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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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Over the last 20 years, the field of communication has seen important increases in studies focusing on different aspects of the discourse of disability and how physical and learning disabilities influence communication between able-bodied people and people with disabilities. Many scholars come to disability-related research because of their lived experiences or the lived experiences of family members and friends (Braithwaite & Thompson, 2000). In our case, we came to disability research because we wanted to understand the web of personal, social, and cultural factors that influence the educational experiences of students with disabilities. Because we teach at different institutions, our experiences with students with disabilities are different. Mary teaches at a large inner-city public university in Kentucky, whereas Ahmet teaches at a small liberal arts college in rural Ohio. Thus, the student bodies we work with are different, although there are some similarities among them. We both teach students with physical and learning disabilities, although our institutions are structured differently and they provide different services to students and resources to faculty. Moreover, we take similar perspectives to teaching, which is infused by our commitment to experiential and interactive learning and critical communication pedagogy. Hence, we both try to empower students who have traditionally been overlooked or silenced due to their disabilities. We are also curious, which led us to a new academic subdiscipline. This book is about this journey.

We came to this research with differing...

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