Last week, I presented at the 2012 International Writing Centers Association conference in San Diego with Jackie Grutsch McKinney, Becky Jackson, and Jason Luther. Our roundtable presentation, entitled “The Problems of Remaking Are Many: Contingency in 21st Century Writing Centers” explored issues of contingent administrators and tutors, the concept of peer tutors, familiar WC narratives, and ableist assumptions within tutoring practices.
My presentation, “Ableist Assumptions and Inaccessible Tutoring Practices,” addressed the (ableist) issues of positioning students with disabilities as so radically different from other students that they are beyond “normal” WC help: requiring extra time, resources, or specialized knowledge. In particular, we see this with the assumptions behind the standard read-aloud model, which assumes a particular student body. The ideas behind my presentation, highly influenced by the article I published in Praxis, are three-fold:
- We shouldn’t try to diagnose students who enter the WC. It’s not useful to diagnose, which itself assumes a particular ableist attitude (that students with disabilities must self-disclose in order to receive help.
- WC staff do not need to be “qualified” to work with students with disabilities. Just like all students who enter a WC space, students with disabilities have particular modes and ways of learning and composing that are most useful for them. Just like other students, they may need help discovering these modes. Though a student with a disability may require particular practices and strategies that work for them, it is dangerous to assume that all students with that disability require those same practices.
- All students benefit from tutoring practices that explore different modes. That is, the standard read-aloud model is inaccessible for a number of students, disability or not. Exploring multiple modes and different technologies is increasingly important for WC training and practice, for working with 21st-CE students with diverse learning needs.
Below is a copy of my handout for the presentation: