In this critical community self-study, we describe the development of the Interdisciplinary Disability and Inclusion Research Collaborative (IDIRC) at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. IDIRC is a self-organizing collective involving eleven faculty, students and staff devoted to Critical Disability Studies (CDS) and the relationships between CDS, practice and social change. We ask: What are the social relations, commitments, activities, and research needs of this university's researchers, students and staff in relation to disability and inclusion? Through a constant comparative analysis of interview data we surfaced themes related to the social relations, commitments, activities and research needs of our members. Our findings and discussion illustrate how similar cross-disciplinary groups might build inclusive spaces, which unite staff, graduate students and faculty towards disrupting normativity, interdisciplinarity, and praxis within and beyond academia. IDIRC attends to the embodiment of values and theoretical perspectives that are relational, diversity-positive, intersectional and advocacy-oriented.


An initial conversation in 2013 at University of British Columbia Okanagan between two faculty and a staff member who shared an interest in Critical Disability Studies evolved into the Interdisciplinary Disability and Inclusion Research Collaborative (IDIRC). IDIRC rapidly grew to include diverse faculty, staff, and graduate students from the faculties and departments of Art History, Critical Studies, Creative Studies, Education, and Social Work. Discussions focused on overlapping interests in inclusion, Disability Studies, and critical theory-oriented research and practice. The group immediately recognized the potential of cross-disciplinary research and identified a need for a critical approach to Disability Studies that could support conceptualizing, researching, and creatively working towards inclusion and disability rights on campus and in our community beyond the university. The University of British Columbia Okanagan's expressed focus on interdisciplinarity complemented our individual and collective activities related to inclusion and social justice, which provided IDIRC with fertile ground for knowledge generation, informed action, and community engagement.

In this self-study research we take up, document, and apply a relational epistemology (Thayer-Bacon, 2003) resonant with community development approaches. We have called our approach to self-study critical community self-study. We will discuss this approach further in our methodology section. Through documenting, strengthening, and evolving our relationships and networks as IDIRC, we strive, through our critical community self-study process, to generate research possibilities towards: sustainable cross-faculty and interdisciplinary research collaborations; mentorship opportunities for graduate students within a community of inquiry; and, meaningful community partnerships. We aspire to serve as a model for interdisciplinary collaboration and research from critical perspectives towards community action, empowerment, and social change for inclusion.

The common threads that connect IDIRC members include similar theoretical positionings—critical theory, feminist theories, queer theory, and attention to the interlocking aspects of power relations—coupled with investments in inclusion and critical interrogations of the processes of disablism and ableism (Goodley, 2014; 2017). By naming both disablism and ableism, we recognize the complex ways that disablism and ableism interlock and collude to produce processes of exclusion and violence against disabled people while at the same time producing ableism and enabled subjects. In line with Goodley (2014), we ask,

How do the processes of disablism and ableism differ from but also feed into one another? How can activists, researchers, allies and practitioners associated with what we might loosely define as the disability field address the contemporary concerns facing disabled and non-disabled people in a time of austerity? (p. ix)

We draw from Critical Disability Studies (CDS) as a means to understand how disability is produced through social and cultural spheres (Linton, 1998, McRuer, 2013). CDS problematizes biomedical practices that locate disability within an individual's body. By using biomedical "practices," we contend that it is not simply biomedicine per se that produces disablism and ableism, rather it is the medical "representations, diagnoses, and treatments of bodily variation [that] are imbued with ideological biases about what constitutes normalcy and deviance" that underpins and produces disablism and ableism (Kafer, 2013, p.6). This shifts the gaze from the disabled figure to an interrogation of how "normative culture promulgates its own precarious position through demonising disabled people" (Goodley, 2017, p. 15). As such, our aim is to interrogate and expose social relations and assumptions such as normalcy and ableism that produce the disabled subject, and to examine our own complicitness in these practices (Campbell 2009; Titchkosky, 2011).

This self-study inquiry of IDIRC theorizes the beginning of our learning community. Through exploring how IDIRC members are positioned as scholars, researchers, and practitioners in relation to each other and to communities beyond the university (e.g., community organizations, research networks, social and philosophical movements), we seek to conceptualize and communicate the processes of forming an interdisciplinary research community. Through our study we also seek to identify further areas of inquiry emerging from how inclusion, in terms of disability and ability, is being practiced at our institution.

Our university is situated in a city with a population of 135,000 and in a region experiencing an unprecedented period of growth in the education, health, and technology sectors. However, with this growth has come a spotlight on how institutions deal with the many unresolved issues surrounding social justice and equity issues. For example, the University of British Columbia Okanagan is located on unceded First Nation territory, and the findings and calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015) resonate strongly with the many Indigenous peoples in this area. While the focus of our collaboration is on disability and inclusion, not surprisingly, disability issues often intersect with other marginalizing practices such as those encountered by our Indigenous communities. The ways in which our university positions itself in terms of acknowledging and addressing marginalizing practices has implications for the members of this research collaborative.

Questions that guided our inquiry include: What are the social relations, commitments, activities, and research needs of the University of British Columbia Okanagan researchers and staff in relation to disability and inclusion? How might an interdisciplinary research collaborative nurture social action related to disability and inclusion within a post-secondary institution? In this article we present the findings of our critical community self-study process followed by a discussion of these key questions to better understand how inclusive and critical inquiry spaces might be created in higher education. We explore how our process supports and contributes to cross-disciplinary Critical Disability Studies research in terms of how collaborative research groups similar to IDIRC might build inclusive spaces that unite staff, graduate students, and faculty towards advocating for disability rights within and beyond academia.

Sensitizing Theoretical Lenses

The study of disability has historically been the purview of the therapeutic disciplines, medicine, and the social sciences. Shaped through these disciplines, much of the knowledge generated has been underpinned by notions of normalcy thus focusing on the pathology and an individualization of disability (Goodley, 2017; Linton, 1998). As disability studies has developed over the past three decades, scholars have critiqued this analysis of disability as problematic and strictly medicalized (Titchkosky, 2009; Watermeyer, 2012). A medical model of disability favours interventions that cure or fix the disabled person to help them better fit in with existing social norms and physical environments (Barnes & Shakespeare, 1999; Goodley, 2017). Further, this approach was supported by the sociological understanding of disability as an involuntary deviance, subject to stigma, that requires individual coping skills (Titchkosky, 2009). Over time, understandings have moved from a unified concept of disability as problematic, to embrace multiple conceptions of disability. Numerous models of disability exist and continue to emerge and evolve such as: the social model of disability (Finkelstein, 2002; Oliver, 1999), a human rights approach to disability (Degener, 2016), a cultural approach to conceptualizing disability (Goodley, 2017), identity-oriented conceptions of disability (Siebers, 2010), and a political/relational model (Kafer, 2013).

Over IDIRC's time together, we have explored and moved towards cultural and political/relational perspectives on disability. When viewed as a cultural concept with political/relational considerations, disability has broad reaching impacts that can provide "a prism through which one can gain a broader understanding of society and human experience" (Linton, 1998, p. 118). Moreover, as Garland-Thomson (2002) asserts,

understanding how disability operates as an identity category and cultural concept [enhances] how we understand what it is to be human, our relationships with one another, and the experience of embodiment… disability is the most human of experiences, touching every family and—if we live long enough—touching us all. (p. 5)

The resultant reframing of disability as a political, cultural, relational, and social phenomenon has interdisciplinary implications, yet, the call to take up disability as a place from which to theorize has not been broadly accepted (Goodley, 2013). Linton (1998) noted that the treatment of disability in academia has yet to catch up with changing social structures and legislative advances in the civic world. While Linton made this claim in 1998, we argue that few gains have been made and much is left to be done (Dolmage, 2017; Pena, Stapleton, & Schaffer, 2016; Titchkosky, 2012). This observation is proven as many scholarly disciplines still lack consideration or incorporation of disability in their curricula; and, when disability is observed, the common standpoint remains one informed by an individual model of disability reproducing the disabled subject (Goodley, 2014). Thus, in the same ways that critical white studies and queer studies interrupt white privilege and heteronormativity, CDS seeks to interrupt the privileging of normative practices and perspectives that produce both the enabled and disabled subjects. By exposing and interrogating the ways in which disability has been "imbued with meanings(s)" and re-assigning meanings that are "consistent with a sociopolitical analysis" (Linton, 1998, p. 10), critical disability scholars and activists challenge and disrupt normative practices. Such a project underscores the need for an increased and comprehensive interdisciplinary dialogue that theorizes both disability and ability while it challenges privileged normative practices.

Disability issues often intersect with marginalizing practices experienced by other non-dominant communities. Disability is also used to substantiate other forms of oppression through the 'attribution of biological inferiority' (Dolmage, 2017, p10). Further, we recognize that when issues of diversity, oppression, and intersectionality are attended to, disability often remains the absent "other" (Goodley, 2013; McRuer, 2006; Price 2010; Sherry, 2004). For example, the ways in which universities position themselves in terms of acknowledging and addressing marginalizing practices for those with diversities are rich in social criticism. Yet, when we turn to disability, the problem is that academe produces and reproduces disablism and ableism (Dolmage, 2017; Price, 2010).

The manner in which we, as individuals, operate within the university system varies depending on our own positionality within and outside of the institutional environment. When we speak of positionality, we refer to the multiplicity of ways of being, identifying, belonging, and not belonging we hold in each of our lives and how these change over time and across contexts (Hulko, 2009). If we are to impact the structures and practices of the university, we need to look at the ways in which our various positions 'bump up' against each other at the same time they may interlock, to support and sustain each other to embrace and enact cultural and political/relational perspectives on disability within university culture (Goodley & Runswick-Cole, 2014; Michalko, 2008; Thompson, 2005). As Linton (1998) argues, "It is incumbent on [scholars] to pay particular attention to their own [identities], their own privilege as non-disabled people, and the relationship of theses factors to their scholarship" (p. 537).

As a group, we take up a diversity of subject positions with respect to our disciplinary histories, our locations within the institution as well as our gender, race, sexual orientation, dis/ability, and family configurations, to name some. With respect to disability, some of our members identify as disabled while some of us identify as contingently non-disabled. And, we advance that both disabled and non-disabled/enabled people have a responsibility to deliberately engage with CDS in their scholarship and teaching to avoid reproducing ableism (Garland Thomson, 2002; Kafer, 2013).

A lack of critical theorizing of disability in higher education is problematic: is the purpose of academia to reproduce normative notions or to challenge, expand, and interrupt them? Given the foundations upon which universities are built (such as, seeking truth, knowledge, inquiry, enlightenment), how can universities interrogate themselves as sites of knowledge production in line with society's increased need to contend with pluralism and achieve equity, democracy, and social justice? CDS critiques the production of truth and knowledge, and challenges how we (re)produce power through status quo discourses and structures. Deconstruction of these discourses and structures as well as analyses of diversities that include intersectional and interlocking identities and forms of oppression (Hulko, 2009) are germane to current critical theoretical thought. We seek to advance the imperative to include a critical theorizing of disability and ability within the academy as one site of resistance to normative practices that privilege abledness as well as interrogate our complicitness with these processes.


We offer critical community self-study as a methodology. We conceptualize critical community self-study by drawing from the traditions of institutional ethnography (Smith, 2001; 2005) and practitioners of self-study (Hurtado, Carter, & Kardia, 1998; LaBoskey, 2004; Loughran, Hamilton, LaBoskey & Russell, 2004). In researching IDIRC's activities we attend to complexities arising from social structures, language use and meaning-making, and the formation of identities through interlocking privileges and forms of oppression (Erevelles, 2005, 2010; Goodley, 2014; Hulko, 2009). With the practice of critical community self-study, we need diverse lenses to make sense of our identities and experiences. By considering how our experiences, roles, and identities are shaped by our own diversities, we draw on critical theoretical traditions, such as queer studies (e.g., Loutzenheiser; 2007; Pinar, 1998; Sedgwick, 1990), feminist theory (e.g., Butler, 2011; Lather, 1991), critical race theory (e.g., hooks; 2012; Ladson-Billings, 2005), and CDS (e.g., Garland-Thomson, 2009; Goodley, 2017; Kafer, 2013; McRuer, 2006) to make sense of our experiences.

From these analytical lenses, we reflexively engage in the construction of knowledge towards unearthing the complex commitments, tensions, and negotiations that make up the work of inclusive praxis. As scholars, researchers, graduate students, and university staff we are working to develop a collaborative cross-disciplinary community that supports generative approaches to scholarship and builds capacity within the university for working from critical perspectives. This study contributes a methodology for promoting and creating spaces of inclusion and equity by making visible the theoretical, relational, and positional commitments of faculty, staff, and students as we negotiate and create intersectional CDS praxis within a university.


After ethics approval was received, all eleven IDIRC members participated in interviews, which were conducted by a graduate research assistant who was also a member of the IDIRC community. All recruitment materials stated that participation in the study was voluntary and that individuals could withdraw from the study at any time without personal or professional repercussions. Recruitment materials also outlined that participants/members would have the opportunity to read through and revise/edit their interview transcripts. Participants included faculty members from Art History, Creative Writing, Critical Studies, Education, and Social Work; three university staff members from the Disability Resource Centre, Office of Equity and Inclusion, and Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship; and, two graduate students from Social Work and Women's Studies.

