As a physical educator, I began to think about the current state of the physical education undergraduate curriculum and wonder how it is preparing the next generation of professionals to work with disabled persons. The focus of this paper will be on the academic courses which prepare undergraduate students to practice in the field of physical education. I will explore the current discourses in special education, adapted physical activity, and inclusive physical education. Disability studies, which is influenced by the social model of disability (Finkelstein, 1998; Oliver, 1990; Titchkosky and Michalko, 2009; UPIAS, 1976), can potentially illuminate current understandings and provoke new ways of imagining physical education programs. According to the social model of disability, society sets up barriers that include attitudes, policies, physical facilities, technology, learning environments, work opportunities, and cultural representations. These barriers are disabling, and in this sense, disabilities reside outside of the individual. In the individual/medical model of disability, a disabled person embodies a medical condition, a diseased body that needs to be diagnosed, treated, and returned to the normative order as stated by experts in medicine and education. The individual or the medical model focuses in on the body as that which disables individuals. Whereas, according to the social model of disability, the disabling barriers are outside of the individual who has a single or multiple impairments. An impairment is the individual condition, while disability is socially constructed as indicated in the following passage from a foundational document of the social model of disability: "impairment is defined as a medically defined condition, while disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated or excluded from participation in society" (UPIAS, 1976, p. 14). The contrast between the individual/medical and social models of disability release a conflict in interpretation of what disability is, and will need to be investigated further to allow for new curricula and practices to emerge to best serve disabled persons.

These models of disability also influence the use of the phrases "disabled persons," "persons with disabilities," and "persons with impairments." In the social model of disability, disabilities arise external to the individual and are deemed as barriers which disabled persons encounter on a daily basis. In the general pursuit of political correctness, the phrase "persons with disabilities" has been mistakenly used in place of "persons with impairments." Impairments are embodied conditions, and yet in embracing political correctness, society may have succumbed to the dominant practice of "personhood." In Rod Michalko's (2002) criticism of personhood, he says,

It yields the more ubiquitous placement of disability under the umbrella ideology of "personhood," and thus we are persons first and disabled second; we are "persons with disabilities." This formulation finds it impossible to imagine disability as Other to able-bodiedness. To do so would be to threaten the essence of the able-body as the essentially "natural and normal body." In the transformation of otherness to sameness, disability is given unessential and conditional status. People have a disability; they are not disability. This unimaginative relation to disability generates the contemporary understanding of it as "lack" or as "something missing"…. Their status as people is marked by the signifier of conditionality - person with a disability. They are granted personhood on the condition that they will act as if they were "normal persons with a ____" (p.62, 63).

In society's effort to understand and connect with disabled persons, this sameness is perceived as "ordinary" people who are lacking something, whether it be sight, hearing, or limbs. Society, which is heavily influenced by the medical model of disability, will "do its bit by providing medical, rehabilitative, and special education as methods for transforming otherness into sameness" (Michalko, 2002, p. 63). In the common usage of the phrase "persons with…" treating someone who is the same is perhaps easier or less imaginative than treating someone in relation to their differences. The "other" then becomes mainstreamed into the normative culture, and more readily treated or repaired according to the medical model of disability.

Who is this "other"? If we are to consider that "disability" is the other and it has made an appearance into the world, we need to find meaning in this common practice. As Arendt (1971, p. 22) says: "We are of the world." We need to make sense of "self" and our relation to the other. If we consider that self and the other constitute the whole, the other is therefore part of the whole. Then, as humans, how we orient towards our self is how we need to act towards the other. Segregation has been the hegemonic practice, and yet if we consider disabled persons as part of the whole student population, we need to imagine all students coming together, as human beings, as members of humanity, in the same classrooms and in the same recreation facilities. While this seems optimistic at best, and not our current reality, new ways must be found to advocate for disabled students to appear in mainstream education, as part of a new mandate, to move towards and beyond inclusion. The process of writing has allowed me to learn, to know, to act, and, hopefully, to bring my imagination and ideas forward for change, in a manner that is new and serves the disability community, rather than merely reproducing the normative order. My choice of words will be aligned with the social model of disability and my references then would be to "disabled persons" to acknowledge that the disability is external to the person and is a socially and politically constructed phenomenon. In using the words "disabled persons," my first act of resistance to the dominant culture of personhood and sameness is in my search to understand otherness.

