Detailed Program of the Conference

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Overall view of the program
Parallel sessions - D.6.1 The Disability Studies approach in the analysis of educational inequalities and in the structuring of contrasting measures
Friday, 04/June/2021:
1:15pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Fabio Bocci
Session Chair: Alessandra Maria Straniero
Session Chair: Simona D'Alessio
Location: Room 6

Session Panels:
D.6. The Disability Studies approach in the analysis of educational inequalities and in the structuring of contrasting measures

External Resource:


Valentina Migliarini1, Chelsea Stinson2, David Hernandez-Saca3

1University of Portsmouth, School of Education and Sociology United Kingdom; 2Syracuse University, Department of Teaching & Leadership, United States; 3University of Northern Iowa, Department of Special Education, United States

In public discourses, migration is widely treated as a controversial issue generating emotional and affective arguments hinging on perceived “illegalities” and outrage: transgressing political borders, “stealing jobs,” and subverting legal systems. Such hegemonic emotion discourses (Zembylas, 2002) are tied to affective racist and ableist ideas, constructing migrant bodies as “dangerous” and “undesirable” (Dolmage, 2018). These discourses often translate within education policies and practices. Particularly, inclusive education for first and second generations migrant children have failed to address the complexities of living at the global affective intersections of race, dis/ability, language, and migratory status (Artiles & Kozleski, 2007; Migliarini, 2017; Minow, 1991; Zembylas, 2012).

In this contribution, we draw from two case studies conducted in Italy and the United States (U.S.), focusing on inclusive education for migrant students labeled with disability, in order to reflect on how Disability Studies Critical Race Theory (DisCrit) has grown and expanded to shift attitudes and practices in education. For this purpose, the present contribution is structured to answer the primary research question: To what extent does DisCrit guide us in highlighting the power dynamics within emotions, discourses, and material realities of inclusive education for dis/abled migrant students? We argue that DisCrit illuminates the limits of contemporary models of inclusive education for migrant students, especially those labeled with dis/abilities. DisCrit shows how educators, under the pressure of global neoliberal reforms, often practice forms of “inclusion” that replicate traditional special education models through global affective intersectional racism and ableism, and color-evasive discourses (Annamma, Jackson, & Morrison, 2017).

We underscore the urgency to reform global inclusive policies and practices by adopting a global affective intersectional stance (Hernández-Saca & Cannon, 2019; Wetherell, 2012) which expands DisCrit to consider migrant students as subjects previously held in limbo at the affective intersections of dis/abilities, migratory status, language, and race.


Cristina Paupini, George Anthony Giannoumis

Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

Since the 1990s, research has conceptualized universal design as the design of products, environments, programs and services to be usable by all people. However, recent research has examined the theoretical underpinnings of universal design and has argued for promoting a new framework for realizing universal design in the information society (Giannoumis, 2016; Giannoumis & Stein, 2019). This research has reframed the traditional and sometimes conflicting principles of universal design to account for the necessity that ICT has for realizing human rights, including the right to education. This new set of principles of universal design for the information society helps to establish a new direction for universal design research and practice by evolving the ways in which universal design is applied to ICT. These principles recognize universal design as based in human rights, and pose four salient points of departure for the application of universal design to the information society including social equality and non-discrimination, diversity and social disadvantage, ICT usability and accessibility, and participatory processes.

In 2008, the Norwegian government adopted the EAA, which established a general obligation to promote the universal design of publicly available goods and services including ICT. According to the EAA, universal design refers to designing ICT so that it can be used by as many people as possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. This comes down to three issues. First, technology has to be usable. Second, usability has to extend to everyone on an equal basis, and third, use cannot require any kind additional software or systems to make it usable.

This paper discusses how higher education institutions must apply the four principles of Universal Design in learning and teaching in order to more fully achieve universal design and how this perspective is paramount in order to develop a truly inclusive society. The universal design for learning perspective presented here builds extensively on the theoretical background of the Disability Studies, particularly on the new human rights model of disability defined by Theresia Degener (2017). The case study that we are presenting is from the Oslo Metropolitan University (Norway), leader in the adoption of innovative methods in teaching. By anchoring universal design in relation to social equality and non-discrimination, by taking into account the diversity of the human experience and the barriers that emerge from the interaction between systems of social disadvantage, by considering both access and use of ICT and by directly involving people with diverse backgrounds and experiences higher education institutions in Norway can help promote a universally designed society that is necessary for some and great for everyone.


