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Technology as a Civil Right and a Move Toward Disability Justice: Ensuring Digital Access for Disabled Students in the Pandemic


Disabled students have long faced the impact of systemic and structural ableism in education, from early learning through postsecondary education. Yet despite nearly fifty years of civil rights advocacy and legislative victories, disabled students still face routine denials of access in the classroom, inaccessible pedagogies, and exclusionary technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened and sharpened disparities in learning and digital access for disabled students of all ages, with the burden falling most heavily on disabled students further marginalized by racism, classism, and other forms of oppression. Disabled students are less likely to have reliable access to web-based technologies, while websites, software, and course tools are often inaccessible to disabled users despite their near ubiquity in the pandemic. This Article explores the opportunities created by and limitations inherent to disability rights laws as a means of bridging the increasing digital divide in education and offers starting points for charting a path forward informed by radical anti-ableism and disability justice movement work.