Disability-related Simulations: If, When, and How to Use Them in Professional Development

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Sheryl Burgstahler
Tanis Doe


postsecondary, simulations, training, disability awareness


Increasing numbers of students with disabilities participate in mainstream pre-college classes in preparation for higher education. Many educators and administrators have limited knowledge about specific accommodations that can facilitate learning for students with disabilities. Professional development has the potential to increase their knowledge and skills in this area. Simulations of disability experiences, such as completing tasks while covering eyes or sitting in a wheelchair, have sometimes been used to show learners what it is like to have a disability. This form of training has been criticized as inappropriate in the context of emerging paradigms of disability studies, which leads to the question: “Is the use of disability-related simulations ever appropriate?” In this article, we explore positive and negative aspects of disability-related simulations; paradigm shifts regarding approaches to disability studies; implications for training educators and administrators, and examples of disability awareness activities that maximize positive outcomes.

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