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Anti-Ableist Teaching

A Community for Learning and Leading Together

What is anti-ableist teaching?

The Anti-Ableist Teaching Project is a multi-year project that sparked from the relationship between the Johnson Family Foundation and the Department of Learning and Teaching at the University of San Diego who desire to improve teachers’ capacity for working with disabled students. In directing the Johnson Fellows Program, a program designed to support teachers who want to improve inclusion at their schools, we have identified a need to provide enhanced resources for challenging ableism.

The development project, starting in Summer 2019, builds from the work of disability studies in education scholars and teachers who provide model lesson plans and professional development materials that new teacher leaders can use. The project also invites teacher leaders to create and share materials of their own to help build a repository that teachers can draw from as they work to include disability studies in their pedagogy and to more broadly create communities that support access and belonging.

How can schools become more inclusive?

Disability Studies in Education (DSE) scholars understand that pedagogy informs society’s conceptions of disability. While the State of California mandates the incorporation of disability history (along with LGBTQ history) in K-12 teaching with the Fair Act of 2011, few teacher-friendly resources are available. A number of other states have similar legislation. The curriculum models shared here aim to transform conceptions using Disability Studies in Education (DSE), an asset-based framework. The creation and dissemination of the “Anti-Ableist Teaching” website supports the goal to widely share and encourage new creation of accessible disability curriculum. 

One challenge faced by those who want to incorporate disability into the pedagogy that celebrates the diversity of student experience is the prevalence of narrow, deficit-based understandings that stem from the medical model of disability. Teachers need examples that reject deficit-based models. DSE, a special interest group of the American Educational Research Association, works “to promote the understanding of disability from a social model perspective drawing on social, cultural, historical, discursive, philosophical, literary, aesthetic, artistic, and other traditions to challenge medical, scientific, and psychological models of disability as they relate to education.” This group of scholars advocates for a practice that will:

  • contextualize disability within political and social 

  • privilege the interest, agendas, and voices of people labeled with disability/disabled people

  • promote social justice, equitable and inclusive educational opportunities, and full and meaningful access to all aspects of society for people labeled with disability/disabled people

  • assume competence and reject deficit models of disability (Connor and colleagues, 2007).

The resources created and shared on this website illustrate a social model perspective, one that addresses disability as a natural and valuable part of human diversity.


  • Connor, D. J., Gabel, S. L., Gallagher, D. J., & Morton, M. (2008). Disability studies and inclusive education—implications for theory, research, and practice. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 12(5-6), 441-457.

"Disability intersects with race, ethnicity, gender, social class, sexual and gender identity, religion, and all other forms of difference. Understanding inclusion and diversity from the perspective of disability studies in education can help teachers facilitate learning environments that respect and honor difference in its many forms."

Dr. Susan Gabel

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