Brueggemann, Brenda Jo, Linda Feldmeier White, Patricia A. Dunn, Barbara A. Heifferon, and Cheu Johnson. “Becoming Visible: Lessons in Disability.” College Composition and Communication 52.3 (2001): 368-98. Print.



Responding to lack of visibility of disability in the field, and argue for an enabling of our pedagogy that will make disability more visible in ways that show the links between those labeled “able-bodied” and those labeled “disabled.” Ultimately, the authors are interested in outlining pedagogical strategies that help to explode the “us/them” dichotomy that emerges as a result of trying to designate particular places for disability. The authors articulate three reasons why disability matters for composition theory: 1) because the field has a long history of “making the invisible visible,” 2) because the field prides itself on its focus on practice, and 3) because we challenge so many other binaries that we are well poised to challenge the abled/disabled binary. After the introduction, the piece is divided into four sections that explore the contributors’ different experiences with disability in the classroom and describe strategies for negotiating the paradox of visibility in the class. These sections each stress in their own way the idea that inclusion and visibility are not enough–we need to actively change the structure of educational environments to collapse the abled/disabled binary.

Key Quotes

On learning disabilities in the classroom: “But dehumanizing metaphors and false analogies eventually harm everyone by supporting a business-as-usual pedagogy that legitimates only one way of knowing in writing classes–that makes learning too frustrating for some and too easy for others. We need to supplement writing-centered instruction, even in our writing classes, not only because people do make knowledge in different ways, but also because everyone can benefit from occasionally using nonwriting strategies to alter perspectives and create the intellectual distance needed for sophisticated revising. The system needs to change not because some people are labeled LD but in spite of it. Those called ‘normal’ also learn along a continuum of difference and would be better challenged if classrooms became more interactive, student-centered, multi-modal, and collaborative.” (380)