This website contains an active repository of abstracts, papers, and scripts that were available to the participants of the Disability Disclosure in/and Higher Education Conference.

Please contact presenter before sharing this link or any information here.


Conference directors Stephanie Kerschbaum and Margaret Price have posted their account of the conference, “Perils and Prospects of Disclosing Disability Identity in Higher Education,” on the Center for the Study of Diversity blog, DiversityUS.


  • “Students with Disabilities in Higher Education: Welfare, Disclosure, and Stigma Management”

Kate Seelman, University of Pittsburgh

  • “Un/Safe Disclosures: Tragedy, Trauma, and Other Taboos”

Alison Kafer, Southwestern University

  • “Minding the Life of the Mind”

Mel Chen, University of California-Berkeley

  • “Psychic Difference in Higher Ed: Pathology or Inspiration?”

Bradley Lewis, New York University

Download presentation (PowerPoint)

  • Kathleen Martinez

Assistant U.S. Secretary of LaborOffice of Disability Employment Policy

  • “Passing, Coming Out, and Other Magical Acts”

Ellen Samuels, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Panels, Roundtables, and Working Groups

A.1 Roundtable: “Unbinding Time”

  • Anne Dalke, Bryn Mawr College
  • Kristin Lindgren, Haverford College
  • Clare Mullaney, University of Pennsylvania
  • Ellen Samuels, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Disclosing our own experiences as students and faculty, we will invite participants into a discussion of the temporal dimensions of access and achievement within the academy. Drawing on notions of crip and queer time, we will explore the destabilizing and generative potential of alternative temporalities, and invite consideration of how academic disability dis/appears in relation to various modes of temporality. We will close by inviting participants to join us in reimagining how academic practices might open up time and space for a greater variety of bodyminds.

A.2 Panel: “DisServices”

“Autism Spectrum Disorder Considerations in University Settings” – Heidi Mizell, Autism Delaware

“Living into the Despite: Disability Disclosure at ‘Elite Institutions'” – Margaret Fink, University of Chicago

In sharing my experiences as a deaf woman in Teach for America and the University of Chicago’s graduate program in English, I hope to spur discussion about disability disclosure at elite institutions. At best unprepared and at worst hostile, these environments present particular challenges, both logistical and psychological. Noting that such institutions have received me with a willingness to acknowledge the fact of my disability within a narrative of high performance, “despite,” I make a distinction between identity-based disclosure and accommodations-claiming, reflecting on the ways in which the challenge often lies in negotiating the latter.

Download script (Word document)

“How Conceptualizations of Disability affect Students’ Disability Disclosures” – Anju Khubchandani, American Psychological Association

This presentation will provide an overview of the major models including the medical model which continues to dominate the way disability is conceptualized. What impact do these conceptualizations have on a student’s decision to disclose his/her disability?

“Hidden Disability Disclosure: New Meanings and Practices in Post-ADA Disability Services” – Debra Swoboda, York College of the City University of New York

While research shows that a significant number of students with hidden disabilities elect not to accept the label of ‘disability’ due to the attached stigma, case studies suggest that some students view the label of ‘hidden disability’ as ordinary or as a status marker. Other students seek to document their hidden disability as a means to obtain the benefits of differential treatment. This paper examines what these cases of disability disclosure tell us about the way disability is understood within higher education in a post-ADA environment, and how the personal choice of disability disclosure is negotiated differently among dissimilar actors.

A.3 Working Group: “Story as Methodology”

“Becoming Puppet” – Lisa Figge, Queens University

I propose a 15 minute performance of my PhD research project, accompanied by a 5 minute discussion. I make performances using my own body and puppets to explore my embodiment, which has changed from ambulatory to rolling. My methodology is tied to artist processes and disability culture.

“Double Disclosure: Disability within Disability” – Shannon Walters, Temple University

I explore the act of disclosing a disability within the context of another disability. I detail recent examples of doubled disability disclosure from writers such as Lucy Grealy, Stephen Kuusisto, Alison Bechdel and Jonathan Mooney. In keeping with the working group format, I then explore productive questions in relation to the narrative structure and rhetorical acts of doubled disclosure. I ask if doubled disclosure can interrupt narrative structure, operating as a powerful rhetorical act that potentially disrupts tendencies towards unified definitions, descriptions and experiences of disability.

B.1 Roundtable: “I Am Different/So Are You: Creating Safe Spaces for Disability Disclosure”

  • Daisy L. Breneman, James Madison University
  • Valerie Schoolcraft, James Madison University
  • Susan Ghiaciuc, James Madison University
  • Keri Vandeberg, James Madison University

This roundtable session, which includes a panel discussion and participant conversation, will explore disability disclosure from multiple perspectives, including faculty, student, and disability services. Participants will examine their own relationships to disclosure. We will emphasize the value of creating accessible, inclusive, safe spaces through various means, including campus partnerships, and inclusion of disability curriculum across multiple disciplines.