Data collection.

An interview protocol was developed collaboratively by IDIRC members over the course of several meetings. The questions in the protocol focused on the social relations, commitments, activities, and research needs of IDIRC members. The questions sought to surface our understandings and practices with regards to inclusion, disability studies, and critical theory-oriented research (See Figure 1). Interviews were conducted in a semi-structured manner by the graduate research assistant. The GRA was interviewed by another member of IDIRC. All interviews were recorded and transcribed by the GRA.

Data analysis.

Participants member-checked their transcripts for any discrepancies and clarified ambiguously-worded statements as needed. A constant comparative analysis (Miles, Huberman & Saldaña, 2014) informed by our first research question was employed. The research question asked: What are the social relations, commitments, activities, and research needs of the University of British Columbia Okanagan researchers, staff, and students in relation to disability and inclusion? Over four months, IDIRC members met to collaboratively code our interview data with this question in mind. Reading a common transcript, we first used open-coding, developed categories, and then sub-themes within each category. Based on these categories and sub-themes we iteratively developed our codebook by examining examples through this constant comparative analysis. Patterns emerged as we coded more transcripts. Analysis led to describing IDIRC members' roles and goals, research projects, academic and community partners, theoretical and methodological positioning, and participation in activist and advocacy communities.


Emerging from our research question and iterative data analysis, we developed two primary themes of interest: social relations and commitments of IDIRC. We will describe the two themes in detail in our findings, and then discuss how these themes inform the contributions and directions of IDIRC in our discussion. Through our collaborative, iterative coding process we identified sub-themes, with at least half of these being refined into smaller units of analysis.

Theme One: Social Relations

The social relations theme emerged as a response to the broad question: who am I relating to? IDIRC members discussed two sub-themes: tangible social relations and social positions. Tangible social relations refers to how we are positioned within networks of people, and social positions refers to how we are positioned within networks of ideas and practices.

Tangible social relations.

Within the first sub-theme of tangible social relations, the following categories emerged: 'family', 'groups/organizations', and 'university affiliation'. 'Family' referred to IDIRC members' roles as parent, child, or spouse. Seven of eleven participants shared how it was their family relations that primarily influenced their choices and positions as critically-oriented and social justice-oriented in the work they do in relation to inclusion and disability. Within the university context there were differences in terms of how the influence of these familial relations manifested. Examples of these differences included choices made about areas of study, employment roles, advocacy work, and activism. For example, one faculty member's blind parents were advocates within disability communities and early on this set him on a path as both a special educator and activist, and eventually informed his work in critical pedagogy and scholarship. A student member of IDIRC discussed how having a child identified as disabled deeply informed her understandings and approaches to her studies and career in Social Work. And, a staff member who parents an adult son with a developmental disability brought together graduate studies, advocacy and employment, when she both founded a community arts organization for artists with developmental disabilities, and completed her Master's research on artists with developmental disabilities.

The category 'groups/organizations' helped us to see how our members participated in a range of groups, organizations, and structures formed for a purpose. These groups/organizations typically focused on disability and advocacy or activist work or, if not explicitly disability based, the group/organization engaged an IDIRC member in relation to disability. These groups/organizations usually had names and were tangible entities. Most of the interviewees discussed organizations that they work for or with such as the Respect Network, the Disabled Women's Network, Disability Rights Promotion International, Community Living British Columbia, the South Interior Employment Network, WorkBC, and the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Several members have participated as board or committee members in organizations such as the Child Development Centre, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the National Educational Association of Disabled Students, and Cool Arts. A few work within or in association with university service centers such as the Disability Resource Centre and the Equity and Inclusion Office. Finally, some members connected to professional organizations such as the Council for Exceptional Children.

The final tangible social relations category, 'university affiliations' referred to relationships that involved roles and responsibilities taking place in universities, such as academic supervisor-supervisee or staff-student relationships. University relationships varied within the group to include students, professors, service providers, and staff. Several interviewees discussed shifts in their relationships over time such as moving from being graduate students together to faculty colleagues. Another pair shared how they shifted from being in a graduate student-faculty supervisor relationship, to a staff member-director role within the same Centre.

The first sub-theme, tangible social relations, helped us to see the similar kinds of groups, institutional affiliations and identifiable communities we depend upon to do inclusion and equity work. These networks were not particularly surprising, but did serve to identify sites of existing activity, and brought us together from our disparate spaces, networks, disciplines, and personal and family lives. This enabled us to recognize IDIRC members' shared valuing of community-based networks and organizations, and helped to create affinity spaces to counter the siloed nature of our institutional roles and faculties through exploring and acknowledging our diverse, yet related and inter-related histories and activities.

Social Positions.

Within the second sub-theme, social positions, the following categories emerged: 'identities/communities'; 'how we work across communities'; and, 'tensions and incongruities that arise between our identities, theories and practices'. The findings around how each of us identify or position ourselves within and outside of the university context provides a starting point for seeing where our commonalities and differences might bump up against and/or support each other. We can start to question, 'how does the premise of interlocking identities play out within ourselves and within our group'?

The first category, 'identities/communities' refers to the ways we position ourselves in relation to societal structures and recognized social identities (e.g., queer, deaf, disabled, artist, academic, etc.), and to communities organized around similar characteristics, aims, and values. In our findings, the category of 'identities/communities' did not exclude other kinds of social relations, such as families or organizations. For example, six of the eleven IDIRC members identified as artists or as having a strong connection to arts in their work and lives. Six IDIRC members identify as family members of someone with a disability; and three of the participants discussed their positioning as a disabled person. Some of the other identities that were expressed included queer, feminist, academic, hearing person, temporarily able-bodied, and activist (See Figure 2). Further, one of our members describes herself as "not an advocate," and says:

Because I'm not an advocate, I have a really hard time doing direct work with somebody. I feel like stepping… one step back to address policy issues….Talking about larger contexts and speaking at conferences is more my forte and a place that I can actually effect change.

Some of the ways in which participants identify themselves contributed to an alignment with specific disability communities or groups: for example, an activist graduate student involved with a national disabled students advocacy association; an artist scholar involved with a local disabled artists group; and a hearing ASL-fluent scholar involved with the Deaf community. At other times there was no link to a disability community or group but these members recognized that how they identify themselves influences their values, beliefs, scholarly interests, and how they understand disability.

