Enhancing Diversity: Chapter 1, Identifying the Issuescontinued . . .
Joan consulted her colleagues throughout the state who also prepared early childhood special education teachers and was astounded to hear their responses. They ranged from a clear statement that no way would a student with this type of disability ever be allowed to enter the program to an equally persuasive statement about other job responsibilities a person with this type of disability could consider and still be licensed as an early childhood special education teacher. Jobs such as an individualized family service plan facilitator or a parent group leader were thought practical. Joan felt compelled to both help this student and inform her university peers about the potential of educators with disabilities. She realized that the issues were complex and involved not only seeing what a prospective teacher with a disability could actually do in courses and educational settings but also her own, the student's, and the school personnel's deeply held beliefs about what is possible.

Cindy did complete an alternative student teaching experience as a parent group facilitator and did receive her teaching license. She is realistic about her chances of securing a position and can articulate both her personal strengths and her limitations as an early childhood special education teacher.

As we encountered and considered the experiences of educators with disabilities, at first independently of each other and then collectively, it felt like we were peeling an intellectual onion. One layer was a story of a person who had a disability wanting to become an educator. Another layer uncovered a story of a successful educator with a disability. The next layer revealed barriers that impeded people with disabilities in their quest to become educators. The following layer exposed variables that contributed to the success of educators with disabilities. Yet another layer produced an educator with disabilities, such as Joan's student, Cindy, who challenged us to rethink our preconceptions about the teacher preparation and employment process.

Removal of each layer revealed new questions as well. Why, for example, have some people with disabilities experienced considerable success as educators and others encountered great difficulty? Why has the presence of educators with disabilities been limited in today's public schools even though people with disabilities represent the largest minority group in the United States? What factors have contributed to the minority status of individuals with disabilities? How have public schools and institutions of higher education responded to the choices and needs of educators who have disabilities? What are the career development issues related to educators with disabilities? Do the requirements and demands of educational positions inhibit or preclude people with disabilities from becoming educators? How do societal, teacher-educator, and administrator attitudes affect individuals with disabilities who wish to become educators? What supports are available to facilitate people with disabilities who want to become educators? What effects does public policy have on educators with disabilities? How does personal advocacy affect one's success as an educator?

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