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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ableism in higher education : collective agreements, EDI initiatives, and accommodation policies McCabe, Kealin M.


This study explores ableism within higher education through an examination of the collective agreements and institutional policies that govern the academic responsibilities of disabled faculty members. Critical disability theory serves as the theoretical framework for this study, which employs both institutional ethnography and qualitative content analysis in the review of the publicly available documents from English speaking U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities (n=13). The study unfolds in three parts: Part I presents the findings from the analysis of the collective agreements and institutional policies outlining the tenure and promotion process and the barriers disabled faculty members experience in fulfilling their academic responsibilities. Part II explores the tensions and contradictions between institutional accommodation processes and the language used in their public presentation of EDI initiatives, while Part III represents the everyday experiences of disabled faculty members though interviews, representing the embodiment and internalization of the texts examined in parts I and II. This research challenges and disrupts normative understandings of what it means to be a “good academic”, by addressing an absence in the literature exploring ableist representations and assumptions present in collective agreements and institutional policies. The examination of these texts and the lived experiences of disabled faculty members through interviews has illuminated the existing contradictions and tensions in these texts, showing ableism is strongly entrenched and condoned in university policies and governance.

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