These words "disabled persons" are also first steps in allowing me to be conscious of their absence or their presence in what is being written into the dominant texts of physical education in higher education. This investigation of my interest at hand will require a peeling of "layers" before I can access the "kernel of knowledge."

My interest lies in examining the curricular university programs which aim to address disabled students. In following Schutz's (1970) thoughts, I will need to investigate the intersubjective selves within a world that has a social domain of relevance or hegemonic ideologies, with which we can address our interest at hand. The intersubjective selves in the higher education system will include disabled students, teachers, policy makers, future physical educators, and society at large.

Perspectives from Special Education

Scholarly discussions have recently arisen to question the intent and practice of special education. Historically, the prevailing ideology and practice was to segregate disabled students. The benefits that arose were to provide care for the special children under the guidance of specialists, to keep the schools running in an orderly manner, and to use segregation as a mode of social control. Erevelles (2000) found that historically, special education practices were firstly, a way to banish these "unruly subjects" to special education classrooms in order to rehabilitate them to return them to normal life, and secondly, a poor excuse used to segregate along race, gender and class lines and their relationships to intelligence quotient (IQ) tests and other normative conceptions of education. Special education has been heavily criticized by scholars as noted in the following passage: "Some special education practices are so commonplace that they are taken for granted by professionals and the general public. Yet the views of the insiders — those who receive services — reveal the pain and suffering caused by practices that make use of stigmatizing labels, differential treatment, and exclusions" (Brantlinger, 2004, p.16). Special education subscribes to the individual model of disability and "focuses on deficits, pathology, a scientific approach to disability and is reinforced by a persuasive professional vocabulary to assess and diagnose" (Slee, 2003, p. 52). These insights from special education emphasize the dominance of the medical model within special education, and the consequences of this model are not necessarily benefiting the intended target group of disabled students. There must be new ways of teaching to prevent or eliminate stigmatizing labels, differential treatment and exclusion. A model for inclusion must be imagined, planned, and acted on to address disabled students.

The taken-for-granted, in this case, policies and practices that divert disabled persons into special education programs, can teach us something. We must become "thoughtfully aware of the consequential, the significant in the taken for granted" (Van Manen, 1991, p. 8). How can we not take for granted policies for disabled persons? Can we, according to Schutz (1970), question the hegemonic ideologies, question the language that is being used, and question the current practices? There is much to do if we are to ask: Do we need to segregate disabled persons from the non-disabled population? How can language be changed to remove the stigma of disability in special education and its historical function of taking care of "unruly students" and medically diagnosed disabilities? Do we need special education? Change is necessary to rupture the normative and accepted teaching strategies, and yet, this change must be understood and supported before it can be adopted, and, hopefully, sustained. In addition to concerns about segregation, special education has been criticized for the possibility of providing an inferior education to disabled students (Barton, 2004). While special education can be masked as providing a caring and supportive environment, the low expectations of teachers can result in a low level of achievement for disabled students (Tripp & Rizzo, 2006). Additionally, special education is also seen as the legitimization of the special education professional or expert (Barton, 2004). However, rather than leaving the expertise of disabilities to an elite group, there needs to be a space or an option to consider and legitimize the thoughts, feelings, and voices of disabled students and those who do not share special education's medicalized understanding of disability.

In the prevailing practice of segregation, disabled students are also seen as the "other." Disabled students are deemed different from the "normal" student population. The other is suppressed to allow for the existence of the normal student population and to allow for the normative order to continue. Historically, this other has also been perceived as inadequate and is excluded from the social and cultural environment of the normal world. This other can also be deemed as a feared entity (Barton, 2004). If this other is feared, then the common reaction of teachers has been to remove this fearsome entity so that the normal students can continue with their mainstream classes. Thus, segregation has resulted from an erroneous perception of a student who can be fearsome, unruly, and, in no uncertain terms, a "problem." Disabled students are physically excluded from mainstream education. Disabled students are also excluded from discourses on equity practices. Both exclusions mark off the limits of discussion, and such absences can be interpreted as supporting the "traditional conceptions of disability as a medical condition — a conception that has contributed to defining disabled people as passive clients dependent on medical and social services, rather than a minority group with a political agenda" (Erevelles, 2000, p. 31). In lieu of silence, we need to find new ways to ensure disabled students are welcomed and included in the context of classrooms, schools, policies, and the educational system.

