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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 Nine: A Personal Journey to Understanding the Discourse of Disability: Making Connections Possible through New Media Technologies


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A Personal Journey TO Understanding THE Discourse OF Disability

Making Connections Possible through New Media Technologies


My introduction to the discourse of disability in higher education began during the first year of my doctoral education. As students of critical communication pedagogy, in this class, Speech Communication at University Level, our aim was to examine issues of power, diversity, and the idea of voice and groups that do not have voice in educational settings. In addition to studying how race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic backgrounds influence our educational experiences, some portions of our readings and discussions were dedicated to study the concept of body, ability, and disability within the classroom. Even though I was trained in critical communication pedagogy, my experiences as a graduate teaching assistant were limited when it came to interacting with students with disabilities in the classroom. I occasionally had had students with diagnosed learning disabilities who needed accommodations. However, most of these accommodations were limited to providing “extra time” during in-class exams and to complete written work. Because students never really volunteered the nature of their disabilities, our interactions about their disability were limited to what was asked by disability services.

Throughout my doctoral education, disability services remained a mystical place that I knew little about. Despite the fact that we were required to include paragraphs about disability services in our course syllabi, we hardly ever interacted...

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