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Abstract

People with disabilities are just one of the groups designated for special attention in relation to equity in postsecondary education. This paper explores the way in which policies that provide academic accommodation for students disabled by chronic illness unfold in practice. As part of the administrative regime of the university, these policies are typically designed to reconcile the interests and relevances of the law with the interests and relevances of the academy. When a disabled student "activates" the policy, regardless of whether or not services and assistance are provided or are useful, the student becomes situated within social relations that make disabled students' "needs" manageable in the organizational context. As applicants for the institution's privileges and services, students actively participate in the accomplishment of the institutional order of the university, i.e., they fulfil the university's legal obligation not to discriminate against students with disabilities. This, I will argue, constitutes an exercise of power and preserves the existing social organization of the university, although it is normally understood as the university acting "in the interests of students with disabilities." Specifically, I show how the individualization ofaccommodation-ostensibly to meet each student's unique needs-shifts the obligation for change to individual students and instructors and forecloses opportunities for the university to become more genuinely accessible and inclusive.

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