In special education, both a false consciousness and a dual consciousness are present (Brantlinger, 2004). False consciousness implies a superiority of the ruling class over the working class. Dual consciousness implies the belief in inclusive, equitable schooling while there is a parallel push for a segregated school for children for their own class. Thus the faulty construction of superiority amongst upper classes is just as harmful as the internalized inferiority complex amongst the working classes. Additionally, it is necessary that both forms of consciousness be eliminated for there to be equity and social justice (Brantlinger, 2004).

In applying the concept of a false consciousness to the context of the university setting and disabled students, a sense of superiority of the normative order is common place. Facilities, policies and teaching methods are predominantly constructed for the "normal" student without attention to different abilities. When disability makes an appearance, services are only granted to a disabled student provided that he/she can deliver a medical diagnosis or be willing to undergo a battery of tests. In attending to the concept of a dual consciousness, universal instructional methods are often discussed as best practices in pedagogy; however, large undergraduate classes are often destined to be lectures from the lectern. Old buildings, often a cherished expression of cultural capital, which are without elevators or accessible washrooms often deter access to curricular and co-curricular facilities. When a disabled student registers for an academic class or a physical activity session, the prevailing thought would not be to address the barrier to access, but likely would be that disability has appeared as a "problem" which needs to be solved. A dual consciousness will speak with high regard for universal teaching methods and universal design, but it will also prefer that the "problem" appears elsewhere. Disability as a "problem" needs to be deconstructed and transgressed.

Disrupting the Normative Order

To be able to influence change we need to begin with a sense of wonder and consider how we can disrupt the normative order that is exclusive and alienating. If we adopt the premise that "human diversity is a necessary condition to action" (Kristeva, 2001, p. 69), we can follow Arendt's proposal on how we can rupture the common practices to effect meaningful changes: "With word and deed we insert ourselves into the human world, and this insertion is like a second birth, in which we can confirm and take upon ourselves the naked fact of our original physical appearance" (Arendt, 1958, p.176). In higher education, word and deed must be inserted into the consciousness of all who come into contact with disabled persons or with the medical model of disability. Consciousness raising and questioning of attitudes, policies and practices towards disabled students need to happen at all levels from policy makers, teachers, parents, and researchers to begin a widespread educational reform.

From Freire's (1993) theories on conscientization of the oppressed, liberation of marginalized groups involves reflection and action on the world to transform it. This transformation includes the oppressed and the oppressors, or more notably, allies amongst the power structure who can make the changes. Brantlinger (2004) says that "without deep and total ideological conversion among those with the power to shape schools, schooling will always be 'at risk' for having unfair, inequitable, humiliating, and painful practices" (p.20). As we move from consciousness-raising to words and deeds, new discourses on disabled students may change past practices and routine medicalization of disabled persons in educational systems.

This new discourse would require a whole educational shift to move from technically-based to human rights-based solutions. Educational inclusion that is committed to deep cultural transformations can address the fundamental value systems, rituals, routines, initiations and acceptance; however, well-intentioned political actions can provoke emotionally charged outcomes within the struggle for change, as indicated in the following insights:

Were school-based inclusion reform efforts more widely informed by a cultural/historical perspective on disability, the complexity of the inclusion initiatives might prove less threatening for educators. What remains too often true is that for those who attempt this reform matrix in the absence of grappling with its social political dimensions, few are satisfied, many are sacrificed, and others simply surrender just short of rewriting the fundamental value systems that drive everyday exclusionary practice in schools (Ware, 2004, p.185).

