Disability justice means resisting together from solitary
          cells to open-air prisons - to exist is to resist - figure by
          Bazant and Sins Invalid

EDEC 575: Critical Disability Studies for Education

Introduction to disability studies. Current issues in disability justice, with emphasis on education, academic research, and technological design. Introduction to social theories which centre disabled standpoints: social model of disability, social construction of disability, feminist disability theories, disability critical race theory (DisCrit), queer crip theory, crip technoscience. Emphasis on intersections between disability and race, gender, queerness, class, and citizenship. Discussion of ableism, colonialism, and climate change. Attention to teaching methods, research practices, design practices, and activism/praxis with regard to disability and its intersections. Introduction to universal design for teaching/learning.

Time & location: Wednesdays 5:35pm - 8:25pm, Education Building Room 113 (note room change!)

Prof. Elizabeth Patitsas

Prerequisite: none
Credits: 3

Course Learning Goals
  1. To appreciate the need for disability justice, and to critically engage with disability issues
  2. To identify disability justice issues in education
  3. To compare and contrast different lenses from disability studies including the social model of disability, feminist disability theory, social constructionism, disability critical race theory (DisCrit), and crip technoscience
  4. To critique social institutions (e.g. schools, academia, science) using appropriate theories relevant to disability justice

We'll be using Slack for our class discussion forum this term.
(New to Slack? Video introduction here.)
Rather than emailing Elizabeth, post your question on Slack or a direct message (DM) to Elizabeth on Slack.

Weekly Schedule

  1. Introduction to Disability Studies
  2. Liberal and Feminist Disability Studies
  3. Disability and Education
  4. Disability Critical Race Theory (DisCrit)
  5. Queer Crip Theory
  6. Crip Technoscience
  7. The Environment & the Climate Crisis
  8. Colonialism & Migration
  9. (Reading week)
  10. Cripping Art & Media
  11. (Canceled due to Covid-19)
  12. (Canceled due to Covid-19)
  13. Disabled Activism
  14. Intersex issues

Course Policies

Safe Space Statement:

We are committed to nurturing a space where students, teaching assistants, lecturers, and professors can all engage in the exchange of ideas and dialogue, without fear of being made to feel unwelcome or unsafe on account of biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race/ethnicity, religion, linguistic and cultural background, age, physical or mental ability, or any other aspect integral to one's personhood. We therefore recognize our responsibility, both individual and collective, to strive to establish and maintain an environment wherein all interactions are based on empathy and mutual respect for the person, acknowledging differences of perspectives, free from judgment, censure, and/or stigma.

In keeping with the professional culture of teaching and learning, the Faculty of Education community believes that our teaching and learning spaces should model such professional environments. As a community, we are committed to creating authentic opportunities where understanding of teaching and learning is co-constructed between instructors and students. In order for us to create these learning environments, we are expected to demonstrate awareness of, respect for and commitment to the behaviours and actions of professionals. As members of the Faculty of Education community, we are expected to be accountable to ourselves and others and to be engaged, collegial and accessible. By doing so, we are more fully able to share together in the types of critical dialogue, creative thinking and reflective practice expected of professionals.

Scent Free Environment:

This classroom and associated office hours are a scent free environment. You must refrain from wearing perfume, cologne and body spray in these spaces out of respect for people with neurological & respiratory issues that may be affected by these scents.

Academic Integrity:

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offenses under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures” (see www.mcgill.ca/students/srr/honest/ for more information).


Students with disabilities who require accommodations should discuss their needs with at least one of the instructor and/or the Office for Students with Disabilities (https://www.mcgill.ca/osd/).

Students who are pregnant and/or caring for a dependent also often may find it helpful to receive academic accommodations. McGill's guidelines for accommodations for students who are pregnant and/or caring for a dependent may be found at https://www.mcgill.ca/study/2018-2019/university_regulations_and_resources/graduate/gi_accommodation_pregnancy_caring_dependants

Missed Class Policy:

To make up a missed class without penalty, you must inform me via DM on Slack with more than 24 hours notice that you cannot attend the class in question. Missed worksheets should then be completed at home and submitted at the start of the next class.

I do not require doctor's notes for missed classes, because they are a drain on the health care system (and sick students)! I also want to explicitly note that I believe mental health is an equally valid reason to miss a class. Other valid reasons for missing class include: bereavement, personal crises, care for a dependent, and presenting at an academic conference.

Snow Day Policy:

In the rare event that McGill closes the campus for a snow day, we will still have class at the usual time --- but online! I'll set up a Google Hangouts or similar videoconference for class; information will be posted on Slack.

Land Acknowledgment

This course takes place on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. Want to help with decolonizing this land? Decolonizing means returning the land to Indigenous groups. If you have the means, you can help decolonizing efforts by donating to legal efforts to return land back to Indigenous groups and/or protecting Indigenous lands.


See Assessment.

Jan 8 - Week 1: Introduction to Disability Studies


Note: this term I will be assigning a mix of academic and non-academic readings. My aim is for weekly readings to take you about 45-90 minutes to complete. The four readings this week are all non-academic and each fairly short.
  1. Stella Young: I’m not your inspiration (~10 min video, has captions)
  2. Center for Disability Rights' Disability Writing & Journalism Guidelines
  3. Harriet Tubman Collective's open letter: The Vision for Black Lives is Incomplete Without Disability Solidarity
  4. Rose Eveleth in Wired: It's Time to Rethink Who's Best Suited for Space Travel
Twitter hashtag of the week: #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow - spend some time perusing it!

Other things to do before our first class: set up Slack and fill in the get-to-know-you questionnaire that is pinned in the #worksheets channel (New to Slack? See this video; you'll want to manage your notification settings.)

Major concepts
: social model of disability, affirmation model, intersectionality

Learning goals:
  1. Compare and contrast the medical, social, affirmation, pity and charity models of disability
  2. List ways in which disabled people are oppressed in today's society
  3. List ways in which ableism and racism intersect
  4. List reasons for which a disabled person may be proud to be disabled
  5. Give examples of inspiration porn
  6. To critically reflect on the presentation of disability in society
  7. Compare and contrast disability rights and disability justice
  8. Give examples of how ableism is used to perpetuate racism

In class:

Jan 15 - Week 2: Liberal and Feminist Disability Studies

Note: last class before the add/drop deadline

  1. 99% Invisible podcast episode "Curb Cuts" (~45mins, has transcript)
  2. Chapter 2, "The Social Construction of Disability"; from Wendell, Susan. The rejected body: Feminist philosophical reflections on disability. Routledge, 2013.
  3. Caroline Criado-Perez: The deadly truth about a world built for men - from stab vests to car crashes
  4. Olga Khazan in The Atlantic: When Hearing Voices is a Good Thing
  5. [Optional] If you have not taken any courses on critical theory or social theory, I recommend this trio of YouTube videos:
Twitter hashtag of the week: #DoctorsAreDickheads

Major concepts: social construction of disability, feminist disability studies, universal design

Learning goals:
  1. Give examples of universal design
  2. Explain how disability is socially constructed
  3. Define "crip time" and explain why Wendell found "pace of life" worth of discussion
  4. List ways in which disability and gender/sex intersect
  5. Explain how capitalism and the Industrial Revolution led to the construction of disability
  6. Compare and contrast liberal and feminist disability studies
  7. Discuss the overlaps in the history of race/racism and disability/ableism
  8. Debate: is being a woman a disability?

In class:

Jan 22 - Week 3: Disability and Education

  1. Connor, D. J., & Valle, J. W. (2015). A socio-cultural reframing of science and dis/ability in education: Past problems, current concerns, and future possibilities. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 10(4), 1103-1122.
  2. Ferri, B. A., & Connor, D. J. (2005). Tools of exclusion: Race, disability, and (re) segregated education. Teachers College Record, 107(3), 453-474.
  3. Two blog posts about ABA "Therapy': I abused children for a living (2017) and Invisible Abuse: ABA and the things only autistic people can see (2019)
  4. [Optional] Jennifer Smith in the Chicago Tribune: The Quiet Room
  5. [Optional] Dixson, A. D., & Rousseau, C. K. (2014). And we are still not saved: Critical race theory in education ten years later. In Critical race theory in education (pp. 45-68). Routledge.
Twitter hashtag of the week: #WhyDisabledPeopleDropOut

Major concepts: universal design for learning, interest convergence, school-to-prison pipeline

Learning goals:
  1. Give examples of universal design for learning
  2. Critique the existence of so-called "special education"
  3. Discuss the history of special education
  4. Critically reflect on the legacy of eugenics
  5. List ways to make education less ableist
  6. Explain why pseudoscience is a disability justice issue
  7. Discuss parallels between conversion therapy and ABA therapy
  8. Discuss the relationship between disability and queerness

In class:

Jan 29 - Week 4: Disability Critical Race Theory (DisCrit)

