Challenging Interpretations of Disability in Pedagogy and Practice

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This presentation will explore the way disability is interpreted in pedagogical contexts and how the curriculum can be developed in order to challenge the perception of disability in society through anti-oppressive pedagogies (Beckett, 2015) and affirmative models of disability in pedagogy, research and practice (Goodley, 2011). With the potential of language and pedagogy to significantly inform the lived experience of disability (Rapley, 2010), the implications of such a paradigm shift are profound. It is proposed that sharing this pedagogy of ideas (Healey, 2005a) at an early stage of training could inform increasingly inclusive, service-user informed research and practice (HCPC, 2013; ArtWorks Cymru, 2015). While professionally regulated disciplines determine the subject matter that higher education institutions explore, there is flexibility about the paradigm through which this material is presented. Many contrasting perspectives are shared in international literature around pedagogy of arts therapies (Goodman, 2015) however a medical model paradigm appears to remain dominant. Lingard (2007) and Beckett (2015) have identified how disability is constructed in primary educational provision, and the representation of disability in art is richly discussed (Kuppers, 2014; Proud, 2016; Millett-Gallant and Howie, 2017). There is consideration of the relevance of disability studies pedagogy to teacher training programmes (Penketh and Waite, 2018) however there is a lack of research into the specific lens through which participatory arts and arts therapy trainees are introduced to the construct of disability. With the potential perpetuation of ableist ideologies in higher education (Dolmage, 2017; Kim and Aquino, 2017) and of medical model interpretations in therapy, there is scope for discussion around an inclusive, non-normative pedagogy of therapeutic practice (Pickard, In Press). Developing students’ understanding of an inclusive, social model approach to practice may further empower ownership of their own learner journey and enable challenging of systemic barriers to participation in their own experiences (Kendall, 2016).

ArtWorks Cymru (2015), ‘Quality Principles Framework’ [online], Available at, Accessed 3rd April 2018

Beckett, A. E. (2015), ‘Anti-Oppressive Pedagogy and Disability: Possibilities and Challenges’, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 17(1), p. 76 – 94

Coombes, E., Pickard, B. et al. (2018), Academic Poster ‘Research Into Practice: Exploring How Personal Interests Can Shape Practitioner Identity’, for ‘Music, Diversity and Wholeness’, British Association of Music Therapists (BAMT) Conference 2018, London

Dolmage, J. T. (2017), Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education (Corporealities: Discourses of Disabilities), University of Michigan Press

Goodman, K. D. (Ed) (2015), International Perspectives in Music Therapy Education and Training: Adapting to a Changing World, Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publisher

Healey M. (2005a) Linking research and teaching: disciplinary spaces, in: R. Barnett (Ed.) Reshaping the university: new relationships between research, scholarship and teaching pp.30-42 (Maidenhead: Open University Press)

HCPC (2013), ‘Standards of Proficiency for Arts Therapists’, Available at Accessed 11th January 2018

Kim, E. and Aquino, K. C. (Eds) (2017), Disability as Diversity in Higher Education: Policies and Practices to Enhance Student Success, London: Routledge

Kuppers, P. (2014), Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Lingard, B. (2007), ‘Pedagogies of Indifference’, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 11(3), p. 245-266

Millett-Gallant, A. and Howie, E. (Eds) (2017), Disability and Art History (Interdisciplinary Disability Studies), London: Routledge

Penketh, C. and Waite, L. (2018), ‘Lessons in Critical Avoidance: Disability Studies and ‘Special Educational Needs’’, In Bolt, D. and
Penketh, C. (Eds), Disability, Avoidance and the Academy: Challenging Resistance, Oxon: Routledge

Pickard, B. (In Press), ‘Valuing Neurodiversity: A Humanistic, Non-Normative Model of Music Therapy Exploring Rogers’ Person-Centred Approach with Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions’, In Dunn, H., Coombes, E., Maclean, E., Mottram, H. and Nugent, J. (Eds), A Spectrum of Approaches: Music Therapy and Autism Across the Life Span, London: Jessica Kingsley

Proud, D. (2016), The Art of Disability: A Handbook About Disability Representation in Media, Publish Nation

Rapley, M. (2010), The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2018
EventUSW Learning and Teaching Conference 2018 - USW Conference Centre, Treforest, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Jun 201829 Jun 2018


ConferenceUSW Learning and Teaching Conference 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • disability
  • pedagogy
  • social construction
  • inclusive


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