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Identifying Unheard Voices: Disability, Ableism, Access

The following guide provides an overview for identifying underrepresented voices and communities within research.

"Accessible Communication. It's the Law!" by giulia.forsythe is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The following page provides students and researchers access to resources related to:

  • Understanding ableism as a form of bias against the differently abled.
  • Scholarly and external research resources.
  • Information regarding Advocacy groups, as well as the outreach and policy work they perform.

Resources Available at the Gordon Library

Resources Related to Disability, Differently-Abled, Ableism, & Access

Voices at Risk 

The voices of the disabled and other marginalized communities are underrepresented in academia, government, healthcare, and other industries.

By intentionally seeking out and citing work created by and for individuals from marginalized communities, we help to advocate for the creators, their communities, and the perspectives they present.  At the same time, we broaden our own understanding of the topic.

 The following overview of ableism and disability-studies was drafted by the University of Cincinnati Library:

"What is ableism?

Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as ‘less than,’ and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities".

For context, check out the following short video from BuzzFeed News entitled, 'Things People With Disabilities Wish You Knew':

"What is disability?

A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).

There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person’s:

  • Vision
  • Movement
  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Learning
  • Communicating
  • Hearing
  • Mental health
  • Social relationships

According to the World Health Organization & the CDC, disability has three dimensions:

  1. Impairment in a person’s body structure or function, or mental functioning; examples of impairments include loss of a limb, loss of vision or memory loss.
  2. Activity limitation, such as difficulty seeing, hearing, walking, or problem solving.
  3. Participation restrictions in normal daily activities, such as working, engaging in social and recreational activities, and obtaining health care and preventive services".

What does ableism look like? Ableism can take many forms including:

  • Lack of compliance with disability rights laws like the ADA
  • Segregating students with disabilities into separate schools
  • The use of restraint or seclusion as a means of controlling students with disabilities
  • Segregating adults and children with disabilities in institutions
  • Failing to incorporate accessibility into building design plans
  • Buildings without braille on signs, elevator buttons, etc.
  • Building inaccessible websites
  • The assumption that people with disabilities want or need to be ‘fixed’
  • Using disability as a punchline, or mocking people with disabilities
  • Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations
  • The eugenics movement of the early 1900s
  • The mass murder of disabled people in Nazi Germany

The following scholarly resources will introduce students to current academic discourse related to disability studies, ableism, etc., including journals found via BrowZine (the Library's journal searching tool). Please note: the image displayed below presents a variety of journals which broadly research the concept of 'disability', although topically they all relate to the subject of 'Disability and Special Needs Education'. That said, research regarding the lived experiences of the differently-abled can certainly be found beyond the realm of educational research; below the image, the library has compiled other examples of peer-reviewed journals which consider these themes. As such, the library recommends pairing keywords to focus your search.



      Journal of Disability Policy Studies                              Disability & Society                              Disability and Health Journal             Disability and Higher Ed Compliance

For access to the full documentary, please click on or cut and paste the following link into your browser, and then login to Academic Video Online with your WPI credentials

[Add Metadata for Videos]


National Arts and Disability Center (UCLA) (see also

“MISSION: The mission of the National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) is to promote the inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities into all facets of the arts community. The NADC is a project of the Tarjan Center. The information, technical assistance, training and evaluation services of the NADC aim to strengthen the capacity of the mainstream arts community to include artists and audiences with disabilities, and promote the professional development of artists with disabilities through access to educational, vocational and community activities, supports and networks. 

The NADC is a leading consultant in the arts and disability community, and the only center of its kind. Our information is aimed at artists with disabilities, arts organizations, arts administrators, disability organizations, performing arts organizations, art centers, universities, and arts educators.”

Mass Local Disability Advocacy Organizations

These organizations protect and advocate for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.

For a comprehensive list, see here [].

National groups;, with an emphasis on Academia and Disability:


For a comprehensive list, see here []