Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL)


Jennifer Phuong


Through policy discourse analysis, this paper explores ideologies around language and disability in U.S. federal education legislation, specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). This exploration draws from the fields of language planning and policy and disability studies in education, which are both problem-oriented fields that rely on the examination of social problems. In considering disproportionality and discourses of ableism and racism, I argue that de facto language education policy implicit in IDEA and ESSA supports the model of a White, normal, abled student who speaks English. Furthermore, a medical model of disability is implicated in this legislation through psycholinguistic conceptualizations of language. This analysis has implications for future research to intersectionally address ableism in both special education policy and practice and to examine the institutional mechanisms through which students are deemed not normal, including a conflation of the needs of English Language Learners and students with disabilities, as well as the intersection of both.