In rewriting fundamental value systems as in the mission and value statements of educational institutions, we can practice the insertion of our words and deeds to enact change towards a more inclusive system and set the first stage in removing the segregation of disabled persons. Similarly, Barton (2004) explicitly implores us to contest and critique the current exclusionary practices which dictate that special education is necessary, that disabled persons need protection from the mainstream classes, that normal students need to be protected, that special education teachers are the only way, and that administrative efficiency is optimized. There is a call to work inside the systems to transform them — including policies, structural modifications and cultural transformations — to expose the "fundamental value system" if it is to be rewritten (Ware, 2004). There is a need to challenge the taken-for-granted assumptions about disability in schools and society, such as the dominant individual/medical model and the professional discourses, and to locate political actions that campaign on the basis of human rights.

In adopting Freire's liberation theory, Ware (2004) emphasizes the struggle for liberation within a pedagogy of hope and says:

To understand that inclusion is about more than the issues of special education, of schooling in general and of re-inventing systems to appreciate the struggle for changing attitudes about disability/ability and locating this initiative within a campaign for human rights. To do otherwise by minimizing the social-political and moral implications of educational inclusion but ensures the worst form of naiveté. (p. 200)

This call to action is not a single move, but a collection of thoughtful strategies to provoke all who support human rights to take a position against marginalization and discrimination. To do anything less would be almost unthinkable if we are members of the human race. This call to action is powerful and disturbing, and hopefully provocative enough to build a critical mass of thoughtful individuals to rupture society's normative and unquestioned practices.

There is a need for hope in the struggle for change, which arises from the context of inequality and discriminatory social conditions; that the current conditions can be a cause is essential for motivation and inspiration (Barton, 2004). A political analysis is a precondition for change. Barton (2004) suggests an understanding of the hierarchical model of policy and policy-making, groups who are included and excluded from the policy making process, alliances that are made, negotiation processes, language used, and the various levels of policies which include the written (reports and laws), the stated (what we say we do), and the enacted policy (what we do in the classroom).

As we look outward in our struggle for human rights, Heshusius (2004) reminds readers to pursue a self-reflective search for an explanation for exclusion since there is "the need of the inner self to defend its images of what it finds desirable for the self, and thus exclude from participation those who threaten these images" (p. 158). To transgress exclusion, a shift in consciousness requires understanding that the inner self and the other are one. If this theory became a prevailing ideology, then "no one would have any inner fears for those who are very different" (Heshusius, 2004, p. 161). In Arendt's discussion of the "who" and the "that which" as we perceive others, the "who" is the complex individual, and the "that which" is how others appear to us. In relation to disabled persons, we need to understand the complex individual, rather than judge him/her by appearances, which are always clouded by our own judgments, assumptions, and social-political construction of disability. Thus we need to examine the taken-for-granted practices that target disabled persons and the routine conceptions of disability within educational environments.

Critical Reflections on University Practices

The social model of disability can influence the way physical education is taught to future physical educators, and, if done well, can benefit disabled students. In understanding that impairment is defined as a medically defined condition and disability is a social construction, there has been a change in how adapted physical activity (APA) is being perceived. The definition of APA from the 1970s defined APA as "the science of analyzing movement, identifying problems in the psychomotor domain, and developing instructional strategies" (Hutzler & Sherrill, 2007, p. 2). This changed to a 2007 definition of APA as "a knowledge base supporting the development of activities and delivery of services in the field of sport and physical activity of participants with disabilities" (Hutzler & Sherrill, 2007, p.15). The latter statement aligns more closely to the social model of disability by addressing activities and services rather than a more individualized approach which takes aim at movements within the psychomotor domain.

These different orientations demonstrate that how we perceive disability and how we derive meaning can be explored through text. The text was written based on the intersubjectivity of the APA "experts" and how they perceived the world. How disability is perceived and constructed is different now than in the 1970s, and varies in different cultures. Raising consciousness and finding ways to change and transform attitudes, to remove and eliminate social-political barriers, and to support empowerment and self-determination with physical education programs will require research and theorizing.

