Disability through a 100-year lens


Erik Ketcherside

Two Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College research professors won the 2017 Review of Research Award from the American Educational Research Association. Alfredo Artiles is Ryan C. Harris Memorial Endowed Professor of Special Education, and Sherman Dorn is Director of the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation. They share the honor with their collaborator, Aydin Bal at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Viewing disability through the lens of education, Artilies, Dorn and Bal trace the perception of disability as a factor of daily life in the U.S. for more than a century. “The idea of disability has arguably evolved over time,” they find, “from a category of oppression and exclusion to an identity that affords entitlements, programs, and benefits …. At the same time, disability continues to play a central role in the stratification of U.S. society.”

The award recognizes an outstanding review of research article appearing in one of the journals of the AERA. Established in 1916, the AERA is the most prestigious professional organization for educational researchers. There were 15 categories of awards given in 2017, shared among only 19 scholars nationwide. Winners were honored by their peers at the AERA Annual Meeting in San Antonio in April.

The chapter authored by Artiles, Dorn and Bal is “Objects of Protection, Enduring Nodes of Difference: Disability Intersections With ‘Other’ Differences, 1916 to 2016.” It examines disability from a cultural perspective throughout the history of the U.S. to “understand and disrupt disparities in education that affect students living at the intersection of disability with race and other identity markers.”

In conferring the award, AERA said, “Skillfully and methodically, the authors trace the cultural–historical paradoxes of disability, arguing that its construct has consistently exhibited the dual realities of protecting the disabled and treating them unjustly," the announcement said. “The review traces the evolving nature of disability as a way of surfacing the intersectionality of disability, race, and other forms of difference. This lens, in turn, is used to offer insights into the racialization of disability and the various other ways that disability is understood and misunderstood.”

The announcement concludes, “Drs. Artiles, Dorn, and Bal offer a number of thoughtful recommendations for overcoming this dual reality, which deserve serious consideration by researchers.”