The second category of 'working across communities' referred to how we negotiate intersectional aspects of our identities while working and living within and across diverse communities. Members of IDIRC work(ed) across and through academic, creative, non-profit, volunteer, and professional sectors. For example, two members have combined academic, activist, and community development work to challenge ideas of elitism in fine arts communities as it relates to excluding the work of disabled artists. One member spoke about his work in creating accessible experiences for engaging with written poetic texts, so readers can experience the complexities of poetry regardless of their ability to "see" the page. Two other members explore arts-based methods in their research in the areas of inclusion, education, and critical disability studies. Through her research and writing, one of these faculty members explores how, given the intersections between gender, ability, and the lives of creative women, we might construct inclusive understandings of human development.

There were intersections between mothering, disability, and student/researcher positionalities. Each mother who identified as having a child with a disability, spoke about how this influenced many aspects of her studies, employment, and community connections. These included negotiating a career to accommodate a child's needs in instances when employment expectations did not accommodate disability, and coping with how a child's needs, a lack of services for a child, or a discriminatory process informed the focus of one's academic work. One member said,

The first thing is that I am a family member. My son who is 33 has a developmental disability complicated by some mental health issues…I describe myself as a family member first because that identity was the impetus for my grad studies and community involvement. My sense of justice gave me the determination and perseverance to deal with situations that seemed to place my son at a disadvantage. That same concept of fairness led me to form Cool Arts—an 'equal opportunity' arts group for local adults with an intellectual disability, which then led me back to university. So I would position myself as an advocate for family, an activist for community living and, within academia, a researcher and advocate for intellectual disabilities in an environment that is often not inclusive to people with disabilities.

Finally, in terms of the subtheme of 'working across communities,' several IDIRC members situate their activism and research out of their personal experiences with disability, working across the academic and disability communities. The three members who discussed their positioning as a person with a disability spoke of the tensions that exist between their lived experiences of their disability and categories of privilege that each lives with (i.e., whiteness, maleness, academic, education, partner, hearing). One noted,

This journey of exploring and understanding or continuing to explore, you know, how whiteness works, how gender operates, how heteronormativity operates, abledness, and then, in terms of kind of a personal piece, I have lupus, so I live with a chronic illness, which is cyclical and…I guess there's kind of a personal relationship…to how my professional journeys lead me to…explore these theoretical ideas that just resonate with me.

Another explained,

I stay connected to social movements or take part in organizing. I'm learning that I need to be accountable for my own privileges. Those are ways I can…open doors, or you know, sort of enable and make connections…so I guess I'm struggling to find my place in various communities, not just within disability communities, in many other communities as well.

The majority of participants spoke about the bridging work they do between and across communities. Whether, as a parent or an academic, they spoke of how the knowledge they gained through their participation or connection to one community and/or social position helped them in their efforts to make a difference in other communities, spheres, or roles.

Tensions and incongruities that arise between our identities, theories, and practices.

In working across diverse identities and communities, there are at times incongruities and tensions that arise. IDIRC became a place to share and discuss these personal and political tensions. Thus, a third category, 'tensions and incongruities that arise between our identities, theories, and practices' emerged. This category refers to how, in our lived experiences, we negotiate disconnections and tensions between diverse social identity positions and roles that we occupy, and tensions that occur when we try to live our critical theory in practice, thus, our praxis.

For example, one member spoke of tensions between her role as a university staff member representing the university and as a support for students with disabilities. In her role at the Disability Resource Centre, her ability to support students with disabilities was hampered by the lack of physical accessibility on the university campus. She said, "It could be so much better. It's actually quite disappointing and embarrassing for me as an employee at the DRC that the physical accessibility is so poor. And the response of the administration to my complaints, requests…has been not great." Her ability to support inclusion for students was interfered with by barriers to physical access to buildings, classrooms, crosswalks, parking spaces, and more. This was further exacerbated by the lack of administrative response and layers of bureaucracy that shaped processes for initiating improvements in these areas.

All IDIRC members who are mothers mentioned incongruities they have experienced between their role as a parent of a child with a disability, and how they enable independence and freedom for their child, in alignment with the human rights models of autonomy they value. For example, one member shared the following:

My older son, who is on the autistic spectrum, is choosing to make some decisions that as a seventeen year old, as his mom, I'm feeling protective, but as a disability human rights activist, I feel like I need to let him make mistakes and…not make choices for him because he has autism, but think about him as a seventeen year old, straining for independence. And allow him that space. And I'm conflicted. Very much. But what I'm choosing to do is 100% informed by what I do in my work because I feel like I couldn't live with myself if I chose to, you know, rein him in.

It was also noted that academic studies were sometimes extended, abandoned, or geographically relocated to accommodate family members' needs. During the member checking of transcripts, at least one parent revised her transcript to omit sections where she felt like she was blaming her child for life's challenges.

My job, my research is very travel intensive and then that isn't always possible because of the situation at home…and whenever we go away, there's respite costs which are huge. So things like that influence how I do my work and organize my work life.

This mother shared the limits of theory when confronted by the specifics of her child's needs:

I think you embody theory as an academic, but you really can't go home and theorize your child….I mean, theory is wonderful….but it is very general and you have to be able to move back to the very specifics. You know, all the theory in…autism spectrum disorder for example, is not going to help you if you are in an airport and your daughter has had a meltdown and you can't find the iPad in your backpack…because that's the only thing that's going to calm things down. And there's absolutely nobody that you can invoke at that point.

Another area of tension noted by some participants was around understanding and acknowledging one's privilege. Non-disabled members talked about coming to understand their privilege and how this informs their work. One member said:

You know, ability… how am I privileged… those things. I always wanted to focus on how I am oppressed and that's my issue, right? And that's my thing… more and more and the longer I am… I stay connected to social movements or take part in organizing… I'm learning that I need to be accountable for my own privileges. But, use that… those are the ways in which I can, again, open doors, or you know, that sort of enables and make connections. …Yeah, that's kind of my entry into disability, politics, and justice.

Another member talked about interacting with a scholar from a non-Western background and how this scholar helped him to see where he is located in the Western tradition and how this reframing gave him a "place to locate my own heritage, as fraught and troubled as it may be, and also not mistaking that heritage for other ways of being." Across interviews there were instances of recognition of privilege as individuals and as a collective. Such examples make visible the inherent tension for IDIRC and its members. We are privileged to do this work—we exist in a circle of academic privilege where the broader struggles of disability communities are often made invisible. We work, study, research, and socialize in a university system grounded in hierarchy that calls for standardized entrance requirements, course outcomes, and a race for tenure that produces a dominant discourse of competition and success. The culture of academia is imagined through the lens of ableism and enacted through practices of accommodating difference that ultimately privilege and reproduce normalcy.

