Ableism in the Academy: A series about disability oppression and resistance in higher education

Special Series

Call for Manuscripts

Critical Education

Ableism in the academy: A series about disability oppression and resistance in higher education


Steve Singer, The College of New Jersey
Jessica Bacon, Montclair State University

An early expression of interest and a 250-500 word abstract December 10, 2018. Please address correspondence to and including "Critical Education" in the subject line.

Manuscripts due dates: Due to the nature of a special series, we will be accepting and reviewing manuscripts on a rolling basis until April 10, 2019 with the potential of extending the CFP.

Ableism is a pervasive problem in the academy despite the protections put in place by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, theoretically guaranteeing disabled students access to educational experiences free from access barriers or discrimination. Generally, ableism is defined as the persistent devaluing of disability, or the belief that disability is an inherently negative state of existence and able-bodiedness is a preferred way of being (Campbell, 2009). The academy and all its parts (e.g. faculty, administration, student body, and staff) often view disabled people as burdens and not as scholars (See Dolmage, 2017; Kimball and colleagues, 2016). Unsurprisingly, there is scant scholarship that focuses of ableism in graduate degree programs, because disabled students are not offered admission to these programs, or there is a high attrition rate for this population. Only 5% of disabled students earn advanced degrees, which is roughly one-third of their able-bodied counterparts (Ryan & Bauman, 2016).

This special series examines all levels of ableism in the academy, with a special focus on graduate degree programs and structures in higher education that marginalize disabled students or limit the access to graduate degree programs. These levels of ableism include: cultural, institutional, interactional, and personal strata.

Ableism manifests in four ways: overt, covert, aversive, and laissez-faire (Keller & Galgay, 2010). Overt ableism is easily recognizable and generally accepted or goes without notice because of its ubiquity. Covert ableism describes ableism which is hidden intentionally or unintentionally or is that which is rationalized. Aversive ableism describes ambivalence, reductiveness, avoidance, or a general denial of ableism. Finally, laissez-faire ableism describes a notion that any disparities between disabled people and able-bodied people or extant barriers are the result of disabled people’s own actions.

We welcome a wide range of methodological, empirical, theoretical, and narrative manuscripts for this issue. We particularly encourage scholarship which prioritizes the voices, contributions, values, and needs of disabled people. Additionally, we are interested in intersectional analyses of the experience of ableism alongside other marginalized groups who additionally confront, for instance racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, etc. The series is also open to stories of activism or resistance against ableist practice in higher education.

We invite the submission of shorter, personal narratives to further contextualize and partner with empirical or theoretical manuscripts. These narratives will be reviewed based on their relevance and contribution to the series theme, and we are open to a range of styles of writing. The four expressions and four levels of ableism described above should be used as a guide for potential foci of submitted manuscripts, though papers need not explicitly name these.

Potential topics of study of ableism in higher education and graduate degree programs at cultural and institutional levels could include but are not limited to the following topics: Admissions processes, evidencing competency, policies, facilities, administration and faculty acting as agents of the institution, degree requirements, “tradition” and “rigor,” performance, assessments, coursework, campus climate (e.g. pity, pathology), status quo, campus organizations/support, intersectional oppression, reinforcement of ableist norms, inadequate disabled population/peerage, academic or social resources, or accommodations.

Potential topics of study of ableism in higher education and graduate degree programs at interactional or personal levels in graduate degree programs, could include but are not limited to the following topics: Attitudes or actions of faculty or staff, attitudes or actions of peers, socialization/campus involvement, observed and inferred ableism by individuals, personal beliefs about disability, learned behaviors, internalized oppression, intersectional oppression, disability identity formation or change, advocacy, or activism.

Word limits:

  1. Methodological, empirical, and theoretical papers should be between 4,000 and 8,000 words in length.
  2. Personal narratives should not exceed 1,750 words.

For details on manuscript submission see: CE Information for Authors


Campbell, F. K. (2009). Contours of ableism. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dolmage, J. (2017). Academic ableism. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Kimball, E., Moore, A., Vaccaro, A., Troiano, P., & Newman, B. (2016). College Students with Disabilities Redefine Activism: Self-Advocacy, Storytelling, and Collective Action. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 9(3), 245-260.

Keller,  R.  M.,  and  Galgay,  C.  E.  (2010).  Microaggressive  experiences  of  people  with  disabili-ties. Microaggressions and marginality: Manifestation, dynamics, and impact, 241-268.

Ryan, C. L., & Bauman, K. (2016). U.S. Census: Educational attainment in the United States: 2015. Retrieved from

ISSN 1920-4175 Critical Education