More than 50 students and faculty from many schools at Harvard attended the May 10 Interdisciplinary Conference on Disability held at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG). The Interfaculty Working Group on Disabilities at Harvard, co-chaired by Graduate School of Education (GSE) faculty Evangeline Harris Stefanakis and Thomas Hehir, spawned the daylong forum, the very first interdisciplinary discussion at Harvard on persons with disabilities. KSG Associate Dean Joseph McCarthy offered the welcoming address, recalling his earlier work in pioneering disabilities services at Harvard College.
The morning panel, moderated by student co-chair Dorothy Weiss, GSE master’s degree candidate, opened a conversation on how disabilities are addressed in the curriculum across different professional programs in medicine, law, and education. Bruce Korf, of the Medical School (HMS), Sam Bagenstos from the Law School, and Evangeline Harris Stefanakis described their courses and those of colleagues at their schools. Student co-chairs Dorothy Weiss and Brian Skotko, HMS, compiled a compendium of nearly 100 different disabilities-related course offerings across schools at Harvard, which was distributed to participants and is available to all interested. “Harvard undergraduate and graduate students are able to study disability concerns from multiple viewpoints across the various schools,” said Stefanakis.
David Rose, co-director of the Center for Applied Special Technology and faculty at the GSE, delivered a multimedia keynote address on universal design for learning, focusing on how innovative technology can expand access to educational opportunities for students with disabilities.
Disability research at Harvard was the focus of the afternoon panel, moderated by Brian Skotko. Judy Palfrey, HMS; William Kiernan of the School of Public Health; and Thomas Hehir, GSE explored how research and scholarship are conducted within and across disciplines at Harvard. “Through this forum, we discovered that faculty are looking for ways to collaborate on disability research, a subject that is already interdisciplinary in nature,” commented Hehir.
The conference luncheon featured a presentation of research posters by graduate students and fellows from across the University. Top prizes were awarded to Emily Davidson for her project, “An Opportunity to Serve: Training Undergraduate and Graduate Students as Respite Providers for Children with Special Health Care Needs,” and to Catherine Edwards for her research, “The Academic Experience of Students with Learning Disabilities: Cause for Concern?”