skip to main content

Learning Disability Justice through Critical Participatory Action Research


Fordham GSS Associate Professor Laura Wernick, Ph.D., has published research that explores and explains personal experience with disability, the stigmas against those with disabilities in academia, and how Critical Participatory Action Research (CPAR) is a research method that “accommodates disabled academic researchers and activists.”

Wernick’s research comes through their latest book chapter, titled “Learning Disability Justice through Critical Participatory Action Research.” The chapter appears in a new work titled Crip Authorship: Disability as Method, edited by Mara Mills and Rebecca Sanchez and published by the New York University Press.

Some excerpts from the chapter:

“Despite the fact that reading and writing were painful, and that I feared being identified as a person with a learning disability, I was enthralled with all the knowledge that I found in books, at school, and in community. I was obsessed with analyzing intersectional systems of power, loved to talk about ideas, and had a passion for creating change.”

“Who is usually first author? The one who does most of the writing, which is privileged over all the other elements of research, including building relationships, theorizing, analyzing data, outlining an argument, and developing a paper. There are also several stigmas around learning disabilities. People with learning disabilities are often called (or assumed to be) stupid and lazy, especially when we mix up our words, or our experience is minimized when others tell us they too “read slowly.” Sometimes, it is hard for us to speak in short soundbites, so we struggle with not taking up too much space in meetings.”

“Nevertheless, many faculty with disabilities have cripped the academic process—we work interdependently in collaborative partnerships, engage in mutual aid, and develop creative approaches to produce and disseminate innovative scholarship.:

“At its best, CPAR is research that is rooted in and led by those most affected by the issue being researched. It fundamentally shifts power from the outsider (e.g., an academic, government organization, or policy institute) to the insider—those who know and experience these systems. Collective action is embedded in all parts of the research: naming the problem or issue; developing the research questions and methods; using the data collection (qualitative, quantitative, autoethnography, photovoice, etc.) as a way to say we are here, this is our story, these are our lived experiences; and building power. ”

“CPAR and learning disability justice have become elements of a writing strategy that allows me to align my social justice movement values and my crip scholarship. My hope is that this will not only help pave the way for future interdependence among crip scholars and their allied colleagues but also move us closer to cripping academia at large: centering knowledge and scholarship on those most affected, while valuing all the ways we collectively, and interdependently, build knowledge and have a meaningful impact.”

Read the entire chapter here.


Comments are closed.