With theme one we explored and discussed the broad theme of Social Relations, which answered the question of "who am I relating to?" This helped us to better understand how, as IDIRC members, we position ourselves or are positioned in relation to others through networks of people and societal structures.

Theme Two: Commitments

Our second theme, Commitments, describes the practices and theoretical lenses we take up based on our goals, values, ideas, and social positions and how these inform our methodological commitments. Through this theme we explored the question: What are our theoretical and research commitments? Illuminating theoretical and methodological commitments and positions proved important amongst our interdisciplinary group. We work in different roles and disciplines, yet, there were trends spanning IDIRC members that served to connect us in our understanding of CDS, inclusion, and disability work. The first sub-theme was theoretical views. This sub-theme spoke to the philosophies and ideas we work with and value. The second sub-theme was our specific research foci and methodological practices. In this sub-theme we articulated the research areas and methodologies in which we engage that embody our values and beliefs.

Theoretical views.

In the first sub-theme of theoretical views we spoke to the philosophies and ideas we work with and value most. We explored both the theorists we align with—or as one of our members refers to them as our "textual friends"—and the related values, ideas, and concepts that inform our work. Critical theory, post-structural theory, queer theory, anti-racism theory, and feminist theory featured often. One member said, "I've done quite a bit of reading in queer theory…like Judith Butler, Michel Foucault…those are the kind of post-structural theorists that I draw on to think about disability." Another member described drawing on "Foucault and the way he writes about institutions and how institutions function at different times and [how] we need language in order to address what's going on."

It is not surprising that all of our members connect most strongly with theorists who help them think critically about oppressive and exclusionary social and educational processes and that support social justice, inclusion, and equity work across their diverse contexts. Several members grounded themselves specifically in feminist theories. One member said:

Coming from a feminist background, a lot of…the people that influenced me…like Marika Ainley…and Julia Emberly, who's an amazing feminist and creative instructor…were teachers of mine and then Judy Rebick, who does amazing activist work…Jillian Ridington did some amazing stuff about thirty years ago on mothering and disability and when I came across her work…it was like something just opened up in me.

And another member with a background in feminist counselling explained that she's "been very influenced by feminist theory and…understanding how power and knowledge work together. And creating contexts where people…are included and can participate and have agency."

One member who teaches Cultural Studies draws on Marxist philosophy and brings together "feminist theory, queer theory, anti-racism theory and…Indigenous studies and Indigenous methodologies." Another member who teaches in the Faculty of Education explained that his theoretical positioning is based on the concept of "funds of knowledge, so that's Luis Moll, Norma Gonzalez and Elizabeth Birr Moje…this idea, funds of knowledge recognizes that all people bring cultural funds of knowledge to their school contexts, it's a strength-based approach to education."

Similarly, anti-racist and culturally responsive approaches featured as well. One member's work is grounded in listening to Aboriginal Elders and then finding theory that aligns with their needs. She said:

I know working with the Aboriginal community…I will listen to the Elders and they say things about what they want and what they're needing and then I will go and look for theory that basically supports that, because I'm trying to create a match between practice and what people are saying.

Our theoretical commitments and positions informed our research interests and practices. In the second sub-theme of specific research foci and methodological practices, IDIRC members articulated the research areas and methodologies we engage in and how we seek to embody our values and beliefs through knowledge production and scholarly endeavors.

Research foci and methodological practices

Given that we are an interdisciplinary collective, we have a range of research interests and some diversity in approaches. That said, our research is united through inclusion, disability, and diversity related interests. In particular, personal and lived experiences acted as a springboard into research foci. Ten of our eleven members articulated past, present, and/or future research projects that were deeply informed and catalyzed out of their lived experiences. These became sites of critical analysis, social action, and inquiry. For example, one Master's student, explained:

My interest was in transitioning youth because of my experiences that services don't start until you're 19 and you're basically in child services until then, and if you have a family, they basically leave it to the parents to deal with whatever's coming up next, and so you kind of can see that adulthood is coming up but you don't really know how to support your child to transition and I got very interested in the area of housing because I see that as a key piece in terms of being connected to the community.

In her interview, a staff member shared, "I began Cool Arts and that led me to grad studies and learning about qualitative research as well as disability studies, so what I do here for the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship is a really good fit for my area of interest." Like the two aforementioned IDIRC members, a faculty member's disability research has roots in her experience as a mother of a child with a developmental disability. An experienced art historian, she has developed research projects that bridge and extend her field based on her personal experience with disability in her family. She shared, "One of the fields I've become really interested in is outsider art and that falls absolutely within my range of study." In describing this aspect of her scholarship she noted, "I've been involved with it for quite a long time, with art history, and practicing artists, and disability issues." One specific example included looking at how public art galleries, "which are funded through various grant agencies, including the city, set policies in place that when examined, are not very inclusive, that don't welcome, that seem to actually look very exclusive for artists who haven't come through university training." She found that artists, "who really need to deal with plain language…might be intimidated by the colossal amount of verbiage in the requirements of how one gets an exhibition" and thus are systematically excluded.

A doctoral student within the group described weaving CDS and feminism to examine the intergenerational impact of residential schools for children with disabilities, as was experienced within her own family. Looking back she could also see connections to her proposed dissertation research:

focused on understanding how surveillance works and how women with disabilities, the surveillance they're under as they're trying to mother, and why that happens. As well as, histories of discrimination, in addressing different intersectionalities and contexts and how that informs people's lives and affects them and has come to affect me.

One staff member talked about how her university studies from undergrad to graduate work in social work has always had a connection to working with individuals with disabilities. She noted how "with my PhD research, too. It's also based within the field of disability studies or critical disability studies." Stepping back she can see how her theoretical lens has developed:

My PhD became more critical. I wasn't theoretically critical in my Masters or undergrad work. I think I was fairly critical in my practice as a social worker. But, I approached the work without actually being able to formulate that was what I was doing. It wasn't until I got to my PhD that it became something more concrete for me.

In terms of methodological commitments, research that meaningfully involves community participants was a trend, including participatory action research, practitioner inquiry, and research methods that promote social action. One faculty member in Education described how:

…collaborative research has been a pay off. So, one of the supports was that the school districts were open to me and have both funded me and partnered with me. I lead a large study in [a local school district]. It's an action research project with teachers working in teams to decenter normative practices.