To answer the threshold question of "What must disability be for it to be transformed from either a social model or the individual/medical model?" we must look in an alternative or "Third Space" (Bhabha, 1994) of our imagination and work towards an image of disability as a respected difference amongst humanity. Disability is a difference. Disability is an even more complex difference if we consider how it intersects with the social identities of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This difference also requires a voice, a voice that can articulate the complex "who" as opposed to the "that which" in relation to others. This difference can also be referred to as a source of knowledge, so that we can engage with disabled students on how to optimally prepare for teaching physical education differently. Disability needs to make an appearance on all social, political and human rights agendas, with language, practice, and policies that will create the space to rupture the current hegemonic everyday experiences

University graduates of physical education academic courses which embrace the individual/medical model will have received a narrow view of disability and how to treat the individual conditions, when there is obviously more at stake than the corporeal embodiment of impairments. Disability studies can inform course curriculum development as an "educative tool for scholars to educate society at large about barriers and empowerment issues related to disability, societal responses to disability, artistic expressions, [and] representations (Johnstone, Lubet and Goldfine, 2008). In Hutzler and Sherrill's (2007) discourse on adapted physical activity, the current definition has evolved to align more with the social model of disability, and yet this new definition has not influenced the curricula of university physical education programs. Rehabilitation continues to make an appearance as a mainstay of disability as an identity which is in need of training as a way to return to sport or to the "normative" order (Garland-Thomson, 1997). Most universities have chosen not to include the words "disabled persons" or "disability" within the course titles or descriptions. Disability, as a social identity, is often excluded and marginalized. Additionally, some courses have chosen to use the phrase "persons with disabilities." This person first terminology reproduces a need for normalcy, and a disabled person is considered a member of society as if the impairment did not exist. This acts as a conditional acceptance into the normative order. To resist the dominance of "personhood" (Michalko, 2002), we need to critique its taken-for-granted practice that is prevalent in physical education curriculum, educational institutions, and everyday language.

To re-imagine an inclusive physical education curriculum, requires more than the change or addition in words. While there is a need to change words such as "persons with disabilities" to "disabled persons," or add in words such as "disability" to textual representations, there needs to be a paradigm shift from the individual model of disability to the social model of disability in the mindsets of the people who hold the power to implement curricular changes and in society in general. For this shift to begin, disability needs to become a valued presence by re-orienting our perceptions and openness to difference. The voices of those who have been silenced and marginalized need to be included in this shift. A dialogical discourse with and for disabled persons is a necessity. As Stiker (1999) proposes a way forward for change, he says "we must attempt to think integration out from difference" (p. 192), rather than trying to bring difference back to the norm, as in so many courses which focus on the individualized programs which aim to rehabilitate. Inclusion can result from differences, but there are parameters on how this can happen. Michalko (2002) suggests that:

The idea and possibility of inclusion precedes both sets of adaptation. An individual must think that he or she is in an environment to which he or she belongs in order to adapt to it. Similarly, society must think that disability is in it and belongs in it in order for it to adapt to disability. (p. 163)

This excerpt can influence how Adapted Physical Activity can be viewed from the vantage point of curriculum development. The critical factor in Adapted Physical Activity then lies in the new activities and sports which can be developed for disabled persons, and not in trying to adapt the disabled person to traditional sports and games. By embracing disability as a much wanted social identity, space is created for the opportunity for "belongingness" and "differences", and with these commitments, change can occur. Disability will then be a welcomed appearance within course titles and descriptions, and amongst participants.

The disabled person can be the agent for change. As Smith (2005) writes about the body, she says that the "body isn't something to be looked at or even theorized. It is rather the site of consciousness, mind, thought, subjectivity, and agency as particular people's local doing" (p. 25). In extrapolating her thought to the disabled body, disability can be valued as an agency for change. Agency can stimulate education, dialogical discourse, and tools of culture such as university course descriptions. Desiring the lived experiences of disability as a "position of privilege" (Burgstahler and Cory, 2008) can allow this agency to be realized through the feedback of disabled persons on curriculum development. Desiring disability can enable positive changes for the field of physical education.

Despite the absence of disability in our current cultural representations, therein lies hope. Pronger (2002) says that "absence is the gift that makes presence possible" (p.82) as he speaks thoughtfully on how seemingly negative situations can also be deemed hopeful ones:

In movement, absence is the opening, the clearing, the empty space, the freedom, through which presence is actualized. Absence opens presence, allows presence the freedom to be present. Absence is the essential 'space ahead' that allows presence to happen, giving presence the very possibility of coming to presence. Absence draws presence into presence. (p. 81)

Thus, the absence of disability that is found in curricular university practices necessitates a transgression beyond inclusion which allows for the desiring of differences.

