Disabling Universal Design: Introducing the Neuro-Positionality Framework

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In this dissertation, I embark on a deep exploration of the relationship between universal design, Student Disability Services (SDS) departments, and the unique challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals within higher education. Drawing from my personal experiences as a neurodivergent student, I critically assess the unintentional ableism woven into seemingly well-intended practices and policies, pinpointing gaps and tensions between broad inclusivity and the specific needs of neurodivergent students. Through four detailed chapters, I dissect the shortcomings of universal design, shed light on the obstacles within SDS onboarding processes, expose the power dynamics inherent in disability accommodation practices, and critique the design of disability applications. As a culmination of these findings, I introduce the "Neuro-Positionality Framework." This pioneering framework endeavors to merge the tenets of both universal design and neurodiversity theory, emphasizing the importance of understanding and catering to the unique needs of neurodivergent individuals. The dissertation culminates with a comprehensive exploration of this framework, its theoretical foundations, practical applications, and overarching implications for higher education practice and policy.

universal design, disability studies, student disability services, neuro-positionality, neurodiversity