“Just My Being Here is Self-Advocacy”: Exploring the Self-Advocacy Experiences of Disabled Graduate Students of Color

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Julia Rose Karpicz

Abstract

Self-advocacy is emphasized as a critical practice for improving the retention and increasing the success of disabled students. In higher education, disability service offices and academic researchers jointly shape the conversation around what comprises effective self-advocacy. Students who are not engaging in these prescribed strategies are then framed as underprepared and/or lacking the skills required to self-advocate effectively. Unexamined within this discourse are how identity, power, and environment shape students’ self-advocacy as well as the ways students engage in self-advocacy outside of normative accommodation structures. This study intervenes by examining the extent to which dominant scholarly and practitioner understandings of self-advocacy align, resonate, and/or diverge from the lived experiences of self-advocacy among disabled graduate students of color. By centering the voices of multiply marginalized students, this study raises questions about what may be obscured when scholars rely only on academic definitions of self-advocacy in the design, framing, and analysis of their research.

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