The Meaning of Identity Politics

The hegemonic use of language with reference to disability often evokes three interrelated meanings. The first negative function of labelling is the association with connotations of weakness, helplessness, and dependency while the second negative function generalizes and equates a person with an impairment, as in "the amputee" or "the blind" (Zola, 1993, p. 168). In addition to the two negative functions identified by Zola, words such as "special populations" and "challenged populations" conjure up a form of "governmentality" or control over a group of people (Foucault, 2007).

The words "special population" and "special education" are still prevalent in culture and in university curricula. The meanings of "special populations" and "special education" can be drawn from Foucault's (2007) concepts of populations, territory, power, and the panopticon. In writing about the eighteenth century, Foucault highlighted how power was accrued through acquiring extensive territories and their populations. Foucault (2007) considers that populations can be "effectively trained, divided up, distributed, and fixed by regulatory mechanisms" (p. 69). This imposition of control is given the term "governmentality" (Foucault, 2007). Governmentality exists as "an ensemble of institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, calculations and tactics that allow the exercise of this specific, albeit very complex, power that has the population as its target" (Foucault, 2007, p. 108). Drawing from this meaning of population, the phrases "special populations" and "special education" to refer to disabled persons conjure up negative images of control and power. Furthermore, when disabled persons are segregated into special education programs, this action allows for the reproduction of power and the panopticon effect. This metaphor, which was developed by Foucault, relates how the watch tower of a prison allows for visual access to all the inmates' cells and hence represents the exercise of power and surveillance. While the prisoners are on display, there is a spot within the centre of the panopticon that is free from critical gaze. When the panopticon metaphor is applied to special education, the surveillance is directed onto the segregated persons, and yet, the institutional systems are free from critical gaze and remain unquestioned. Consequently, certain phrases such as special populations and special education have been used in text and everyday language without an understanding of the underlying ramifications of words of control and power. In using words such as special population and special education, these euphemisms also make disability absent in everyday encounters and in current university physical education culture.

A poignant statement by Connor and Ferri (2007) emphasises the paradox underlying special education:

Supporters of inclusion have held a mirror to special education and asked 'what is so special?' Used as a euphemism, 'special' serves as a gauze curtain behind which the word 'disabled' resides — perhaps too painful to be confronted as is. Sadly, more often than not 'special' (i.e. disability) becomes synonymous with exclusion, segregation and marginalization. (p. 64)

As a movement against segregation, inclusive physical education has been advocated since the late 1980s (Connor & Ferri, 2007), and yet there is still controversy on how to move forward with the concept and ideal practice of inclusion.

Universities which lean towards the medical model of disability continue to use words such as challenged populations, special populations, movement disorders, systems, mental retardation, labelling, case studies, assessment and evaluation. They have omitted phrases such as "disabled persons" and "persons with disabilities." The phrases "disabled persons" or "persons with disabilities" have very different meanings. From the perspective of the social model of disability, the preferred phrase is "disabled persons" since the descriptor refers to the social-political barriers which disable persons. Similarly, a disability activist would choose to identify as a blind person or as belonging to the deaf community to assert the importance of the impairment as an integral part of his or her self-identity. This act of naming encourages an identity politics which supports the disability rights movement. Appropriating the words which signify differently abled persons is an intentional act of resistance and of pride (Zola, 1993). Naming or self-identifying oneself can be an act of resistance against the pervasive negative associations with phrases such as the "challenged," "afflicted with," "suffering from," "confined to a wheelchair," and the "crippled." Taking action also minimizes the "stigma [that] comes about from a process of generalizing from a single experience, people are treated categorically rather than individually and are devalued in the process" (Zola, 1993, p. 169). Pride comes from the insider knowledge gained from being different and having the embodied experience of living with an impairment.

