Disability in Higher Education: A Social Justice Approach

By Clemson, Cindy | College Student Affairs Journal, Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Disability in Higher Education: A Social Justice Approach


Clemson, Cindy, College Student Affairs Journal


DISABILITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A SOCIAL JUSTICE APPROACH Nancy J. Evans, Ellen M. Broido, Kirsten R. Brown, and Autumn K. Wilke San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2017, 515 pages $45.00 (hardcover) $6.99 (ebook)

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 marked a new chapter in accessibility for students with disabilities in this county to pursue higher education. Although earlier foundational groundwork was laid with the enactment of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the ADA provided additional procedures to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, as well as schools, and other settings. These legal mandates have empowered an increasing number of students with disabilities to attend college. According to information provided in Disability in Higher Education: A Social Justice Approach, the number and percentage of college students who indicated to their institution that they have a disability has almost doubled since the mid-1990s. Authors Evans, Broido, Brown, and Wilke cite 2011 data from the National Center for Educational Statistics which revealed that 11.1% of college students now identified themselves as having a disability.

Although major federal legislation opened the doors for students with disabilities to attend colleges and universities, very few resources existed to assist student affairs professionals with the implementation of student-centered programs. While more research has been done recently, there is still a paucity of resources in certain areas of disability support in higher education. According to the authors, this book was written to help address that need. Their main purpose in writing the book is to assist colleges in systematically identifying and eliminating institutional and cultural barriers which affect the success of individuals with disabilities on their own campuses. The authors present a social justice approach to tackle the difficult institutional barriers that prevent the full inclusion of students with disabilities in higher education. While the main audience is student affairs practitioners and graduate students studying disability services, the book contains critical information that can also assist academic affairs administrators and faculty in viewing students with disabilities and disability services offices through a social justice lens.

Discussion questions at the end of each chapter, in addition to the 'student voice' found throughout the book, provide student affairs professionals with a richer understanding of the challenges that students with disabilities encounter when entering higher education institutions. The authors begin their book with an explanation of why a social justice approach is paramount for higher education administrators to understand. According to the authors, inherent in this approach is the assumption that people's abilities and rights to contribute to and benefit from higher education are not dependent on their bodies or psyches to conform to dominant norms. This approach is in contrast to those who view disabilities as a deficit, limitation, or inability. Additionally, the preface provides each author's story as an individual who identifies with having one or more disabilities. Their stories make this book a unique resource for others who have a disability to learn how to successfully navigate higher education. This is a vital reference which has been missing in the field. The book is divided into four parts with each one dealing with a different area of focus.

Part 1: Foundational Concepts

For those just entering the field of disability services, either as a practitioner or a graduate student, the first four chapters are a must-read. The authors detail the essential foundational concepts regarding the right to equal access in higher education for students with disabilities. Their description of three important disability rights movements provide the reader with an understanding of the resilience of the students who succeeded despite being viewed by society as not welcome. …

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