Heidrun Demo, Silver Cappello, Simone Seitz

Competence Centre of School Inclusion, Free University of Bolzano Bozen, Italy

Italian inclusive school policies grant all children and students the right to attend mainstream schools and classes, responding to an equality principle. With a compensative perspective, the needs of pupils considered more at risk of school of failure and exclusion, so-called pupils with SEN, are addresses with particular resources. Eligibility for specific resources is given by the recognition of categories of SEN, mainly on the basis of medical criteria.

Referring to the framework that distinguishes between Input, Throughput and Output models of funding (Meijer, 1999), allocation of special resources for inclusive education in Italy is based on an Input Model: the individual right for an Individualised Educational Plan (IEP) and for extra resources is closely connected to a medical diagnosis and its severity determines the amount of available resources. The official decision about the diagnosis takes place in a multi-disciplinary team (family, school, and external members), that describes the support for the pupil and it is used as basis for planning and it is subject to a review process (European Agency, 2016; Ianes and Augello, 2019).

This model produces incentive to the “strategic behaviour” of formulating needs (Pijl, 2014) and is linked to increasing costs, where the lack of information, clarity of data and costs-benefits ratio are highlighted by the Italian Court of Auditors (2018). Furthermore, this system requires learners with SEN to be labelled as “special” (TreeLLLe, Caritas and Fondazione Agnelli, 2011) and, furthermore, the increased funding is often in terms of “outsourcing”: identified students are delegated to specific professionals, in Italy mainly to support teachers (Ebersold et al., 2019).Also in other European countries, at leas since one decade, the risks of this model for the development of inclusion have been confirmed (Ebersold and Meijer, 2016; NESSE, 2012)

For this reason, many countries are moving towards funding models that combine the Input model with the Throughput Model (Mejier, 1999), where funding is based on stable formulas and on the condition that specific services will be autonomously be organized by a school, a municipality or a local region. The latter model is a form of funding that leaves to schools the responsibility to organize support, without connecting it to an official identification of Special Educational Needs. This is why it is potentially considered less at risk of labelling processes and more supportive for school autonomous choices in the implementation of inclusive practices (Ebersold et al., 2019).

A comparative analysis of three alternative funding models developed in Norway, Irleand and in the Netherlands will be presented. The countries differ for their history in inclusive policies: Norway shares with Italy a long history of a “school for all” and almost no special schools, while both in Ireland and in the Netherlands there is a co-existence of inclusive experiences and special settings (schools and classes). The countries also differ in the way throughput and input funding models are balanced. On the background of the comparative analysis. Some proposal for a rethinking of resources allocation for the Italian inclusive school system will be discussed.


Beth A Ferri, Christine E Ashby, Nathan Hughes, Teukie Martin

Syracuse University, United States of America

Django Paris (2012) argues for the need to adopt culturally sustaining practices that move beyond simply respecting cultural difference to approaches to education that “perpetuate and foster—to sustain—linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling” (p. 93). Building on earlier asset- or resource-based pedagogies (Ladson-Billings, 1995), culturally sustaining approaches reject hegemonic norms and deficit thinking, but also seek to sustain diverse learners’ cultural and linguistic competence and ways of knowing, or repertoires of practice (Gutiérrez & Rogoff, 2003). This approach embraces pluralism over assimilation, at the same time it aims to promote full access to curriculum. In other words, culturally sustaining pedagogy is an approach that respects minoritized students’ as knowers, as it works to open doors to new frames of knowledge. As critical special educators, we ask, what might such an approach offer to students with disabilities and learners who are seen as having “special education needs?” What might it mean to adopt practices that seek to sustain or conserve disability as an ontological and epistemological resource? Can we imagine disabled futures, not as failures of practice, but as futures worth celebrating?