While the social model of disability takes a disembodied stance on impairment, Hughes and Paterson (1997) have argued that "the impaired body is a 'lived body.' Disabled people experience impairment, as well as disability, not in separate Cartesian compartments, but as part of a complex interpenetration of oppression and affliction" (pp. 334-335). This unique way of being in the world can provide new or more specifically informed understandings of impairment and disability. Additionally, pride stems from an "intercorporeality" whereby "bodies become social bodies by virtue of the fact that they share the same space or field of perception" (Hughes & Paterson, 1997,p. 336). The interrelationship between bodies or persons can raise the awareness and the understanding of disability. Fear or anxiety can often result from not having made contact with a disabled person or persons in a dominant culture which privileges "normalcy." Such an ablist culture would assume that a disabled person is the "other," but if we embrace the concept of sharing the same space or field of perception or humanity, this "other" who depicts a uniqueness or a difference could give rise to a new and valued understanding of disability.

The Voice Discourse and Lived Experiences

Special education is grounded in the medical model of disability, and serves to reproduce segregation and the long standing oppression against disabled people. In questioning the academic and social benefits of special education, disability activists brought to the forefront the foundations which supported this segregation. These systemic structures included academic journals, certified teachers, researchers, separate schools, funding sources, and professionals including counsellors, evaluators, therapists, and psychologists. As a resistance to this form of institutionalized oppression, inclusion has been advocated as an alternative to special education.

The movement towards inclusion has been trackable within the literature. Inclusion, however, has yet to be wholeheartedly embraced by all physical educators. In re-imagining inclusive physical education, change needs to occur at the attitudinal level before inclusion can be fully valued and engaged at an institutional one. Friere (1985) can offer some insights on attitudinal change as he comments on the culture of silence:

The Culture of Silence is not a culture consciously imposed upon the many by a few, but arises as a result of relations between the dominator and dominated social groups. The dependent masses become the silent masses — they develop a weak voice trying to reiterate the values and live out the ideals of that which is presented as legitimate by the strong voice of the dominant group. The dominant may not be conscious of their complicity in this silencing procedure, the dominated may not be conscious of their complicity by acquiescing. (p. 321)

Negative attitudes from physical educators still tend to create an otherness which in turn tends to be silenced, dismissed and/or excluded. To move from a rhetoric and policy of inclusion towards a realization of inclusive practices, physical educators need to be consciously made aware of how their overt acts of negative attitudes and how their dismissive actions are silencing disabled students. This complicity of silencing can occur at the student-teacher level as well as at the institutional level. Empathy sessions with non-disabled wheelchair use can provoke a silencing act. How can a single use by a non-disabled individual capture the lived experiences of a wheelchair user who faces barriers and marginalization throughout everyday encounters?

There is very little emphasis placed on the social model of disability within university curricula. The dominant practice thus emphasises that the valued and valuable knowledge resides in an adherence to the medical model of disability. Course titles and descriptions which have been developed by professional educators are valued and wield sufficient power to exclude other forms of knowledge (Gibson, 2006). Essentially, in a culture of silence, the voices of the institutional professionals dominate the voices of disabled persons. While professionals can best assert their authority and knowledge, who can best give voice and authority to a disabled person's learning experiences?

It has been argued that an enhanced understanding of both the medical and social models of disability can be best understood through the lived experiences of disabled persons (Burgstahler and Cory, 2008; Gibson, 2006; Hughes and Paterson, 1997). To think otherwise, requires time, space, intention, and a shift in the mindsets of non-disabled persons to embrace a dialogical discourse on the possibilities for change, as indicated in this passionate passage:

what readjustments are required can be known only once 'free' and 'open' dialogue occurs — dialogue of the sort alluded to where once 'imprisoned' voices are set free, engaged with and really listened to, where the complexities and challenges involved are not shied away from but engaged with, where 'right', 'participation', 'choice' and 'celebration of diversity' become more than buzzwards located in policy documents, and where educational practices and pedagogy become processes where all learn from and through each other, evolving the self and enhancing the lives of all. (Gibson, 2006, p. 326)

Physical education curricula needs to seek out innovative ways to enhance and increase meaningful interactions with disabled persons knowing that dialogical discourse matters and is a necessity for positive changes in attitudes.

