“I just want them to see me as Lisa, not as the one with a disability!” How students with a disability try to find their way in a Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

Saturday, November 2, 2013
First author:
Stephanie Claus
Belonging through Education II

1 Ghent University,  Disability Studies and Inclusive Education, Ghent, Belgium

2 Support Center for Inclusive Higher Education (SIHO), Brugge, Belgium

3 Ghent University,  University Centre for Vocational Training and Coaching, Ghent, Belgium

4 Ghent University,  Centre for Education Development, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent, Belgium

All authors:

Stephanie Claus 1, Elisabeth De Schauwer 1, Geert Van Hove1, Karen Leyman 2, Meggie Verstichele 2, Lies Tijtgat 3, Anselme Derese 4

Inclusive Education
transgression – ableism – passing – discourse


The goal of this research is to look at the strategies students of a Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences use to find their place in the dominant discourses of the university, in which emphasis lies on achievements/performances and where a medical and market discourse still predominate.


18 interviews with students and graduates with a disability from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (Ghent University) were analyzed based on the question “How do students with a disability consider themselves and their disability?”.  Key themes unraveled themselves and it was apparent that students use different kind of strategies to cope with the demanding climate of the university. This insight led the researcher to review literature and brought her to Foucault’s concept of  transgression.


Through Foucaults’ concept of transgression we elaborate five movements students with a disability make to maintain themselves at the university: concealing difference, struggling with normality, showing one’s capabilities, using a label as a beacon and repeating forms of exclusion.


Most of these movements can be seen as a way of transgressing ‘the disabled identity’, in order to get recognition as a student and as a person with capacities.These movements reject the notion of persons with a disability as passive, fixed objects, rather students are active subjects that, as part as a continuous process of becoming, choose over and over again to move in/out/in between (dis)ability and (ab)normality.