Due in class: Milestone 1 (topic selection)


  1. Imani Barbarin in Rewire: On Being Black and ‘Disabled But Not Really’
  2. Rebecca Bohenheimer in ThoughtCo: What is Critical Race Theory? Definition, Principles, and Applications
  3. Erevelles, N., & Minear, A. (2010). Unspeakable offenses: Untangling race and disability in discourses of intersectionality. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 4(2), 127-145.
  4. Annamma, S. A., Ferri, B. A., & Connor, D. J. (2018). Disability critical race theory: Exploring the intersectional lineage, emergence, and potential futures of DisCrit in education. Review of Research in Education, 42(1), 46-71.
  5. [Optional] Lalvani, P., & Broderick, A. A. (2013). Institutionalized ableism and the misguided “Disability Awareness Day”: Transformative pedagogies for teacher education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 46(4), 468-483.
Twitter hashtag of the week: #DisabilityTooWhite

Major concepts
: social construction of race, critical race theory, DisCrit

Learning goals:
  1. Critique liberal disability studies with regard to racism
  2. Explain why many black disabled people downplay or hide their disabilities
  3. Explain what critical race theory is and its major criticisms of liberalism/multiculturalism
  4. List different types of intersectional analysis per Erevelles & Minear
  5. Discuss the role of race in the social construction of disability
  6. Explain what disability critical race theory (DisCrit) is and list its core tenets
  7. Compare and contrast: liberal disability studies, feminist disability studies, DisCrit
  8. Debate: are disability simulations worth doing in the classroom?

In class:

Feb 5 - Week 5: Crip Theory

Note: last class before the withdrawal deadline

Due in class: Revised Milestone 1 (topic selection)


  1. Kelsey Foreman on Youtube: What is Queer Theory? (~10 mins, has captions)
  2. Jenna Reid in Canadian Art: Cripping the Arts: It's About Time
  3. Schalk, S. (2013). Coming to claim crip: Disidentification with/in disability studies. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33(2).
  4. [Optional] Evans, H. D. (2017). Un/covering: Making disability identity legible. Disability Studies Quarterly, 37(1).
Twitter hashtag of the week: #StopTheShock

Major concepts
: crip, performativity, passing/uncovering

Learning goals
  1. Explain what it means to "queer"
  2. Debate: is disability performed?
  3. Explain what it means to "crip"
  4. Compare and contrast: liberal disability studies, feminist disability studies, DisCrit, queer crip theory
  5. Debate: is race a disability? Fatness?
  6. Identify ways in which eugenics lives on today
  7. Analyse how disability changes/affects gender performance

In class:

Feb 12 - Week 6: Crip Technoscience

  1. s.e. smith in Vox: Disabled people don't need so many fancy new gadgets. We just need more ramps.
  2. Ch 4: Sloped Technoscience in Hamraie, A. (2017). Building access: Universal design and the politics of disability. U of Minnesota Press.
  3. Hamraie, Aimi, and Kelly Fritsch. "Crip technoscience manifesto." Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 5, no. 1 (2019).
  4. [Optional] Jillian Weise in Granta: Common Cyborg
Twitter hashtag of the week: #AccessIsLove

Major concepts: crip technoscience, disability dongle, cyborg

Learning goals
  1. Compare and contrast universal design and "disability dongles"
  2. Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of friction in design
  3. List the core tenets of crip technoscience
  4. List ways in which disabled people are makers and knowers
  5. Discuss the relationship between disability and technology
  6. Compare and contrast: liberal disability studies, feminist disability studies, DisCrit, queer crip theory, crip technoscience
  7. Compare and contrast: crip technoscience, disability technoscience, and cyborg feminism

In class:

Feb 19 - Week 7: The Environment and the Climate Crisis

Due in class: Milestone 2 (theory selection)

  1. Belser, J. W. (2015). Disaster and Disability: Social Inequality and the Uneven Effects of Climate Change. Tikkun, 30(2), 24-25.
  2. Two chapters from Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities: Toward an Eco-Crip Theory, 422.
  3. Saigon Flowr in The Establishment: Strawgate: The Ableism Behind Exclusionary Activism
  4. Imani Barbarin in Forbes: Climate Darwinism Makes Disabled People Expendable
Major concepts: environmental racism, climate justice

