Ableism in Education: A Case Study of a Student with Multiple Disabilities


TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


This phenomenological case study examines the journey of one female with multiple disabilities and how she achieved success in school against difficult odds. It relies on an overview of the disability movement, related legislation from the 1960s to present, and compares the theoretical models of disability. This framework of historical, political, medical, social, and ableist approaches to disability sets the stage for the study which relies on extensive open-ended interviews, a document review, audio recording of an Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting, and a researcher journal to elucidate the role of ableism in education. Data sources for the research included interviews with the student, her family, and her teacher/tutor, as well as a review of her individualized education plans and medical notes. A research journal that draws on the author's 15 years of experience as her interpreter and as a family friend was also used.

The research begins with an examination of the disability rights movement which has led to disabled people moving into mainstream society. An explanation of how the effect of ableism in schools impacts students with disabilities is provided. The relevant legislative acts and policies in education are reviewed to explain how they were established to assist students with disabilities to become financially and socially independent after graduation from high school. Finally, this dissertation will introduce ways educators can effectively end an ableist attitude toward students with disabilities in order to assist students with disabilities obtain greater opportunities after graduation from high school.



ableism, student with multiple disabilities, deaf, Education, Special Education