In “The Case for Conserving Disability,” Garland-Thomson (2012) make a counter-eugenic case for conserving disability as a “potentially generative resource” that offers valuable cultural and material contributions to our social worlds. Rejecting utopian views of an imagined non-disabled future, she imagines what it might mean to conserve, honor, and preserve disabled ways of being in the world—as a resource to embrace rather than a deficit to eradicate, ameliorate, or rehabilitate. In terms of education, what might it mean to think of students with disabilities as assets to be nurtured as they are, rather than problems to be remediated? What is lost when we only think of disability as a deficit to overcome rather than as a way of being and knowing that can and should be fostered, sustained, respected, and shared with others?

In thinking about how to merge these two ideas of culturally sustaining practice and conserving disability, we draw on Annamma & Morrison’s (2018) notion of DisCrit classroom ecologies to consider ways to think about multiply minoritized learners as resources in the classroom. Embracing disability and cultural difference as equally valid and valuable ways of being in the world, we explore what a culturally sustaining approach to inclusive classrooms can offer in terms of nurturing and conserving diverse ways of learning and being in the world.


Annamma, S., & Morrison, D. (2018). DisCrit classroom ecology: Using praxis to dismantle dysfunctional education ecologies. Teaching and Teacher Education, 73, 70-80.

Garland-Thomson, R. (2012). The case for conserving disability. Journal of bioethical

inquiry, 9(3), 339-355.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American

educational research journal, 32(3), 465-491.

Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and

practice. Educational researcher, 41(3), 93-97.


Alberto Quagliata1, Michela Baldini2, Lavinia Bianchi3, Giovanni Castagno4, Ines Guerini5, Fabiola Scollo6

1Università di Roma Tre, Italy; 2Università di Firenze; 3Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia; 4Università di Roma Tre; 5Università di Roma Tre; 6Università di Roma Tre

This paper represents the first report of the biennial research, which the authors have been carrying out since January 2020, through blended modalities. The qualitative research relates to inclusive practices in Italian kindergartens and primary schools. Some kindergartens and primary schools of the regions Lazio and Tuscany are involved in the present investigation. More specifically, six teachers have been interviewed so far, and six more will be interviewed in the following months.

Through a historical-pedagogical survey (Bacchetti, 2013), the authors identify an integrating background that takes into account the cultural roots from which the current regulatory-social-educational climate relating to inclusion practices in Italy originates (Canevaro, 2006; Bocci, 2016; Ferri, 2018). The meta-goal of the research is to unveil implicit epistemologies and practices that legitimize exclusion, pathologization and subordination (hooks, 1990; Spivak, 1998). At the same time, since the theoretical framework is that of Disability Studies, and more specifically, Critical Disability Studies, the authors are interested in investigating those institutional, social and cultural practices that disable people.

Moreover, researchers have thought about those movements in children’s literature that have taken on educational purposes by proposing the readers an exploration not only of the world around them but, more generally, of what ‘other’ means. This attitude to inclusion is more necessary than ever to propose more effective educational interventions. The authors of the present paper believe that silent books are a medium that can integrate multiple and complex levels of message, and this amplifies its ability to be a link between different realities, proving to be a privileged vehicle for promoting encounter and dialogue (Cambi, 2006; Lepri, 2016).

To conduct such research, the constructivist Grounded Theory methodology (Charmaz, 2014) - whose basic assumption is the co-construction of meanings - has been thought of as the best choice. The use of online activities (Quagliata, 2014), which allows constant and shared reflection between each member of the research group, is (especially in the current historical period that is characterized by the health emergency) a strength of the entire methodological system.

Participants have particularly appreciated the fact researchers have involved them – through some focus groups – also in the re-elaboration of their interviews and the academic meetings whose goal was to disseminate the research’s state of the art.

Researchers have used the software NVivo 10 for the analysis of the interviews and have currently identified fourteen emerging categories, such as acting inclusive educational practices,
the unveiling of cultural implications, the medicalization of vulnerable children and that the authors have provocatively called Ministerial super-ego.