disability and kairotic spaces



rehab ≠ what we do



A ceiling filled with colorful glass scupltures
melanie yergeau » reason » co-production


I realize that what I've laid out here in many ways sounds insurmountable, too difficult to pull off in our particular institutional contexts, what with all of the floating emphases on standards, rigor, and back-to-basics. I also realize that this work can, at times, seem too new and uncomfortable for some of us to really latch onto. So, I'd like to conclude, then, by briefly suggesting what we can do.

  1. I'd like us to recognize disability as a natural part of the human experience. Only when we do this can we truly begin to value the contributions and approaches to meaning-making that our students and our colleagues make.
  2. I'd like us to recognize that disability is not an undergraduate-centric phenomenon. We do not magically lose our disabilities when we hit 21.
  3. I'm asking that we recognize accessibility as an ongoing conversation, one that informs our pedagogical and scholarly thinking. We might enact this, for example, by requiring students (and ourselves) to caption or annotate video. We might also position disability as a crucial component or topic of inquiry in course content. We might also do this in our own scholarly presentations, offering handouts or full-text copies of our work. [1]
  4. Finally, I'd like to revisit the issue of shame. We need more disabled role models, and one way of becoming an activist–scholar is to ask for accommodations, even if they're imperfect, even if they're a retrofit, even if we feel ashamed that we need to ask for them. I'm not suggesting that people risk their jobs or sense of safety—but I am suggesting that, unless we model this behavior and press for change, this feeling of shame will continue to pervade academia, and our students and our junior colleagues will continue to feel unintelligent, unworthy, and broken. They will continue to ask the question—Is it me, or is it them? And the answer will always rest on their problemed bodyminds, those barriers to reason.

But we are not constrained by reasonableness, and this process of redesign transcends (dis)ability. I likewise exhort our non-disabled colleagues to advocate for accommodations as well—because allies are sorely needed as we re-imagine what it means to design, as we reconceive what it means to self-advocate, as we work to create spaces where nobody feels ashamed for being who they are or for knowing how they know.

What I suggest here isn't exhaustive, nor is it meant to be prescriptive. I don't pretend that this is easy, nor do I pretend to be a Magic 8 Ball® with all of the answers. But it's important work, and I know that the computers and writing community is kind, open-minded, and genuinely interested in making the world a more accessible place. More than anyone, we are in the position to get this work started.


1. And, I'd like to say how proud and excited I was by the innovations to the 2011 and 2013 C&W conferences, where presenters were asked to share their work ahead of time.