Disability in Education Self-Study Guide

Click on the links below to learn more about the role of disability in education.

Topics include ableism, accessibility disability, and disability in school (social pressures, accommodations, etc.), confidence in disability, disability in academia, etc.


  • Ableism: n. Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.
  • Dis/Ability: n. The word disability, when spelled without the slash, means that the person is identified by their disability, by what they cannot do. When slashed, this reminds people that people are identified by what they can do.
  • Identity First Language (IFL): n. Describing a person by leading with a description about them, specifically related to a disability. For example, deaf person or blind person, use identity-first language. IFL is considered offensive as it focuses on the characteristic as the only important factor about the person. IFL is not always considered offensive, as some use it to show pride in their community, and in their disability.
  • Person First Language (PFL): n. Using multiple-word phrases to describe someone to not center their disability as their defining characteristic. For example, instead of saying a disabled person PFL would say a person with a disability. In general, PFL is the language that is most preferred, and a safe and cautious choice when determining which language to use.
    • Here are some common IFL uses, and what you could say using PFL instead:
      Identity First Language (IFL) Person First Language (PFL)
      Disabled person Person with a disability
      Paraplegic; quadriplegic Person with paraplegia; person with quadriplegia
      Blind person Person who is blind
      Hearing-impaired person Person who is hearing impaired
      • As always, listen to others and how they define themselves before you define them incorrectly.
  • ADA: n. “The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”
  • Visible disability: n. These disabilities are said to be “noticed by an individual with their naked eye and by just looking at the person”.
  • Non-apparent disability: n. This is the most recommended term for disabilities that are not apparent, such as mental illnesses, learning and attention issues, neurodiversity, etc. This term is recommended because it does not imply any negative connotation.
  • Hidden disability: n. This term is not recommended to use when describing non-apparent disabilities because it implies that a person is purposefully and actively hiding their disability.
  • Invisible disability: n. This can be an offensive term, so it is recommended that you never use it. It suggests that you can never tell that the person has a disability, which is not always true. The disability may become visible over time or in certain settings, but either way, stating that the person’s disability is invisible conveys an offensive notion.

Digital Resources

Note: not all these videos/podcasts have not been checked by the person who created this resource guide. You may want to do your own research beforehand on trigger warnings.



News Publications

WashU Publications related to disability

Academic Publications


Note: these books have not been checked by the person who created this resource guide. You may want to do your own research beforehand on trigger warnings.

Books about a person with a disability (specifically about a period of academic life)

  • A Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald: Story of a New York Times bestselling author’s daily struggle with epilepsy.
  • The Days: His Autobiography in Three Parts by Taha Hussein: Autobiography of an astound Egyptian writer and his life as a man with blindness. (The second part focuses on his life as a student with blindness).
  • Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel: A memoir about Elizabeth’s experiences with depression.
  • True Biz by Sara Novic: A New York Times Bestseller and Reese’s Book Club Pick that follows students at a boarding school for deaf

Books about disability in education

University Courses

Arts & Sciences

  • L45 LatAM 325 Cultures of Health in Latin America
  • L97 GS 4134 The AIDS Epidemic: Inequalities, Ethnography, and Ethics
  • L98 AMCS 203E Introduction to Education: Disability Law, Policy, and Institutional Implications
  • L98 AMCS 245 Images of Disability in Film and Literature
  • L98 AMCS 3755 Disability, Quality of Life & Community Responsibility
  • L14 E Lit 3552 Introduction to Literary Theory
  • L61 FYP 130 Beyond Boundaries: The Art of Medicine
  • L97 GS 1300 The Art of Medicine
  • L77 WGSS 3203 Bodies Out of Bounds: Feminist and Queer Disability Studies


  • F20 ART 130B The Art of Medicine

Social Work and Public Health

  • S65 SWCD 5050 Community Based System Dynamics


On Campus

Off Campus, in STL

  • STL Arc provides high-quality services to those in the area that are designed to “maximize choice and to support people”.
  • Paraquad aims to “empower people with disabilities to increase their independence through choice and opportunity.
  • Access U through the Starkloff Institute “empowers college students with disabilities to successfully launch their careers”.

Educate yourself/others on ableism and ableist language

  • Disability Language Style Guide
  • Ableism quizzes (Yes, these are kind of simple and minimal, but they could be beneficial for self-educating and to share with friends/family members who are wanting to hold themselves more accountable & educate themselves)
    • Are you Ableist quiz; overly simple and only 13 questions long
    • Stigma quiz; supposed to gauge whether you have stigmatizing thoughts about people with disabilities

Past & Current Advocacy on Campus

Student Life Publications

Get Involved

WashU Organizations

  • Center for Diversity & Inclusion- CDI Fellows Program: For students looking to launch a new creative idea centered around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, this is the program for you.
  • Ability WashU: This is a student group on campus that focuses on Disability on campus and does so through a range of activities. Learn more about them on WUGO or email them at AbilityWashU@gmail.com.
  • Gephardt Institute- Civic Scholars: While this program was not born through achieving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on campus, this program gives students the chance to work on a summer long project with a community of their choosing. Students in the past have chosen to work with DEI organizations like the CDI and other organizations in the STL area.

STL Organizations

  • STL Arc has quite a few volunteer opportunities from becoming an “ambassador of fun” to attending events.
  • Paraquad has a range of ways for students in the area to get involved from being a peer mentor to an activities volunteer.
  • Paraquad also has ways for students with disabilities specifically to get involved.
  • The Starkloff Institute offers area-specific volunteer opportunities, such as college internships and corporate volunteers. The openings change periodically.
  • The Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis has volunteer opportunities throughout the year for special events and groups within the program.