Disability studies in education: The need for a plurality of perspectives on disability

Susan Baglieri, Jan W. Valle, David J. Connor, Deborah J. Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


This article asserts that the field of special education, historically founded on conceptions of disability originating within scientific, psychological, and medical frame works, will benefit from acknowledging broader understandings of disability. Although well intended, traditional understandings of disability in special education have inadvertently inhibited the development of theory,limited research methods, narrowed pedagogical practice, and determined largely segregated policies for educating students with disabilities. Since the passage of P.L. 94-142, along with the growth of the Disability Rights Movements, meanings of disability have expanded and evolved, no longer constrained to the deficit-based medical model. For many individuals, disability is primarily best understood within social, cultural, and historical contexts. As career-long educators, the authors describe the emergence of Disability Studies in Education, illustrating ways it offers them the means to engage with longstanding tensions, limitations, and promises within their chosen field of special education-helping to reframe, accurately ground, and define their own research and practice. The authors call upon the field of special education to acknowledge and accept a greater plurality of perspectives about the nature of disability, recognizing the profound implications this raises for research, and viewing it as a welcome opportunity for ongoing dialogue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-278
Number of pages12
JournalRemedial and Special Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2011


  • disability studies
  • inclusion
  • research
  • special education


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