Re-imagining Language in Physical Education Curriculum

The process of deep change is an intersection between a comprehensive understanding of the theories of education, disability studies, human rights and change. This theory of education takes into account content, pedagogy, moral purpose, and knowledge, while the theory of change addresses policies, strategies, and mechanisms to be used, in effect, to implement the theories of education (Fullan, 2003). This change model emphasizes that the initial change begins with a moral purpose, quality relationships and quality ideas: "Moral purpose gives people a glimpse of the future. Even if the future isn't clear, strong moral purpose helps to embody hope rather than fear," says Fullan (2003, p. 36). In a similar vein, ethical principles like inclusion and dignity also help to ground transformative pedagogy (Camacho & Fernandez-Balboa, 2006). Transformation begins with being self-critically aware of the conceptions of disability which are already in our midst. Quality relationships and quality ideas can foster initial changes, such as understanding the needs of each student and building on the various domains of knowledge - cognitive, affective, physical, and spiritual - acquired through lectures, reflections, client interactions, open dialogue, and consciousness-raising. Quality relationships can develop the capacity-building process with key contacts and a strong network of allies for change. Quality ideas can more readily become reality with the backing of people who can make a difference. The combination of a strong moral purpose, quality relationships, and quality ideas can have an exponential impact on individuals and collectives who face social oppression, and physical educators who work towards equity on a daily basis. Disability studies can point to an understanding of marginalized and oppressed groups and the possible changes that can be implemented to improve society's inability to address the barriers to disabled persons.

Re-imagining an inclusive physical education program begins prior to any word being written for a course title or description. Changes to the current courses which are intended to teach future physical educators how to work with disabled students demand that educators and administrators embrace a self-critical reflection of the current conceptions of disability, expose the various articulations of disability, break the culture of silence, and engage disabled persons. Disability needs to be valued and, through this change in values, disability can intentionally be made to appear in course titles and descriptions. While a single course cannot do justice to the breadth of information that is needed in working with disabled persons and addressing all of the social-political barriers, I would like to propose a new course title and description which could encapsulate essential features that can then be extended to curriculum development for multi-year courses. To address the absence of disability in the title, I would propose that a first initiative would be to include the word "disability." As an advocate for disability rights, I would suggest a new university undergraduate course title could be: Disability, Society and Physical Education. The words are chosen intentionally to facilitate the appearance of disability, to reflect the influence of the social model of disability and the relationship of these two to the study of physical education.

In thinking about the social model of disability, the importance of contact with disabled students, and a change education model, I would like to propose a course description to support a course entitled Disability, Society and Physical Education:

In developing an understanding of the difference between impairment and disability, each student will develop skills, knowledge and attitudes to better address barriers to physical education. A critical analysis of social, political, systemic, technological, structural and attitudinal barriers will be addressed with respect to physical education within different settings. By participating in local community organizations, students will gain an appreciation of lived experiences and disabled persons as key informants through the pedagogy of service-learning. To advance disability rights, students will investigate existing barriers and develop change possibilities, having been informed by knowledge gained through their self-critical awareness of the current conceptions of disability, lived experiences, current research studies, and dialogical methods to theorize and embrace transformative physical education in settings which include educational institutions, recreation centres, and sport organizations.

Re-imagining inclusive physical education requires an understanding of how the current course titles and descriptions are constructing the meaning of disability. Revisions of course titles and descriptions need to move forward by including the words disability or disabilities within the text. Further revisions to the curriculum can be best made when there are disabled persons to speak as expert informants about curriculum content and pedagogy. A transformative physical education curriculum can provide a role model for a supportive environment in which future physical educators can learn and build positive attitudes towards working with disabled persons.

Meaningful change can happen at the personal level of physical educators, but it is the intentional awareness and effort of multiple levels of power within educational institutions which can solidify the necessary practice for transformation. Educators at all levels then need to be accountable and responsible to disabled persons by removing barriers to change, and this begins with the interrogation of textual representations found in university curricula.


As I have become critical of university culture and its construction of disability, I have also become consciously aware of my agency in supporting disability rights. My initial wonder of disability and physical education has travelled a journey of inquiry into disability and university culture. My reflections have provoked a need to find meaning and new ways of representing disability. Disability studies as it intersects with the field of physical education leads me to question the taken-for-granted, and informs my own interpretations of curricular text. In re-reading texts and re-imagining what could be otherwise, I have contributed to new meanings and desires for disability and physical education within academic courses in physical education. With hope for the future, I insert my writing into the world as an act to persuade university culture to think differently and to desire disability within physical education.

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