Always A Second Thought: Examining Barriers to Education for Students with Disabilities

As all students, caregivers and educators alike managed the unprecedented changes to education through the public health crisis, students with disabilities continue to face barriers to education and discrimination. Using semi-structured interviews with caring adults, primary caregivers or educators including paraprofessionals of elementary school students, this study explored the barriers that students with disabilities faced throughout the pandemic-related changes. Key topics of concern were the physical alterations in the classroom, transition to online learning, and lack of continued support disabled students throughout the pandemic. Some of the most prevalent barriers included the lack of routine, lack of support and resources online, and changes to the school climate. Aside from the social and academic impacts, caring adults also expressed behavioral changes in their students directly related to the barriers to education throughout the pandemic related changes. This session will use disability studies literature to discuss the barriers and ableist attitudes towards disabled students throughout the pandemic and discuss some strategies for creating affirming and inclusive spaces post-pandemic.

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Highlight the barriers to education for students with disabilities through the pandemic-related changes
  • Identify systemic dis-ablement and ableist tendencies throughout the educational systems
  • Critically examine how they can support students with disabilities post-pandemic