One graduate student participant said of her prior work as a social worker doing community based research on contract: "I really wasn't sure what kind of research we were doing and I wasn't sure about the techniques being used, I wasn't able to be critical about the process. So if I get nothing else…other than I learn the process of community based research, that's huge for me." Similarly, another IDIRC member noted, "I'm co-director for the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship, which has a focus on research that promotes the inclusion and citizenship of individuals with intellectual disabilities as well as their families and is a community based research center at the University of British Columbia." Qualitative research featured strongly, with narrative inquiry, critical discourse analysis, and autoethnography being highlighted. For example, one member shared how she uses "the literary arts to explore narratives and experiences of human development." She described how in her PhD she wrote about her own "experiences…in autoethnographic terms…used that for a site of exploration (for) how we could think about exceptional human development."

An interest in arts-based research methods, including visual art, photo-voice, poetry, and the literary arts was also notable. A faculty member articulated, "My area of expertise is visual culture and social activism. My research methods include creative art activism, art media, and social justice." While another member shared that arts-based research

…has opened up a world where my art world and my academic world can meet—which I had always kept those things separate. Which is funny because I've often drawn popular culture and art into my academic work but I haven't talked about my own work in those contexts.

Of note, IDIRC members' theoretical lens responses created constellations that: (1) critique the normative gaze, (2) seek to decentre ableist perspectives, and (3) leverage intersectional marginalized identities. IDIRC members' practice commitments were oriented around making the university, community, and K-12 schools accessible through (1) recognizing disability as an identity category and (2) building inclusive policies and curricula. The data illustrate how IDIRC and its members are in a process of negotiating what we mean by disability, inclusion, and privilege. This complicated conversation is an ongoing negotiation of meaning-making and reflexivity considering our own identities and positionalities.

Based on these dialogues we identified the need to make space for explorations about when and how our practice commitments counter critical theory perspectives. For example, through the process of analyzing the interviews, we found that while all members were taking up anti-oppressive theoretical lenses in their lives and work, not all IDIRC members embraced inclusion as the end goal of their work. Finally, while some members were already conversant in critical theory, others spoke of how IDIRC offered them the opportunity to engage with CDS-oriented texts and concepts. This engagement helped them to clarify their positionality in relation to inclusion and diversity as well as engage in an examination of how institutions disable students and communities. Furthermore, our different theoretical commitments led us to four different conceptions of praxis as it relates to our approaches to enacting inclusion. There were the Questioners, the Negotiators, the Caregivers, and the Activist. Of note, while these are presented as discrete groups, they are not exclusive but represent the prominent way members expressed their work in relation to inclusion.

The Questioners drew on theoretical work informed by poststructural, crip, and queer theorists (e.g., Butler, Foucault, Kafer, McRuer), primarily approaches that examine and critique how we reproduce privilege. These members, in line with Minich (2016), promoted a view of CDS as an ongoing analysis and process rather than merely an object of study. This positioning involved continually scrutinizing the social norms and conditions that reproduce certain bodies and minds as Other and "abnormal." As such, they questioned the very possibility of achieving inclusion.

These members most readily identified their own privilege, supported other IDIRC members and disabilities communities to analyze and challenge ableist practices and structures. We describe this group as Questioners because they were most able to take up CDS within their roles as academics; as problemetizers, they typically were able to source and infuse CDS literature and concepts into their work. Interestingly, those who enacted this identity most often were academics with tenured or tenure track positions.

The Negotiators all had some to extensive backgrounds in CDS and inclusive education approaches. They were faculty members and university staff whose roles required them to work at a systems level advocating for and facilitating processes for students in the university, consulting with university programs and faculty regarding student access and rights related to academic programs, and university program professional placements in the field. Across their interviews they shared theoretical commitments that positioned self-advocates as agentic students and citizens, and yet they spoke of how often in their roles they had to compromise to create pathways for the students they were supporting. For the most part, these instances of negotiation occured within problem-solving situations. They spoke primarily of encountering faculty who were not familiar with—or welcoming of—CDS concepts. These faculty often referenced policy to suggest that a student with diverse abilities could not meet the academic (i.e., course or program outcomes) or professional expectations (i.e., education, social work, nursing, etc) in practicum placements. Thus, the IDIRC members had to negotiate the best possible outcomes for the student they were advocating for, sometimes contradicting their theoretical commitments.

Three of IDIRC's negotiators spoke of the benefits of IDIRC as a space to reconnect with their theoretical commitments and brainstorm solutions with CDS concepts in mind. One member wondered "are we just reproducing ableism and normalcy when we create solutions that do not challenge the status quo?" Another negotiator explained that "I work within current structures, engaging in iterative cycles to make change. It's slow, but we're making a difference."

The Caregivers were family members, specifically parents, who engaged with inclusion by "living it." These members clearly articulated the tensions between the everyday challenges of promoting inclusion for their disabled son or daughter and what they experienced as the esoteric theorizing of the academy. For example, when facing everyday barriers to social inclusion that their son or daughter experienced, their priorities were about challenging the practical policies and practices that hindered meaningful inclusion for their loved one. As noted earlier, one member described how invoking theory is not a useful resource when her daughter is having "a meltdown" at the airport.

The Activist most clearly represents one IDIRC member whose history is imbued by disability activism. This member identifies as disabled, as a daughter of a mother with a disability, and as a mother of two sons with disabilities. Given her positioning, her personal, professional, and educational experiences have informed her commitment to political practice and activism in the promotion of inclusion at personal, social, and political levels. Her tension involved her unwillingness to compromise when faced with contradictions between theory and practice. She described how she is not willing to negotiate solutions that weaken her position and reinforce ableism noting, "I am an activist, not an advocate." This member drew strength from IDIRC as a space to clarify and explain her stance.

Theme two, Commitments, helped us to see how affiliations with particular theorists and theoretical stances and common values of inclusion and social change inform a diverse array of research interests across disciplines. In terms of research interests and methodologies, we allied with approaches that center marginalized experiences, that engage community in and through knowledge production, that provide platforms for social action, and that further critical understandings and analyses of normative and oppressive processes.


We began this critical self-study by asking the following question: What are the social relations, commitments, activities, and research needs of the University of British Columbia Okanagan researchers, students, and staff in relation to disability and inclusion? Our analyses revealed that while all IDIRC members embraced and were striving to realize critical disability concepts in our work, both theoretically and practically, there were many instances where members were "caught" in situations that reinforced ableism and reproduced privilege.

In this section, we highlight the ways in which IDIRC members found and created value from their participation in this research collaborative and how our privileged positions can be leveraged within and across our work, roles, and the university. We discuss how an interdisciplinary research collaborative might nurture social action related to disability and inclusion. One of the key ways that IDIRC functioned was to provide a supportive space for members who struggled to find allies within their own departments, faculties, and disciplines. The crux of IDIRC is that members created a space for reflexive praxis, interdisciplinarity, and collaborative exploration that supported the entwining of lived experience at our institution and beyond (Lawthom & Whelan, 2012). We will discuss each of these facets in turn.

