Nearly all secondary educators are required to take at least one special education course to become certified. However, the focus of this course is generally on how to teach Special Education (SPED) students, not how to teach about disability issues and culture. In fact, much attention is given to keeping Learning Disabled/Emotional Disorder/Behavioral Disorder (LD/ED/BD) students’ disabilities invisible. Teachers learn how to modify lesson plans so as not to expose these disabilities as well as to increase a sense of inclusion for the SPED student. While we believe that the emphasis on privacy rights and inclusion is essential, we also argue that the (in)visibility of disability in our classrooms is problematic. As the opening quote above suggests, whether we talk about it or not, (dis)ability issues permeate our classes, our teaching, and our students’ experiences in and outside of the classroom. We have found that students encounter disability issues from a variety of sources (e.g., family, friends, school policies/officials, fundraisers, doctors, TV shows, and websites). However, they tend to think about disability as an individual issue—something they “have” that can be stigmatized and/or a person who suffers from a deficit or loss who needs to be “cured,” pitied, or treated differently differently from “normal” people. We want to encourage teachers and students to examine and reflect on how these perceptions of disability are created, how we might engage with issues of disability more critically, and teach all students more effectively.
Kennedy, Tammie M. and Menten, Tracey, "Reading, Writing, and Thinking about Disability Issues" (2010). English Faculty Publications. 71.