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Academic Ableism

Disability and Higher Education

Subjects: Disability Studies, American Studies, Education, Literary Studies, Literary Criticism and Theory
Paperback : 9780472053711, 254 pages, 6 figures, 6 x 9, November 2017
Hardcover : 9780472073719, 254 pages, 6 figures, 6 x 9, November 2017
Audiobook : 9780472003662, 254 pages, 6 x 9, June 2020
Open Access : 9780472900725, 232 pages, 6 figures, December 2017

This open access version made available by the Arts Research Office at the University of Waterloo.
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Places notions of disability at the center of higher education and argues that inclusiveness allows for a better education for everyone


Academic Ableism brings together disability studies and institutional critique to recognize the ways that disability is composed in and by higher education, and rewrites the spaces, times, and economies of disability in higher education to place disability front and center. For too long, argues Jay Timothy Dolmage, disability has been constructed as the antithesis of higher education, often positioned as a distraction, a drain, a problem to be solved. The ethic of higher education encourages students and teachers alike to accentuate ability, valorize perfection, and stigmatize anything that hints at intellectual, mental, or physical weakness, even as we gesture toward the value of diversity and innovation. Examining everything from campus accommodation processes, to architecture, to popular films about college life, Dolmage argues that disability is central to higher education, and that building more inclusive schools allows better education for all.

Jay Timothy Dolmage is Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo.

Academic Ableism is a landmark book for higher education. Using disability as the frame, it is the first and only of its kind to take on structural ableism in the academy.”
—Brenda Brueggemann, University of Connecticut  

“For those new to the field of Disability Studies, Dolmage provides clear, authoritative definitions of terms and the opportunity to analyze, critically, what students know best and need tools to think about, their own spaces and roles. For those who are old hats, this book is game-changing.”
— Susan Schweik, University of California, Berkeley 

"Jay Dolmage’s instant classic, Academic Ableism, develops an intensive analysis of institutional histories, structural barriers, and contemporary practices in higher education."

- Michelle Jarman (University of Wyoming)

"Jay Timothy Dolmage’s critique of higher education in Academic Ableism offers his readers with a metaphorical analysis of spaces in universities, the bodies within them, and the bodies they selectively exclude. He underlies the foundations of higher education as based in eugenic practices and preservation of norms in society regarding notions of intelligence, socialization, and communication. Even though Dolmage’s critique emerges from within higher education itself, he still critically analyzes the ways in which it systematically segregates against disabled bodies."
—Margaret Fox, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies

- Margaret Fox

"Throughout, Dolmage calls attention to ableist words and practices that I regularly use, despite my teaching and research in disability studies. But books are at their best when they catch us off guard, when they call into question our standard practices and unquestioned assumptions, and when they ask difficult questions, like Dolmage does at the ends of his chapters. As I tell my students, learning is not always comfortable. ...So I urge you, readers, as Dolmage does, to start looking for steep steps everywhere."
—Emily O. Gravett, Religious Studies Review

- Emily O. Gravett

"People in academia who have not given much thought to students or professors with disabilities should read this book."
Disability Intersections

- Disability Intersections

"Academic Ableism offers a fresh and informed perspective on the historically complicated relationship between disability and higher education."
Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning

- Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning

"A comprehensive and detailed critique of ableism in higher education."
College English

- Patricia A. Dunn

"Dolmage dutifully cultivates a deliberate and explicit respect for readers."
Disability & Society

- Disability & Society

Read: Jay Dolmage interviewed in Inside Higher Ed Link | 12/7/2017