Enhancing Diversity
Educators with Disabilities
Chapter 1: Identifying the Issues

Clayton E. Keller, Ronald J. Anderson, and Joan M. Karp, editors

Introduction

Educators with disabilities as a book topic may, to some people, seem obscure and, perhaps, unnecessary. Yet our own experiences as teacher-educators working with and preparing individuals with disabilities for careers in education and, for one of us, as an educator with a disability, brought us face to face with compelling stories that deeply challenged our professional values and society.

Clay Keller became involved with these issues after an encounter with a student. Sarah, who had been in one or two of his courses and with whom he had been working on an assistive technology development project, wondered if she could talk to him. Closing the door, she seemed upset. She tearfully related how some of her professors in her teacher-education program were questioning whether she should be a teacher. Sarah had had a stroke during her first year of college. As a result, she was paralyzed on one side of her body, had some speech dysfluencies, and acquired learning disabilities that caused some difficulties with reading. One professor wondered how she could be an elementary schoolteacher, because the literature say that young students will become better readers when others read aloud to them. How was she going to handle reading to her students, plus all the memos, materials, and students' work that a teacher needs to do on the spot? She would not be able to get advance copies of all the written materials so that she could have extra time to read them. (Her request for this accommodation in one particular course was rarely met by the professor.) Sarah did not know what to do. At the time, Clay did not know what to say, but tried somehow to console her.

Clay's colleague's questions about Sarah's potential raised a wealth of issues for him at that moment. Why could Sarah not be a teacher? She was extremely bright and a very good student. She was undertaking more than her share of the work on their joint project. Her sense of humor made her easy and fun to work with. She got along with children very well. He had never imagined she could not be a teacher. Sarah's situation prompted a number of questions--Why does the teacher have to read aloud? Why could not parent volunteers, older students, or even books on tape provide this important experience to her students? Whose decision was this, anyway? Are we as teacher-educators gatekeepers to the teaching profession? Is it appropriate for us to make such critical decisions about someone's life? Should Sarah make her own decisions about her career? Have other educators who have disabilities had similar experiences?

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