Transition Failure: The Cultural Bias of Self-Determination and the Journey to Adulthood for People with Disabilities


  • Phil Smith University of East Michigan
  • Christine Routel



Like other social service and educational industry processes, the transition from special education services to supports received in community settings has been commodified and reified, controlled by educational and human service professionals, meeting the needs of the industries that they represent and capitalism in general, and serving to keep people with disabilities and their families segregated and isolated. Using critical theory and disability studies approaches, this paper explores ways in which the concept of  self-determination, as normatively constructed by Anglo-European professional bureaucratic structures, fails to meet the needs and rights of marginalized, culturally diverse students with disabilities and their families. Policy, funding, and practice implications for schools are explored.