 2123-2154.
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  55. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, "Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory," National Women's Studies Association Journal 14:3 (2002), 5-6. https://doi.org/10.2979/NWS.2002.14.3.1. See also Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
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  56. Garland-Thomson, "Integrating Disability," 5.
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  57. Stella Young, "I'm Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much," TEDxSydney, April 2014, accessed March 3, 2015, https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much?language=en.
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  58. Jeanne Higbee and Emily Goff, eds., Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2008), 14-15.
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  59. The Colbert Report, Comedy Central, April 15, 2010.
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  60. Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), 138.
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  61. Tobin Siebers, Disability Theory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 31.
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  62. Lennard Davis, Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Difficult Positions (New York: New York University Press, 2002), 9-32.
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  63. David Rose, Wendy Harbour, Catherine Sam Johnston, Samantha Daley, and Linda Abarbanell, "Universal Design for Learning in Postsecondary Education: Reflections on Principles and their Application," Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability 19 (Fall 2006): 135.
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  64. Dave Edyburn, "Would You Recognize Universal Design for Learning if You Saw It? Ten Propositions for New Directions for the Second Decade of UDL," Learning Disability Quarterly 33 (Winter 2010): 39. https://doi.org/10.1177/073194871003300103
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  65. National Center on Universal Design for Learning, "Universal Design for Learning Guidelines," accessed March 28, 2015, http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines_theorypractice.
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  66. Rose, 136.
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  67. Meia Chita-Tegmark, Jenna Gravel, Maria de Lourdes B. Serpa, Yvonne Domings, and David Rose, "Using the Universal Design for Learning Framework to Support Culturally Diverse Learners," Journal of Education 192 (2011/2012): 19.
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  68. Anne Meyer, David Rose, and David Gordon, Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice (Wakefield, MA: CAST, Inc., 2014), 2.
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  69. Rose, 137.
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  70. Rose, 137.
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  71. Jay Dolmage, "Disability Studies Pedagogy, Usability and Universal Design," Disability Studies Quarterly 25:4 (Fall 2005), accessed April 25, 2017. https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v25i4.627
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  72. See, for example, Stephanie Kurtts, "Universal Design for Learning in Inclusive Classrooms," Electronic Journal for Inclusive Education 1 (Spring 2006): 1-16, http://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=ejie.
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  73. For example, the book Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice edited by Sheryl Burgstahler and Rebecca Cory (Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2008) devotes only one out of twenty-four chapters to how UDL can accommodate students with psychiatric disorders. Similarly, Jeanne Higbee and Emily Goff, eds., Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2008) includes only one chapter out of thirty-eight to the issue of invisible disabilities and the need for safe environments for disclosure.
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  74. Kristina Knoll, for example, urges scholars "not only to take into account the many and varied bodily, mental, and psychological differences, but also to consider how race, class, sexuality, religion, nationality, and so on, can intersect with the disability experience." Kristina Knoll, "Feminist Disability Studies Pedagogy," Feminist Teacher 19:2 (2009): 122.
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  75. Heather Hackman, "Broadening the Pathway to Academic Success: The Critical Intersections of Social Justice Education, Critical Multicultural Education, and Universal Instructional Design," in Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education, eds., Jeanne Higbee and Emily Goff (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2008) 39.
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  76. Mitchell, Snyder, and Ware, 302.
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  77. Hackman, 36-37.
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  78. Mitchell, Snyder, and Ware, 308.
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  79. Dene Granger, "A Tribute to My Dyslexic Body, As I Travel in the Form of a Ghost," Disability Studies Quarterly 30 (2010), accessed April 25, 2016. https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v30i2.1236
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  80. Mitchell, Snyder, and Ware, 308.
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