B.2 Panel: “Screening Disclosure: Disability, Higher Education and Popular Media”

Through analyses of films and television shows depicting disability and higher education, this panel explores common stereotypes and metaphors that disclose disability and foreclose meaning. Yet the panelists also argue that these representations might educate viewers, position colleges and universities as uniquely non-normative, and frame the failures of higher education while offering alternatives.

  • “Disability on Campus, on Film: Framing the Failures of Higher Education” — Jay Dolmage, University of Waterloo
  • “Disabled College Students and Professors in Prime Time–Bazinga!” — Wendy Harbour, Syracuse University
  • “The Gallaudet University Protest of 1988 and the Infusion of Deaf History and Culture into Popular TV” — Beth Haller, Towson University

B.3 Panel: “Writing Disclosure”

“Deaf Writers and Disclosure” — Linda Rubel and Rose Marie Toscano, Rochester Institute of Technology

The notion of self-disclosure and its impact on the reader’s creation of a writer’s identity has implications for Deaf writers. This presentation will report on interviews with Deaf faculty at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, who have experience not only as students but also as scholars. Their stories will explain the choices these writers made in self-disclosing their Deafness and the reception they believe such disclosure garnered. Equally important will be their decisions not to self-disclose. In studying the choice and consequences of self-disclosure in writing among these Deaf professionals, we hope to inform classroom practice as the opportunities as well as the limitations of such a rhetorical move are uncovered.

“Motivations and Lies: Disability Disclosure in College Admissions and My Research” — Amy Vidali, University of Colorado Denver

This presenter challenges assumed relationships of disability disclosure and motivation, particularly in admissions contexts, by engaging (and asking the audience to engage) in disclosure “play.” The presenter also considers a dubious omission in her own research, and considers the methodological politics of neglecting to disclose scholarly failure.

Download script (Word document)

“Deaf Gain?: Disability Disclosure and the Deaf Creative Writer in Higher Education” — Tonya Stremlau, Gallaudet University

For the deaf creative writers in higher education, the question of (dis)ability disclosure is central. Though deaf writers have legitimate reasons to be wary of disclosing their identity, the panelist will argue that deaf writers and their work have much to gain from professional disclosure, as argued for through the Deaf Gain theory. This theory reframes ” ‘deaf’ as a form of sensory and cognitive diversity that has potential to contribute to the greater good of humanity” (Bauman and Murray) rather than as a problem, “hearing loss”.

Download paper (Word document)

B.4 Panel: “Contesting Disclosure”

“Experiences of a Hearing Impaired Professor” — Samuel Gaertner, University of Delaware

I will discuss how students, administrators, fellow faculty and family react to my hearing impairment. Since I wear hearing aids my disability is self-disclosing. I suspect that people assume that hearing aids are as effective as glasses – and that is far from the case. While hearing aids improve my hearing – it is nowhere near 100%. In this presentation I will describe some negative and positive consequences my disability has on my personal and professional life.

“Breaking the Silence: University Faculty Members with Hearing Loss” — Kathleen Roufs, University of Minnesota

Post-secondary faculty members with hearing loss are among us, and many of them navigate their professional lives silently marginalized. This presentation discusses the experiences of faculty members with hearing loss and barriers to their full participation in the academy. The exploratory, descriptive study, framed in the minority model of Critical Race Theory and the social model of disability, argues for more inclusion of faculty with disabilities in diversity initiatives and examines the marginalization, isolation, coping mechanisms, and needs of faculty members with hearing loss at a public research university.

B.5 Working Group: “Faculty Disclosure Project”

  • Alyssa Balletta, Temple University
  • Stephanie Kerschbaum, University of Delaware
  • Amber O’Shea, Temple University
  • Margaret Price, Spelman College

During this working group, the researchers will share some themes emerging from a broad-scale survey of faculty with mental health issues and a qualitative interview study with a small sample of faculty with a wide range of disabilities. With this data, the researchers will engage participants in a conversation about methodological and analytic approaches to the body of data they are gathering through a data workshop looking at interview segments, trends in survey responses, and questions emerging for further research and steps in the researchers’ ongoing research.

C.1 Panel: “Administrative Discourses and Disclosure”

“Variation and Change in Conceptions of Disability as Context for Disclosure” — Rebecca Beals, University of New Mexico

We use data on the changing use of terms used to define and describe disability found in academic and popular discourse from the early twentieth century until 2009 as a basis understanding the changing cultural environment in which intellectual disclosure of disability may take place. Results indicate a propitious academic cultural environment for disclosure while presenting questions on making disclosure most efficacious. Implications for future research on disability and disclosure are considered, including what this means for scholars studying issues of inclusion and diversity in higher education.

“Promoting a Paradigm of Parity” — Gail Glass-Malley, Kingsborough Community College

Individuals who are part of the higher education community sometimes choose not to disclose their disabilities, believing that self-disclosure might have more costs than benefits. Implementing campus-wide initiatives that better sensitize faculty, staff and students to the needs and experiences of individuals with disabilities might result in the provision of more reasonable accommodations; however, even so it seems unlikely that self-disclosure will be the universal choice of people with disabilities. If postsecondary institutions more fully embrace universal design, the needs of students and personnel with and without disabilities might be better and more easily met.

Download paper (Word document)

“To what extent do experiences of using services or caring for someone influence the perspectives and practice of social work students at Queen’s University Belfast?” — Damien Kavanagh, Queen’s University Belfast

This study aimed to identify and explore the levels of health and social care service use, and caring responsibilities, among social work students in Higher Education. The main quantitative findings included: the level of health and social care service use; caring responsibilities and the level of disability. The qualitative findings explored possible reasons for disclosure and non-disclosure and how, and why, people identify themselves within professional and personal contexts. Notions of perceived ‘otherness’ were also unpacked.

Download presentation (PowerPoint)

C.2 Roundtable: “Disability Disclosure: What Post-secondary Institutions Can Do to Facilitate the Disclosure Process”

Disability disclosure is a very personal decision that can be positively or negatively influenced by a number of factors. This session begins with an overview of the disclosure process, and follows with a discussion of NIDRR-funded research focused on identifying factors that influence an individual’s decision to disclose a disability. Research findings highlight the barriers and facilitators that influence an individual’s decision to disclose and the key role that employers, managers, and workplace climate play in the decision. The findings have important implications for post-secondary institutions both as they prepare young people for the job market and in their role as employers. The session ends with a review of recent OCR cases and decisions, and discusses the implications they have for best practices in facilitating the disability disclosure process in post-secondary settings.


  • Marian Vessels, Director, Mid-Atlantic ADA Center
  • Sarah von Schrader, Assistant Director of Research, Cornell University, Employment and Disability Institute
  • Judith O’Boyle, Chief Attorney, U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights


  • Shelley Reeves, Program Specialist, U. S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

C.3 Panel: “Neoliberal Higher Education and the (Dis)Appearance of Disability”

This panel explores how disability appears and disappears within the context of neoliberalism. These papers question how the disabled body is both made to appear and disappear within higher education, how universities and colleges are organized by neoliberal economies, and what is at stake in intervening in these appearances and disappearances.

  • “The Trouble with Telling Stories” — Nancy La Monica, McMaster University, and Katie Aubrecht, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax
  • “Neoliberalism, Accommodation, and Thinking Disability Otherwise” — Kelly Fritsch, York University
  • “Disability, Identity, and Academic Labour” — Kate Kaul, York University

C.4 Panel: “Disclosing our Relationships to Disability and Reflexivity in Research: A Conversation”

This session will feature a conversation between the audience and the three panelists, all of whom have written about and explored the nuances of disclosing relationships to disability. Taking as a starting point the discussion begun in a special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly focused on reflexivity in research, this conversation will address the ways in which nondisclosure and disclosure happen, and will also challenge the field of Disability Studies to address whether and how nondisclosure is a significant barrier in the field. Everyone is invited to participate and Ibby will act as emcee to ensure the conversation is safe for everyone.

  • Corbett O’Toole, Independent Scholar
  • Elizabeth “Ibby” Grace, National Louis University
  • Jen Rinaldi, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

C.5 Working Group: “Crip Class Project”

Kevin Gotkin, University of Pennsylvania

A number of Philadelphia-area researchers are beginning a project that investigates the way disability traffics at different kinds of institutions, thinking especially about the role of disability at elite universities. We propose this project to a working group about disability/disclosure design, since we will only have started to implement our project by the time of the conference. and size. In the fall, we will tailor a lecture on disability studies to each course, offering the key revelations from the field that might be relevant for the course trajectory. During the class, we hope to engage students in a discussion about disability that will form the basis of our “data” on the different notions of disability at different kinds of institutions.

D.1 Panel: “In/Visible: What Kinds of Disclosures Do We Need?”

“Invisible Disability and (non)Disclosure in Higher Education” — Rebecca Cory, City University of Seattle

Research, including that of the author, shows that students with disabilities that are not readily apparent on the body find themselves in a position of having to disclose and re-disclose their disability in each new class or quarter. This can feel like a recurrent coming out process that students find embarrassing or even humiliating. However, universities and colleges have designed systems that necessitate constant disclosure. This paper looks at the policy and practice implications of not requiring disclosure on a regular basis. The paper asks the question, how can colleges and universities use a social construction mindset to create an environment that supports students?

