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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 Four: Disability Subjectivity in Educational Contexts


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Disability Subjectivity IN Educational Contexts


My office phone rings, breaking my focus on the computer screen. “Sandy Pensoneau-Conway,” I answer. The voice on the other end introduces himself, establishes a bit of common ground based on mutual conferences and such, and then explains the reason for his call:

The student is deaf. I don’t know what to do about the public speaking requirement, given that the state has standards that each student has to meet as a requirement of the general education articulation agreement. And the student gets an interpreter, which is a resource that other students don’t have. I thought that, given your role as the course director, you may have had this situation before and could offer some advice.

I worry that, in my response, I’m not able to withhold judgment. I understand his intention of wanting to treat all students equally—despite the fact that equal is not equitable. I hear in his situation the desire to hold the course accountable to the standards of the state—despite the fact that standards are a form of institutional discourse that cannot, by virtue of being institutional, account for individual difference. Such standards cannot bridge “the gap between action and expectation” (Scott & Lyman, 1968, p. 46), the expectation of the standard and the action of the individual. I sympathize with the ways he feels...

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