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Harvard Graduate School of Education Group Starts Disability-Focused Publication

The Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education. By Lu Shao
By Joshua S. Archibald, Crimson Staff Writer

A disabilities advocacy organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Education published the first edition of Disabilities Disclosed, a new journal focused on people’s experiences with disabilities, Monday.

The group, International Higher Education and Disabilities, published content online Saturday, and distributed printed copies Monday. The publication includes personal essays about experiences interacting with disability written by 12 students and alumni from the Graduate School of Education, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Law School.

Preparations for the publication began in November, when the initial call for submissions was sent out, according to Nikita F. Andersson and Miso Kwak, the organization’s co-chairs. Since then, editors have worked to solidify logistical details and prepare submissions for publication.

The Graduate School of Education provided funding for the publication and hosts the digital version on its website. Andersson and Kwak said they hope the journal will become a resource for students and faculty across Harvard’s schools.

“Our aim is to put it in libraries across Harvard, in all the accessibility offices, in all the graduate schools, so that everybody has access to it,” Andersson said. “Having students from Harvard tell their own experiences of having disabilities, or thinking about disability scholarship in a more critical way is just really important, because so many students go through this experience at this university.”

The co-chairs also said publishing students’ experiences may help alleviate the stigmas often associated with disability.

“Even though we don’t talk about it so much, and it is so stigmatized within this society, it’s something that most people inevitably have experienced, whether that is for themselves, or people they’re close to,” Kwak said. “I think it is a mistake if we don’t talk about it openly in this institution.”

Former Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas F. Hehir, who wrote the foreword for the volume, said the publication represents a shift in societal perceptions of people with disabilities.

“I think it’s part of a broader movement in the disability world where people with disabilities are claiming their identities and in a positive way,” Hehir said.

Hehir said the publication is particularly valuable at a school where many students are in one- or two-year programs and don’t have as long to make lasting change.

“The vast majority of our students are master's students, and they’re only here for a year, and so one of things that I think is important about this publication is it creates a sense of institutional memory,” Hehir said.

Andersson said ultimately the publication aims to shift norms surrounding disability, especially for those whose disabilities are not visible.

“So often, disability is not spoken about and can often manifest itself in a very invisible way,” Andersson said. “I think it’s important for students to feel comfortable talking about it more, so we start to change the norms around talking about disability.”

—Staff writer Joshua S. Archibald can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jsarchibald22.

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