“‘I Know It’s Touchy, But Should It Be?’: Diagnosing Students in the Writing Center” — Allison Hitt, Syracuse University

This presentation analyzes online and face-to-face writing center discourse in order to explore how disability is constructed as something that must be identified—ie. diagnosed by the consultant or disclosed by the student—in order for consultants to feel comfortable and safe working with disabled students. This speaker argues that such institutionally forced disclosure reinforces a remediation model of consulting that writing centers have historically worked to position themselves against.

“From Disclosure to Accommodation: A Road Full of Obstacles” — Maren Linett, Purdue University

Although I am “out” as a hard-of-hearing or deaf person (depending on the circumstances), my colleagues and my department head oscillate between ignoring my disclosure, proceeding as they would with all hearing people, and then if I insist, over-emphasizing my disclosure, making their accommodations too visible. I am put in a position of having to insist upon my deafness to people who don’t take it seriously; my disability as a speaking, gradually-deafened adult is not only invisible until I disclose it, but it seems to keep returning to a condition of invisibility. In this talk I explore the cultural and political assumptions behind and ramifications of several personal experiences of disclosure in academic settings.

Download paper (Word document)

D.2 Roundtable: “Intellectual Disability in the University: Expanding the Conversation about Diversity and Belonging”

Recent initiatives have created unprecedented opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) to gain access to institutions of higher education, challenging conventional notions of what it means to belong as a university student. In this roundtable, students with ID, their undergraduate peers, graduate students, and faculty involved with a university program for students with ID will facilitate a series of conversations about the phenomenon of intellectual disability in higher education, student perspectives on belonging in the university community, and designing research that illuminates multiple facets of the experience.

  • Laura Eisenman, University of Delaware
  • Brian Freedman, University of Delaware

Download handout (Word document)

D.3 Roundtable “Defining a Diagnosis: How ‘Disability’ Definition May Shape Disclosure Choices”

Disability has slowly gained footing in academia, primarily because it is so hard to define. Society may present labels as definitions or the academy theories; however, it is ultimately individuals seek to define their own disabilities, and each individual’s experience shapes how those definitions are formulated. The panelists argue that the challenge becomes context with regard to defining disability and disclosure choice. The roundtable will close with specific discussion questions to engage the audience in a dialogue on this topic.

  • Kathryn Evans, James Madison University
  • Thomas E. Moran, James Madison University
  • Joshua Pate, James Madison University
  • Matthew Trybus, James Madison University

D.4 Panel: “Designing Environments for Disclosure”

“The Prosthetic Classroom” — Kevin Gotkin, University of Pennsylvania

In this paper, I imagine the classroom as a prosthetic – that is, as a modular and lithe extension of bodies and minds. I describe an accessible classroom that, though aspirational, can be made real in the near future. I cull from an autoethnography of my own classroom in the spring of 2013, during which I instituted three policies that might form the backbone of the prosthetic classroom. I contend that when we design our classrooms around disability – even when none are disclosed – we serve all students better. I aim for a compromise between preference-based models of accommodation and universal design principles that might also contain a more thoughtful consideration of managing technology and difference in the classroom.

“‘Give Them Hope:’ The Ethics of Faculty with Concealable Disabilities Coming Out to Students” — Linda Kornasky, Angelo State University

Using Harvey Milk’s ethical model of service to young people seeking valid signs of increasing social status and inclusion for their stigmatized group, my paper demonstrates the ethical significance of coming out by professors with concealable disabilities and explores the moral issues entailed in mentoring students with disabilities. Disclosure functions as a symbolic act of mutual status recognition in the classroom, an act that initiates productive mentoring of students with disabilities by faculty with disabilities.

“Disabling Academia: Being Vulnerable in the Classroom” — Amber Knight, Saint Louis University

One of the core tenets of feminist pedagogy is the idea that teachers and students should disclose personal narratives in order to demonstrate how lived experience illuminates and enhances our understanding of academic material. Drawing from feminist theory, this essay considers how, and why, people should disclose disabilities in the classroom.

D.5 Working Group: “Forging Inroads for STEM Education”

In this working group, Karl Booksh, chair of the American Chemical Society’s Chemists with Disabilities group and a member of the National Science Foundation’s Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, will join several students with disabilities pursuing degrees in STEM fields. After briefly addressing the state of faculty and students with disabilities in STEM fields, the group will facilitate a conversation about questions, new directions, and areas for focus regarding the presence and success for STEM students and faculty.

  • Karl Booksh, University of Delaware

Download presentation (PowerPoint)