Insider Perspectives: Disability Identity Formation of Two Teachers with Disabilities
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Abstract The purpose of this study is to provide a descriptive account of the experiences of two teachers with disabilities in order to report how disability influences them both personally and professionally. My research questions were as follows. Firstly, how do participants understand themselves as adults, adults with disabilities, and as adults with disabilities who are teachers? Secondly, how does disability contribute to their pedagogy and how do their experiences as educators contribute to their understanding of disability? Thirdly, for these teachers with disabilities, what is the nature of their relationships in both educational and workplace contexts? Fourthly, what is their perspective on accommodations? Finally, what is their advice to aspiring teachers who have disabilities, including myself? I conducted interviews that addressed these research concerns with two participants, both experienced teachers with self-identified disabilities. For data analysis, I used the method of constant comparison to create codes and find themes within the data collected from the interview, based on disability identity and self-advocacy theories. It is discussed that individuals with disabilities face unique identity-related challenges aside from the physical and mental aspects of having a disability. A key finding is that participants were shaped by prior experiences in childhood and in the education system that were related to their disability which now influence their teaching. Other findings include: their independence, resilience and ability to strategize led to their creation of their own accommodations: they found an environment that honoured their own strengths. Both teachers found that disclosing their own disability helped their students to better relate to them. However, at the same time, they were not as aware of accommodations for themselves as they were for their students. Teachers with disabilities serve an important role in schools as they are not only representatives of what inclusive societies can achieve: they also have unique experiences and skills that are an asset to their students. Recommendations to expand upon Gill’s (1997) disability integration model as well as to create more inclusive environments for teachers with disabilities are also discussed.