- From Disability to Diversity: College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder by Lynne C. Shea, Linda Hecker, and Adam R. Lalor
In From Disability to Diversity, Shea, Hecker, and Lalor provide an accessible introduction to the pressing equity gaps that disabled students face in postsecondary learning environments. They then use this discussion to advance strategies that faculty members, student affairs professionals, and higher education administrators can utilize to create more welcoming, accessible learning environments. Notably, they are not the first authors to have attempted this task. In recent years, for example, comprehensive treatments of disability in higher education (e.g., Evans, Broido, Brown, & Wilkie, 2017), multifaceted examinations of disability in the context of student success (e.g., Kim & Aquino, 2017), nuanced discussions of disability identity in the university (e.g., Kerschbaum, Eisenman, & Jones, 2017), and systematic examinations of the ableist foundations of the modern university (e.g., Dolmage, 2017) have all been published. These books, individually and collectively, make a powerful case that disability is a key feature of human diversity and that the willful perpetuation of inaccessible learning environments is a pressing social justice issue for higher education institutions. From Disability to Diversity is positioned as a response to this argument from the unique vantage provided by the history of "pedagogical activism" at Landmark College (p. vii), perhaps the best known institution designed to center the experiences of disabled students. It also draws on the authors' exceptional command and synthesis of a voluminous-yet-disparate literature base to produce a carefully measured discussion of how both individuals and institutions could better support students with learning differences, a term the authors employ to refer to students with learning disabilities, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.
The organization of From Disability to Diversity mirrors effective pedagogical practice for disabled and nondisabled students alike by providing a scaffolded discussion of a difficult topic: early chapters of the book provide a contextual treatment of disability in higher education while later chapters draw upon this information to offer concrete strategies for effective practice. Chapter 1 advances a social-environmental model of disability—distilling the book's thesis:
The barrier to accessing education is not intrinsic to the student but is created by a mismatch between the student and the educational environment. To address these barriers, educators need to rethink how they ensure educational access to all aspects of college and university life.(p. 1)
They follow this conceptual discussion with a review of recent trends and data related to the accessibility and inclusivity of higher education for disabled students. They also review relevant terminology related to disability identity and models for understanding it. Notably, although the information that the authors provide is accurate, it is perhaps more effective in orienting an experienced reader to [End Page 667] how From Disability to Diversity is positioned within a diverse theoretical space than it is at offering novice readers their first introduction to this discourse. In this regard, the work of Evans and colleagues (2017) provides a much more comprehensive overview for readers less familiar with contemporary work on disability in higher education.
Chapter 2 builds on this holistic introduction to offer a primer on relevant neuroscience and diagnosis-specific information about learning differences. Notably, their treatment of learning differences in the context of affirmative conceptualizations of disability—among them conceptualizations of dyslexic advantage and neurodiversity—is vitally needed in higher education contexts where addressing disability through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion and creating nonableist environments as a social justice issue can be challenging (Loewen & Pollard, 2010). However, the brevity of this discussion and a lingering focus on high-profile people with disabilities may run the risk of inadvertently introducing a "supercrip" framing for readers less acquainted with the dangers of this approach (Schalk, 2016). Likewise, the list of diagnostic criteria for the disabilities covered by the term learning disability as utilized in From Disability to...