Language in biology and medicine can frame disability as a deviation from what is normal, acceptable, and welcome–a framework that can extend into classrooms. However, importing terms like “disorder” or “mutation” from these fields can reinforce assumptions that disabled people are less capable, less valuable in society, and less independent compared to people without disabilities. What ideas or messages are we sharing in our language about biological differences? Reflecting on this question is the first step toward addressing barriers to student engagement, preventing potential harms, and creating more inclusive classrooms.
In this session, disability scholars will provide an introduction to the evolution of disability language, discuss current trends, share insights from their work in clinical settings, and identify practices that can support inclusive education and engagement around disability and difference. The program will focus on evidence-based, pedagogical approaches that affirm the dignity, humanity, and agency of disabled and neurodiverse people and support them to learn, grow, and flourish.