In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction
  • Jacqueline Ellis and Ellen Gruber Garvey

We wrap up this issue as the Americans with Disabilities Act turns 25, and events and celebrations are drawing attention to disability. That act, as flawed as it is, was the product of years of activism that included efforts by groups such as the independent living movement whose philosophy of “nothing about us without us” also helped produce Disability Studies (ds) programs. This issue of Transformations shows the unexpected and important angles from which educators from in and out of the ds field are addressing disability issues. Instructors are doing imaginative work that foregrounds able-bodiedness as a form of privilege that helps students understand disability as fundamentally a social construct and as something different from impairment.

The limits of the ada rules themselves, as articulated in campus policies and as played out in the actuality of campus facilities, become a focus of classroom discussion in many of the articles in this special issue. Joanne Woiak and Dennis Lang use the regulations to engage their class in questions of inclusion and accessibility, as they discuss in their article, “Theory Meets Practice in an Introduction to Disability Studies Course.” Thinking through such issues “requires attentiveness to different embodiments within our communities of instructors and learners,” they note, concluding that, “Disability challenges the myth of the “normal” body and mind that is taken for granted in academia.“

Similarly, in their article “The Intersections of Disability Studies and Health Science,” Sharon Cuff, Kathleen McGoldrick, Stephanie Patterson, and Elizabeth Peterson lay out ways to address the historically rigid disciplinary boundaries between disability studies and the caring professions: “What might happen if they become more aware of the politics and the significance of power in their relationships with the people with disabilities whom they (supposedly) serve?” they ask. In designing and implementing a concentration in Disability Studies and Human Development (ds & hd), these authors suggest that while the ada has drawn attention to questions of access, “ableist attitudes toward disabled people have remained within the medical and rehabilitative services’ approach to disability.” Anna Mae Duane challenges science majors, many of whom plan to become doctors and healthcare workers, to think differently about disability through literature in “What’s Best for Them: Teaching Disability Studies to Science Majors.” The students leave the course realizing doctors do not always know what’s best for their patients, and learning to question the process and contexts that accord health care workers such authority.

Joanne Woiak and Dennis Lang see disability studies as “valuable and unique among other diversity fields owing to the degree to which pedagogy itself can be an effective means of explaining and modeling course [End Page 11] content: The medium is the message” For several writers, this perspective extends to their own embodiment, as they discuss their position as instructors who are disabled and teaching about disability whether or not that is the ostensible topic of their courses. Joseph Valente, for example, recounts the professional challenges he has faced as a Deaf professor in “‘Your American Sign Language Interpreters Are Hurting Our Educations’: Toward a Relational Understanding of Inclusive Classroom Pedagogy.” Valente describes his students’ difficult reactions to the presence of asl interpreters in his classroom. He uses his negotiation with the challenges they face as students whose first language is not English, and his own exploration of relationships in the classroom, to change his teaching practice. Ellen Samuels’ conversation with Sarah Chinn, in Teachers Talk, similarly addresses Samuels’ position as a “professionally disabled” professor—someone who both teaches disability studies and is disabled, in relationship to her own process of discovering the difference between impairment and disability.

The centrality of emotion within ds pedagogy is significant in many of the essays. Authors reflect on the ramifications of shame, pity, disgust, fear, and anger in teaching ds. Valente, in particular, describes the affective process of addressing his students’ blunt complaints alongside his individual experiences of marginalization. Emotions are explored from a different perspective by Ann Wallace in “Pushing Up Against Too Much: Reading, Writing, and Witnessing Illness in the First-Year Seminar.“ Here, Wallace addresses the turmoil her students experience as they write about their own connections to disability...


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pp. 11-14
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