Transforming Education to Promote Disability Justice
Almost 16 per cent of Canadians have been identified as having a disability, including more than 200,000 children and youth. Many face barriers as the result of assumptions about their abilities. They also face insufficient social and economic policies. These obstacles lead to inequities in employment, education and pay.
As Canada Research Chair in Disability Studies in Education, Dr. Gillian Parekh is examining how schools respond to disability in order to maximize student success. In particular, she and her research team are exploring the consequences of academic streaming and ability grouping.
Parekh and her team are studying academic, program and demographic trends relating to students’ access to education. By working with educators, administrators and students, they hope to better understand the implications of shifting institutional structures, policies and norms. Their goal is to support greater inclusion of students (from kindergarten to post-secondary) who are identified as disabled or involved with special education.
Parekh’s research has shown that our views of race, gender and socioeconomic status are deeply entangled in discussions and practices regarding disability inclusion and exclusion. She and her team are exploring how categorizing students according to their perceived abilities can enable forms of discrimination, such as ableism, racism and classism. They are also looking at how privilege is mobilized by definitions of giftedness and access to elite programs.
Ultimately, Parekh’s work will produce new insights and approaches to education that will inform teacher education and practice, educational policy and system structures (the practices and enactment of policies within the educational system), from kindergarten to postsecondary schooling.