Praxis: Embodying our Values, Exploring Tensions

Most centrally, IDIRC created a space to help members work towards praxis. In the interviews we conducted and analyzed IDIRC members reported that coming together as staff, graduate students, and faculty created opportunities to revisit our experiences, values, and theoretical perspectives to help us address tensions in our practice—specifically related to practices and experiences of the diversely abled in our institution. Within our meetings we surfaced tensions that exist in seeking to embody critical perspectives in our professional and personal lives. As discussed above, many IDIRC members developed research and professional commitments based on their lived experiences with disabilities, learning exceptionalities, as parents of children with disabilities, or as a child of parent(s) with disabilities. That said, through centering the marginalized experiences of disability in a higher education setting, disabled voices, particularly those who live in the interstices of multiple forms of oppression and do not have access to the academy and the opportunities and power it affords, are not well represented here. As Erevelles and Minear (2010) note, "Individuals located perilously at the interstices of race, class, gender, and disability are constituted as non-citizens and (no) bodies by the very social institutions (legal, educational, and rehabilitational) that are designed to protect, nurture, and empower them" (14). This research project provided an opportunity for IDIRC members to better understand their privilege and highlighted the need for members to find ways to ensure the voices of those 'perilously located' are included and considered in our praxis.

IDIRC offered its members opportunities to better understand and then enact praxis through creating a space for staff, students, and faculty from across the university to negotiate how their values could be lived in practice (Schnellert & Richardson, 2016). Members brought tension-filled lived experiences from their work, studies, and research and offered these up as problems for shared exploration and feedback. While IDIRC members' values were particularly informed by critical theory perspectives (e.g., feminist theories, queer theory, post-colonial theory, critical race studies), they supported one another to problematize their practice. Also important was the generativity in finding allies from other disciplines and organizations within the university. One member said,

IDIRC became a really positive place of support….about things that I'm passionate about….gender, critical disability studies, awareness of abledness at work, and so those are a great group of people, colleagues, students, staff….I think having these kinds of relationships allow you to have the energy to continue with work that you are passionate about and not burn out.

IDIRC provided a space where we could move from reflection to action, finding intersections between tensions, experiences, values, and theory and co-creating solutions to issues we previously struggled to address individually.

Interdisciplinarity: Diversity as a Strength and Resource for Change

One contribution of IDIRC's approach is that members' work was informed and enriched through cross-role and cross-faculty collaboration. The interdisciplinary nature of our work together served as a resource and source of support for members as we sought to integrate and do deeper work with regards to CDS. Goodley (2014) emphasizes that "something new happens when we connect disability with other transformative political categories" (p. 36). We agree and also offer that something new happens when disability is brought to diverse and new fields.

I think the really exciting thing about IDIRC is how interdisciplinary we are…. I think that having this kind of multi-pronged approach, where we're all coming from our own fields and our own experience, whether we personally have disabilities, or whether our family members are persons with disabilities…it's very supportive that way. And I think that's so important because you can feel really isolated…. [IDIRC member] and I are in the same…department, so even for other people to see she and I are involved with it…it helps to start breaking down barriers. I always do a section on disability issues in all my art history classes and now that IDIRC is there…there's actually a body that can be identified with being devoted to this…that's very intersectional.

As the quote above points to, this self-study of IDIRC offers a living case of staff, students, and faculty drawing from one another across fields, disciplines, and roles (Goodley & Runswick-Cole, 2014; Griffiths, Bass, Johnston, & Perselli, 2004). Goodley writes,

Intersectionality is not simply about bringing together these markers but to consider how each supports or unsettles the constitution of one another. Intersectionality seeks to explore convergence and divergence of multiple markers. This involves difficult conversations across socio-cultural categories and forms of interpellation to ask how, for example, disability, gender, race, sexuality and class constitute or contradict one another (Goodley, 2013, p. 636).

In fact, it is the inherent interdisciplinarity of disability (Goodley, 2013) that fostered our collaboration through leveraging alliances and partnerships to support and strengthen equity work through invoking CDS and its necessary contribution.

All too often discussions of diversity and equity continue to produce disability as the abject other. Our institution is no exception to this phenomenon as we witness here too that CDS has struggled for recognition from other transformative arenas such as feminism, critical race theory, and queer theory. To address this struggle, together IDIRC members explored Garland-Thomson's work around feminist disability studies, McRuer's queering of disability theory, and Campbell's incorporation of critical race theory into CDS. These examples underscored the importance of promoting, instigating, and inciting the contributions of CDS to other fields and engaging other minority groups and disciplines. For example, McRuer (2006) has been instrumental in promoting the contributions of radical queer thought in "forging the critical disability consciousness" (p. viii) and urged queer communities to acknowledge how politically unconscious debates about normativity "[are] shaped, in large part, by ideas about disability" (p. viii).

Through encountering interdisciplinary "textual friends" (e.g., Campbell, 2009; Garland-Thomson, 2005; McCuer, 2013, Sherry, 2004; Swain, 2011), members found that their theoretical and methodological positions gained both clarity and complexity. Through this process graduate students' studies, staff's advocacy and policy work, and faculty members' individual teaching and research practices were strengthened due to what was learned from one another.

Disrupting Normativity: Creating Spaces for New Understandings about Dis/ability and Disability Studies within the Academy

Linton (1998) writes that "disability studies provides the means to hold academics accountable for the veracity and the social consequences of their work, just as activism has served to hold the community, the education system, and the legislature accountable for disabled people's compromised social position" (p. 1- 2). IDIRC members supported each other to realize and productively disrupt practices across the university. This stretched from the Equity and Inclusion Office and the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship to intra-departmental committee meetings and faculty procedures. In diverse forums, IDIRC members promoted disability-positive discourse to disrupt ableist conceptions and practices. Through IDIRC, we sought to move from CDS as a field of study to CDS as a practice, aiming to reflexively inform scholarship through praxis at our institution.

The ableist practices of higher education institutions are ubiquitous and include institutional policies as well as actions of students, faculty, and staff. The identification and treatment of disabled students and faculty is grounded in a medicalized and individualized approach to accommodation. One IDIRC member noted, "I think the biggest one would be stigma…when I overhear conversations with different faculty who work here and even staff…there's just a real lack of understanding." In what is still a relatively new university in this region, IDIRC members are working towards informing university systems and programs about how disability operates as an identity category and cultural concept. Our own relationship(s) with disability and to one another illustrate how disability is the most human of experiences, both theoretically and, most importantly, embodied (Sedgwick, 1990).