Twitter hashtag of the week: #SuckItAbleism

Learning goals:
  1. List ways in which climate change will disproportionately affect disabled people
  2. Discuss the intersections of race, disability and climate change
  3. List ways disabled standpoints can contribute to fighting climate change
  4. Critique existing environmental movements with regard to ableism
  5. Apply different theories from this course (crip theory, crip technoscience, feminist DS, DisCrit) to the issue of climate change

In class:

Feb 26 - Week 8: Colonialism and Migration

Due in class: Revised Milestone 2

  1. Kim Sauder’s blog post on how Canada denies immigration to people with disabilities
  2. Carlos Oen in The Tyee: Discovering the Secrets Behind Indigenous Hand Talkers
  3. Ross Perlin in The Guardian: The Race to Save a Dying Language.
  4. Meekosha, H. (2011). Decolonising disability: Thinking and acting globally. Disability & Society, 26(6), 667-682.
Twitter hashtag of the week: #DisHist

Learning goals:
  1. Explore issues facing Deaf Indigenous people
  2. Discuss how disability issues vary in the Global South
  3. Critique disability studies for its colonialism
  4. List countries in which migration has been restricted in ableist ways
  5. Discuss the intersections of ableism and settler colonialism
  6. Discuss how climate change will affect disabled people with regard to climate change induced migration

In class:

Mar 5 - Week 9: Reading Week --- No Class!

Mar 11 - Week 10: Cripping Art and Media

Due in class: Milestone 3

  1. The Princess and the Scrivener on Youtube: The Wonder of Miscasting: The Misrepresentaton of Disfigurement and Disability (~10 mins, has captions)
  2. Annie Elainey on Youtube: Why is Disability Representation So White? (~5 min, has captions)
  3. Jennifer Brea's documentary "Unrest" (1h38m, has captions)
  4. [Optional] ASAN’s 2019 Anti-Filicide Toolkit pages 1-9
Twitter hashtag of the week: #DisTheOscars

In class:

Learning goals:
  1. Critique media representations of disability in Western society
  2. List examples of art and artistic movements by disabled people
  3. Apply theories from this course (e.g. crip theory, DisCrit) to multiple works of art/media
  4. Discuss ways to make art & literature education more inclusive to disabled students and educators

In class:

Mar 18 - Week 11: Canceled due to Pandemic

This class has been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will be postponed to when classes resume.

Since we are missing out on two student-responsive lectures, I am giving some optional readings for topics you voted as interested:

Optional Readings Based on Votes from Week 10

Mar 26 - Week 12: Canceled due to Pandemic

This class has been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Given the likelihood of boredom during the two-week shutdown, I've given a bunch more optional readings to go with the Week 14 readings. If you're bored, I suggest reading ahead! :)

Apr 4 - Week 13: Disability Activism

Due in class: Milestone 4 (draft of term paper)

  1. Disability Visibility podcast episode 24: Disability Justice and Community Organizing (~30 mins, has transcript)
  2. Kate Ringland on Medium: The Problem of Social Media Versus the "Real World"
  3. Contra* podcast episode 8: Contra*Hashtag with Moya Bailey and Vilissa Thompson (~1h, has transcript)
  4. CCPA article on “Updates from the long road to deinstitutionalization” 

Twitter hashtag of the week: #CripTheVote

Learning goals:
  1. Compare and contrast the state of disability activism in Canada and the US
  2. Critique the notion that online activism is not "real"
  3. List effects of hashtag activism
  4. List current issues for disabled activism in Canada
In class (which is on Zoom, see Slack for details)

Apr 11 - Week 14: Intersex Issues

Due in class: Revised Milestone 4 (draft of term paper)

  1. Intersex Human Rights Australia:
    1. Media and style guide
    2. Intersex and intersectionality
  2. Radiolab Presents Gonads: Dutee. (~35 mins, has transcript)
  3. Koyama, E. (2006). From ‘Intersex’to ‘DSD’: Toward a queer disability politics of gender. Intersex Initiative
  4. Ingid Kesa in Vice: The Female Unibrow is Back
  5. Optional: Disability Visibilty podcast episode 39: Sex Education (~30 mins, has transcript)

Learning goals:

  1. Explore how the medical model of disability affects more than disabilities
  2. Explore the relationship between compulsory ablebodiedness and patriarchy
  3. Discuss the relationships between intersex, disability, and race
  4. Discuss the relationships between intersex, disability, and beauty
  5. Debate: are intersex people crips? Queer?

In class:

I want to learn more!

Yay! :D

Here are some ways to stay in tune with disability topics after the term ends, or to do additional readings during the term!

Some readings that I considered assigning but didn't due to time constraints: