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Eliminating ableism in education

by Thomas Hehir
Harvard Educational Review ()

Abstract

In this article, Thomas Hehir defines ableism as “the devaluation of disability” that “results in societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for a child to walk than roll, speak than sign, read print than read Braille, spell independently than use a spell-check, and hang out with nondisabled kids as opposed to other dis- abled kids.” Hehir highlights ableist practices through a discussion of the history of and research pertaining to the education of deaf students, students who are blind or visually impaired, and students with learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia. He asserts that “the pervasiveness of...ableist assumptions in theeducationof children with disabilities not only reinforces prevailing prejudices against disability but may very well contribute to low levels of educational attainment and employ- ment.” In conclusion, Hehir offers six detailed proposals for beginning to address and overturn ableist practices. Throughout this article, Hehir draws on his per- sonalexperiencesasformerdirectorofthe U.S. Department of Education’sOfficeof Special Education Programs, Associate Superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools, and Director of Special Education in the Boston Public Schools.

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