Of concern to the "negotiators" in our study was how in their work in the university they felt caught in a discourse that moved the focus away from the normative effects of ableism onto the individual and their experience of disablism. Such attention undermines the theoretical contributions of Campbell (2009) who called for an analytic refocusing on the "contours" of ableism and its production of normativity. As such they found IDIRC to be a community that both recognized the dynamics of this tension and helped generate strategies to counter this. As Goodley (2013) points out, "disability is the space from which to think through a host of political, theoretical and practical issues that are relevant to all" (p. 632).

Our members' research and lived experience spanned other forms of oppression. In our monthly IDIRC meetings, members often referenced and drew upon their experiences with anti-racist, feminist, queer, and anti-poverty theory to make sense of CDS and how the conditions that produce normativity "justify forms of oppression such as disableism, racism, homophobia and orientalism that negate the existence of Others" (Goodley, 2013, p. 637).

While on the whole IDIRC centres the work of challenging and disrupting the disabling effects of normativity, some of our members remind us of the potential dangers of unquestioningly moving in a direction towards critical, postmodern, and queer theories of disability. In line with Goodley (2013), they caution that

while celebrating the evermorphing potential of disability, moves towards postmodern and queer theories of disability can threaten to make disability difficult to pin down, identify with and mobilize around (Swain, 2011). The suggestion here is that theory [can get] in the way of understanding the realities of disablism (Watson 2012). (p. 641)

This caution harkens back to the tensions articulated by the carers, and the activist in our self-study. For the carers, IDIRC became a space to sense-make and underscore the lived realities of disability. Meanwhile, the activist found it frustrating to work in systems and categories that privileged the non-disabled. She sought disruption and transformation. Together IDIRC created a discursive space where the sharing of positions, experiences, and commitments thickened our explorations, understandings, and applications of CDS.


IDIRC began as a conversation at a research-intensive Canadian university between two faculty members from different disciplines and a staff member. What emerged was a generative collaborative space of learning, affiliation, and action that included diverse students, staff, and faculty. Engaging in this critical self-study allowed us to retrospectively understand relationships within IDIRC, the significant facets of our development, and how we currently and in the future might support and influence change across the institution. The relationships, intersectional identities, and practices of IDIRC members have been co-constituted through the sharing of our personal and professional experiences in tandem with an engagement with theory and practice from diverse disciplines, identity categories, scholarly traditions, and university roles. All members shared examples of how their pedagogy, scholarship, and professional practices were strengthened through their participation in IDIRC in terms of their ability to disrupt normative processes and practices.

Limitations of our Self-Study

This study is limited to the perspectives and experiences of the membership of IDIRC at the time of data collection. A challenge for any community is to not become insular, particularly one that values diversity and social change. There may be other faculty, staff, and students who would be interested in participating and their experiences and contributions would impact conceptions and experiences of CDS praxis at our institution. For instance, one member included in this study only learned about and joined IDIRC near the end of this study. Another limitation of the study was the selection of only one approach to data analysis, which was a constant comparative method. While this successfully generated themes and patterns, an approach such as Critical Discourse Analysis could have surfaced deeper constructions and power relations and catalyzed deeper reflexivity within ourselves and IDIRC.


There were challenges that informed the development of our collective and shaped members' participation. The membership of IDIRC lacks a diversity of disability self-advocates as university structures, such as hiring practices, entrance requirements, and financial factors continue to act as barriers.

While our interdisciplinary nature was largely an asset, during data analysis it became difficult for all IDIRC members to commit to the same analytic approach exactly because our methodological practices differed based on our individual histories and fields of study. Another key challenge that emerged was due to the contingent and shifting nature of some members roles and employment status with the university. When key members transitioned to new employment situations, it became more challenging for IDIRC to maintain regular, fully attended meetings. Another challenge was the continual struggle to carve out space and time for explorations that would surface tensions, complexities, and diversities within the group in relation to our methodologies, theoretical positions, and practices. While we did have many important conversations, the absence of time contributed to the glossing over of issues such as personal privilege which, in retrospect, we realized may have been generative and significant to the group process. Finally, we acknowledge, as Price (2011) contends, that "the overlaps between colonialism, nation, race, and [disability] are tremendously complex and, so far, not studied nearly enough" (p. 232). We recognize that IDIRC must engage with these interlocking complexities if we are to embody the values we espouse.


Through this research we illustrate the generativity of groups such as IDIRC related to CDS as a field and practice in higher education. Rather than seeing IDIRC as a model to be replicated, perhaps it is better understood as a collective, participatory, and reflexive approach to social change practice. Post-secondary institutions can benefit from self-organizing collectives where members seek to better understand and practice CDS in relation to one another, and where staff, student, and faculty perspectives are valued.

Future Directions for IDIRC

We feel that we have begun to understand the potential of critical collaboration and self-study as generators for needed changes in higher education. Understanding the implications of a CDS approach to change within universities in terms of pedagogical innovations, research infrastructure, university services, academic policies, university identity, hiring norms and practices, and more are compelling directions for further study. The time has come in higher education to take seriously the reciprocal benefits of enacting equity through a Disability Studies lens.


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Can you tell me about your work? (Describe your role, research etc…?) Can you give us examples of what you do?

What brought you to this work?

Can you say a bit more about the role disability plays in your work/practice? For example, how do you think about disability? What does it mean to you?

How does the way you think about disability inform your work/practice?

What influences how you do your work? (ex: mentors, experiences, theory, research, training, role)

Do you feel you have a theoretical background that informs your work/practice? If so, can you tell us a bit more about this? (How does theory impact your practice? How do you embody theory?)

In your community, who is in your network? And/or who are your supports?

Can you say more about specific supports or barriers that have you encountered in your approaches to disability?

How does what we have been talking about relate to the way you understand inclusive university communities?

What are the gaps do you see in knowledge and practice at [University Name]

What would you like to know or what are the gaps in your knowledge and practice?

Do you see yourself participating in IDIRC? How might IDIRC nurture/ support/ impact you?

Figure 1: Interview Questions

Figure 2: Intersectional marginalized identities
GenderSexual orientationDis/abilityFamily
HFemaleChronic health
SFemaleChronic healthParent of neurodiverse child
CLGBTQChild of self-advocates
RChronic health
MFemaleParent of self-advocate
LFemaleLGBTQPerson of color
OFemaleParent of self-advocate
CWomanParent of self-advocate
BWomanLGBTQChild of self-
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