It could happen to me: Denial, disgust, and self-risk in teachers' conceptions of disability

Elizabeth Heilman, Jodell Heroux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The results of a critical semiotic, phenomenographic study of educators’ and students’ understandings of disability are discussed through the lens of neoliberalism, which constructs the disabled student in terms of perceived limitations and failures. A review of the common discourses in academic scholarship related to disability is provided and illuminates their influence on the beliefs and perceptions of educators and students. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews and photo-elicitation interviews were conducted with teachers and students in one elementary school in the Midwest. Participants’ perspectives are understood through the interpretive lens of neoliberal ideology and psychoanalytic theory, which included three broad themes, disgust, denial, and discomfort. The sample is a “typical case” meaning that it was selected for its relative ordinariness. Yet its very ordinariness is disturbing as teacher after teacher details denial and disgust oriented perceptions of disability while students were less likely to do this and much more frequently asserted their own and their peers’ normalcy and humanity. This study has critical implications for educational policies and practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Disability Policy Studies
StateSubmitted - 1800


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