By Anna Wilson

The United Nations (UN) guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) includes non-discrimination, full participation and inclusion in society (UNCRPD, 2014, para. 9). Unfortunately, many scholars with disabilities are not represented in the academic and library staff in universities. Ableism conceptualizes the superior human condition, connecting people who able-bodied to images of radiant health, independence and strength (Mclean , 2011). In contrast, ableism conceptualizes the inferior human condition, connecting people who are disabled to images of poor health, incapacity, dependence and weakness. Post-secondary institutions are one context where ableist notions may persist as these understandings have become institutionalized in the beliefs, language and practices of non-disabled people. Hegemonic ableism ability preferences related to functioning and other culturally valued abilities intersect with other hegemonies (Hutcheon & Wolbring, 2012, p. 42). Just as race is considered a social construction of disenfranchisement, disability is considered a social construction of marginalization (Hooks, 1968, as cited in Michalko , & Titchkosky, 2009).

Critical disability theory (CDT) originated from critical race theory, circulating between the social model of disability and the medical model of disability. It is the spaces between the social constructions and medical constructions occupied by people with disabilities that are explored in this paper (Titchkosky, 2003). Critical disability theory represents people with disabilities on a continuum of human variation, having unique voices with complex experiences requiring self-determination to overcome ableism (Albrecht , 1992 , as cited in Rocco, 2011, pp. 7-8). The academy should integrate the principles of CDT in faculty and workplace policies to overcome hegemonic ableism that masquerades as economic efficiency. The aim of my literature review is to demonstrate disability as an authentic form of social capital that can enhance the academic workplace. First, the researcher will be contextualized as a research subject inquiring about disability in the academic workplace. Second, the theoretical framework of critical disability theory will be defined within the context of the social status of people with disabilities. Third, common myths about hiring people with disabilities will be deconstructed. Fourth, research librarians’ intersections with students with disabilities and faculty members with disabilities will be examined. Fifth, lessons from research librarians’ interactions with faculty and students with disabilities will provide a conceptual framework to help library students transform from library students with disabilities into working library professionals with disabilities. 

Author Bio 

Anna Wilson is working as an online writing coach for Indigenous teachers in remote northern Indigenous communities. She is the EPGSA executive secretary this year and the graduate student representative for the Convocation Committee. She is writing her teaching autobiography in Indigenous schools through Indigenous scholar Dr Marie Battiste’s conceptual framework of Nourishing the Learning Spirit (NLS).


Hutcheon , E. J., & Wolbring, G. (2012). Voices of “Disabled” Post-Secondary Students: Examining Higher Education “Disability” Policy Using an Ableism Lens. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 5(1), 39-49.

McLean, M.A. (2011). Getting to know you: The prospect of challenging ableism through adult learning. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 2011( 132 ), 13-22.

Michalko , R., & Titchkoky, T. (2009). Rethinking normalcy: a disability studies reader. Toronto : Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Rocco, T.S. (2012). Challenging ableism, understanding disability, including adults with disabilities in workplaces and learning spaces. San Francisco, CA Jossey-Bass 2011.

Titchkosky , T. & Katie Aubrecht, K. (2009) . Chapter 9 The Anguish of Power: Remapping Mental Diversity with an Anti-colonial Compassion In Kempf, A. (2009). Breaching the colonial contract. [electronic resource]: anticolonialism in the US and Canada. [Dordrecht. The Netherlands]:

Titchkosky , T. (2003). Disability, Self and Society. Toronto: University of Toronto Press Incorporated.

United Nations Canada. (2014) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: first report of Canada. Ottawa, Ontario: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2014.