Understanding Intersectionality and Disability: How to Recognize the Many Layers of Accessibility Gaps

By Talitha Batts & Rasheda Kelley

The concept of discussing intersectionality is important in education. Specifically, the deliberation of intersectionality and disability inclusion for students. In research from Morgan et al. (2022), more research is needed to show the association of intersectionality to individuals with disabilities. For example, a student with a learning disability can also identify as African American with a low-income socioeconomic status. This presents many layers of intersectionality in disability. The acknowledgement and understanding of the many social barriers that derive from the lack of accessibility is significant to making equitable improvements.

Utilizing intersectionality in teacher education is imperative to understanding bias in disability. According to Perouse-Harvey (2022), comprehending intersectionality in disability provides educators with a critical framework to support students with disabilities. Perouse-Harvey (2022) also gives insight into the impact of utilizing the concept of intersectionality as a learning tool for students. Similarly, Artiles (2013) conveys the intersectional disproportion of racial discrimination experienced by students with disabilities. It is critical to increase innovation in learning tools for students with disabilities. The recognition and comprehension of intersectionality in disability will support the efforts of inclusive development and design for all students.

Here are some tips to help you impact layers of intersectionality in disability:

  1. Educate yourself on the various forms of oppression, including ableism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. and how they intersect with disability.
  2. Get to know people with disabilities and their individual stories.
  3. Advocate for legislation that protects the rights of persons with disabilities and promotes inclusiveness.
  4. Challenge language that is ableist, sexist, racist, homophobic, etc.
  5. Support local organizations and initiatives that provide resources and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
  6. Encourage employers to develop inclusive hiring practices.
  7. Help people with disabilities become active members of their communities.
  8. Promote and support social inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of life.
  9. Participate in and promote inclusive events and activities.
  10. Use your voice and platform to speak out against discrimination and oppression.

Inclusive development is vital to equitable student success. Morgan et al. (2022) calls for action to increase student disability research utilizing intersectional models. Accepting the many layers of intersectionality in disability will positively impact the forward movement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts in education.


Artiles, A. J. (2013). Untangling the Racialization of Disabilities. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race10(2), 329–347. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1742058x13000271

Morgan, E. H., Rodgers, R., & Tschida, J. (2022). Addressing the Intersectionality of Race and Disability to Improve Autism Care. Pediatrics149(Supplement 4). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-049437m

Perouse-Harvey, E. (2022). Seeing the Unseen: Applying Intersectionality and Disability Critical Race Theory (DisCrit) Frameworks in Preservice Teacher Education. Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship in Education124(7), 51–81. https://doi.org/10.1177/01614681221111429