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Dual Language and the Erasure of Emergent Bilinguals Labeled as Disabled

Sat, April 18, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Virtual Room


Dual language is promoted as a medium that brings together speakers of minoritized and
majoritized languages and makes them bilingual and biliterate. It is also considered an inclusive
setting where students from differing linguistic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds learn
alongside each other. However, students with dis/abilities, who are disproportionately Black,
Latinx and Indigenous, remain overwhelmingly excluded from Dual Language. While some may see this as accidental, this paper highlights the ways in which DL programs benefit from the exclusion of this educational subgroup.

Building on DisCrit (Annamma, Connor, & Ferri, 2013) and Raciolinguistic perspectives (Flores & Rosa, 2015), this paper introduces a Critical Disabilities Raciolinguistic (CRD) perspective which argues that not only are culturally and linguistically diverse speakers subject to the White gaze but more specifically to the White normative gaze. Unlike the White gaze which can primarily be attributed to racially majoritized speakers and listeners, the White normative gaze challenges all speakers/listeners to interrogate the ways in which they idealize the linguistic practices of “normal (White) people” while interpreting the linguistic practices of people of color with disabilities as deviant.

The paper uses content analysis to illustrate how policies and practices relegating language and disability needs as asynchronous continue to segregate students of color with disabilities from their typically-developing multilingual peers. The data originates from public documents including but not limited to educational policy guidelines, mainstream media publications and New York City department of education correspondence. The findings indicate that dual language programs, which are often promoted as socio-economically and racially inclusive spaces, continue to uphold ideas grounded in ableism and White supremacy. As such, the expansion of these programs continues to benefit English-proficient students while simultaneously rendering EBLADs silent in their home (language).

Dual language programs are promoted as a place of promise, as a space where children from varying linguistic, socioeconomic and racial backgrounds can learn alongside each other and, perhaps more importantly, from each other. However, as long as the definition of integration continues to focus on race and class while ignoring neurodiversity, dual language will remain an ableist and elitist educational space. Access to bilingualism and biliteracy should be available to all children not just those who possess sociocultural features that are positioned as most valuable (White, middle class, neurotypical). This paper presents the ways in which DL programs actively exclude students with disabilities, the ideology that underscores these practices and the policies that support them. More importantly, this paper shows the ways in which neurodiversity has been used as a surrogate for race thus reducing access to DL program for racially minoritized students as a whole.