Blog Post

Disabilities, Technology, and Identity

Better late than never, eh? I'm Chad, and I'm finishing up my masters this year in rhetoric, writing, and culture at Oregon State University. The term has been filled with too many internships and PhD applications (I'm sure more of that to follow later), so I hope you forgive me the lateness of my introduction.

I'm hoping that I can contribute to HASTAC this year by sharing my work in writing with disabilities, technology, and identity. I've been studying in the area for my thesis and have been particularly struck with the stakes and stakeholders that all come into play in the area. Disability is a fiery topic in societies and educational systems with many impassioned voices all jockeying for change, and I have been trying to think about how these changes affect our classrooms and students in both helpful and harmful ways.

For example, a clear result of Disability Rights has been the mandated need for accommodation in our classrooms, though this accommodation is usually added to our classes as an afterthought. A course's curriculum is set, then we try our best to fit our course objectives to the differing bodies that enter our classroom. This is usually the collaborative effort of a disability services branch of the university, ourselves, and our student(s); however, more and more technology is being implemented into this mix as well. I am interested, then, in exploring these technologies as students identify with them (and, by extension, their abilities) in our classrooms. 

But beyond this, I am really looking forward to making connections with others working in this and different fields. It can often become too easy to stay secluded in the garden-level office I have little under a year remaining to call home, thinking very specifically about my work. I am really looking forward to expanding my own interests and diversify my limited understanding of these topics.

Here's to a great year! And, Happy Halloween!





Hi, Chad! I'd love to hear more about what you're doing for your thesis. Most of my PhD work has had to do with some sort of mix of disability studies, digital literacy, and pedagogy. I've been super interested in thinking about how we do more than just sort of retrofit our classrooms (which I think you were starting to get at in your introduction) and actually build curricula that meet the varying needs of students from the outset. I tried writing about this in terms of "hacking" the curriculum in the HASTAC forum last spring about disability & accessibility. We should chat!



Thanks so much for your comment, Allison. I have to be honest--I am already a follower of your work as I am subscribed to your blog. :-) And, yes, I think we are on the total same page with regards to retrofit responses to disability. 

I've been thinking about something my university's Director of Writing said recently about first-year writing, essentially suggesting that the school term should be structured so that the heavy-lifting of finding and compiling research should be front-loaded into a writing class. And it struck me. Why can't disability be the same? A lot of the response to disability comes after the term begins, after a Disabilities Services Department mandates accommodation. But shouldn't instructors be thinking about disability from the start, too? I wonder if something like an accessible heuristic or other aid exists that would help get instructors thinking about the lessons they teach and how they might address disability during course design as opposed to course delivery.

I guess, to get to the point, I think we absolutely should chat. :-)


Hello Chad,

I too would love to learn about how digital projects can be inclusive of folks with disabilities both as contributors and consumers. I would especially love to learn what rights people with disabilities have with respect to digital content, in the US and outside the US. What are the best practices for digital projects to be truly inclusive?


Ece (pronounced A.J)


Hi Ece,

Thanks for your support and interest! I have to be honest in that I am not an expert in disability law, but you bring up some really interesting points. Usually, I see the question asked how entities might be more accessible, but I think it is also important to ask how they can be more inclusive of multiple identities and abilities as well. Perhaps this gets at your comment--it is more common to inspect how peoples with disabilities are consumers as opposed to contributors or creators. These are definitely issues that interest me, and I hope are ones that others are exploring, too.

Hope to be in touch,



Hi Chad,
I'm intrigued by your project.  As Ece says, I too would like to know more about how we can use digital projects to be inclusive of individuals with disabilities. 
Please keep us updated on your research/findings/suggestions.
Lori Beth