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The Discourse of Disability in Communication Education

Narrative-Based Research for Social Change

Edited By Ahmet Atay and Mary Z. Ashlock

This book examines the ways in which communicative practices influence the lives of students and faculty with disabilities in higher education. Offering their own experiences as teachers and students, the authors use qualitative research methods, mainly narrative and autoethnography, to highlight the intersections among communication, disability, diversity, and critical communication pedagogy. While embodying and emphasizing these connections, each chapter defines the notion of disability from a different point of view; summarizes the relevant literature; provides suggestions for different ways of improving the experiences of people with disabilities in higher education; promotes social change; and in some cases, promotes policy change. Overall, the volume promotes more effective, mindful, honest, and caring interaction between able-bodied and disabled individuals.
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Chapter One: Communication, Teaching and Learning, and Faculty Disability: Lessons from a Personal Narrative


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Communication, Teaching AND Learning, AND Faculty Disability

Lessons from a Personal Narrative


There is no true word that is not at the same time a praxis. Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world.

—FREIRE (1970, P. 68)

In the study of disability and communication as it pertains to teaching and learning, there is considerable work that focuses on the experiences of, and advocacy for, students with disabilities (Hodge & Preston-Sabin, 1997; Oliver & Dalrymple, 2008; Vogel, Adelman, & Lerner, 1993). There are meaningful and valuable learning opportunities also to be gained from examining the experiences of faculty members who teach with disabilities (Smith, 2013). We explore the experience of Melissa Frame, a professor of speech communication at Clearwater Christian College, who has central vision blindness. Our analysis is based on curiosity, guided by the ethos of Freire’s quote above, about how she advocates for herself as she transforms the classroom and surrounding world of relationships by speaking truthfully, authentically, and artfully about her disability while focusing on the everyday business of being an excellent teacher. Likewise, we are also curious about how her ← 11 | 12 → personal narrative speaks to broader truths about the communicative struggles, needs, and vulnerabilities of a disabled faculty member, as well as the successful negotiations of identity and working agreements with students to...

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