Dis/ability Studies and Universal Design: Confronting Ableism, Stigma and Privilege in Education [Online]

10/11/2021 - 10:00am to 11/14/2021 - 10:00am

Grade levels: All Grade Levels, Professional Development

Content areas: All Content Areas

Topics: disability justice, Education Equity, equity and inclusion

Every educator will encounter students who meet the criteria for disability and will grapple with how to successfully foster learning, equity and inclusion in diverse classrooms and schools. This online course introduces Dis/ability Studies in Education—a liberation movement discipline, distinct from Special Education, which offers unique insight into these endeavors and proposes Universal Design as a guiding principle.

Dis/ability Studies proposes that “disability” is contextualized within particular social, cultural and political environments, according to the acceptable limits of human variability in those environments. This contrasts with the “medical model,” which positions disability as a biologically-based deficit inherent to an individual, to be rehabilitated, remediated or cured. Contrasting these different theoretical models for understanding dis/ability helps us to investigate assumptions or beliefs that may unwittingly contribute to marginalization rather than to equity and inclusion. Our inquiry will include lived experience literature and counter culture narratives associated with various disability groups.

Participants will investigate how we may employ the principle of Universal Design to create embracive learning environments where all students feel valued and empowered, as well as how we may work to dismantle systemic barriers to equity and inclusion within Education.

Dis/ability Studies intersects with other critical disciplines such as Critical Race Studies, Feminist Studies and Gender Studies, all of which foreground lived experience and de-center dominant narratives that cast particular individuals or groups as deviant. These intersections are considered in the course as they pertain to the persistent over-representation of minorities within Special Education and to explore when and how disability labels may be liberating or limiting.

Through assigned readings, writing, and reflection in a communal online discussion forum among professional peers, we will investigate the philosophical, pedagogical, and pragmatic approaches to dis/ability, equity, and inclusion in education.

Teachers, counselors, administrators, psychologists, specialists, and academics should all emerge from this course with the historical context, intellectual framework, and practical skills to deepen their professional practice and help promote social justice—both within the sphere of education and in the wider world.

Schedule This online class operates on a weekly schedule, with social interaction and collaboration via asynchronous discussion forums. Students will be expected to complete reading assignments accessed from the Moodle classroom, and post written messages to a class discussion forum three times per week. There will be an optional Zoom gathering on Friday, November 12th at 12 p.m. for those who would enjoy a synchronous gathering near the conclusion of the course. Dates: October 11-November 14, 2021


Graduate Continuing Education Credit: CEED-810-01 (Dis/Ability Stds & Univ Des), 1 semester hour, $350 (generally considered equivalent to 30 Professional Development Units for licensure requirements or salary scale advancement in education)


About the Instructor Denise Herrenbruck has been at the forefront of fostering inclusive education, in practice and in policy, for over 35 years. She earned her Master’s degree and dual licensure in General and Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Shortly afterwards she moved to Berkeley, California – a hub of Disability Rights Movement activity – where she began her career as a teacher, resource specialist, special education program manager and adjunct college instructor during the 1980s and 1990s. Moving to Portland in 2000, she went online to teach beginning and advanced courses in inclusive education in the teacher licensure programs at UCLA and University of San Diego. Denise began teaching at Lewis & Clark in 2018. She is passionate about Disabilities Studies in Education as a liberation movement discipline that offers unique insight for fostering equity and inclusion in education. She enjoys guiding students to clarify and strengthen their own passion and purpose as educators.