Enabling Critical Disability Perspectives in the Curriculum

Project TitleEnabling Critical Disability Perspectives in the Curriculum
Principal InvestigatorA. Corin Parsons de Freitas
Co-ApplicantsJohn Paul C. Catungal, Assistant Professor of Gender, Race, and Social Justice, Faculty of Arts
Hannah Sullivan Facknitz, Graduate (MA) Student, History, Faculty of Arts
Rachel Cheang, Undergraduate Student, Geography, Faculty of Arts
Funding Year2021
Project Summary
Disability is a category of social difference that the social sciences and humanities rarely interrogate but that plays a profound role in structuring society. Furthermore, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives often overlook disability, despite the vibrancy of disabled identities and culture. As a result, disabled members of the UBC community are under-resourced and underrepresented, rarely seeing our cultures or experiences represented anywhere, especially curriculum. Our project takes steps to address these intellectual gaps and begins laying the groundwork for critically engaging with related institutional gaps through the design and piloting of a dexterous critical disability studies (CDS) module. We envision this module as a foundational resource that faculty members and teaching assistants in the Faculty of Arts can use to integrate CDS into their course curricula. Our proposed critical disability studies (CDS) learning module introduces learners to three predominant approaches to disability. It will introduce the ways that different social constructions of disability impact disabled people’s lives and, ultimately, facilitate or foreclose avenues for broader social change affecting everyone regardless of disability status. This module is in two parts and will provide overviews of three common approaches to disability (medical, social/political- relational, and justice-centred). The medical model, which continues to inform most public policy and shape academic institutions like UBC, locates disability within individual bodies; disabilities are “deficiencies” that must be cured or rehabilitated — or, failing that, accommodated. The social and political-relational models, by contrast, examine enabling or disabling factors in the broader environment and are primarily concerned with accessibility. The first part of the module will compare these two models, introduce the concepts of “academic ableism”. This aims to enable teachers and learners to examine how each model affects the organization of society and space and the distribution of burdens and barriers. The second part of the module will introduce disability justice as an emerging framework. Among other things, this module will enable learners to examine specifically the co-constitution of ableism, white supremacy and settler colonial processes as well as the role of cisheteronormativity in the production of categories of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’. Our approach is rooted in CDS’ commitment to accessible and interdisciplinary pedagogy. This project is an opportunity to develop an OER as an extension of our investment in accessibility and interdisciplinary scholarship that includes content, materials, and activities. We have decided to house and pilot the module in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, given its interdisciplinarity and commitment to intersectional forms of social justice. The module itself is being developed with the guidance of a GRSJ faculty partner, John Paul Catungal, who has also committed to piloting the module in his GRSJ 102 course. We will use the pilot offerings of the course to improve the module further, with the hope of scaling up the adoption and adaptation of the module in other GRSJ courses and eventually across the Faculty of Arts. We hope that engaging the CDS module will encourage broader, CDS-informed shifts in pedagogical and curricular practices at UBC.
Grant type OER Rapid Innovation
Funded Amount $2,000

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