The problem of inclusion and invisibility: working with disabled students in HE


  • Julian Ingle University of Portsmouth



disability, inclusion, invisibility, social justice, education


For many, the word ‘inclusion’ has not only become emptied of meaning but also sets up a problematic contradiction. To be included depends on the willingness of those who hold this power to allow entry. Being allowed entry doesn’t change the power relationships but merely allows access to already ‘existing cultures, structures and practices’ (Biesta, Wainwright and Aldridge, 2022, p.1). For disabled people and minoritised groups, the problem of equity and participation in education is one that runs deep and, for many, extends right the way through their educational trajectories.

What’s overlooked and not recognised is the invisible work of being disabled. Similarly, and to paraphrase Donna Williams (1996), from the start, disabled people have been judged from the outside, by their appearances, rather than from the inside and according to how their disability is experienced. This mini keynote opens up a space to discuss the problems inherent in inclusion and what this means for disabled people and other minoritised groups.


  • Inclusion has been co-opted into HE’s performativity agenda; does this create more problems than it pretends to solve?
  • How do we acknowledge and understand the invisible work of being disabled?
  • As practitioners, how can we create a more authentically democratic environment for disabled people and other minoritised groups in HE?

Author Biography

Julian Ingle, University of Portsmouth

Julian Ingle currently works in Academic Development at the University of Portsmouth. Prior to this, he was part of the internationally renowned Thinking Writing team at Queen Mary University of London. He has worked at a number of London universities and then joined the University of Portsmouth as head of section of the Academic Skills Unit. Among other areas, he has published and presented on teaching disciplinary discourse and writing, research-based learning, and how policy and practices impact on minoritised groups in higher education. His current research interests include critical discourse analysis, disability studies and gender identity.


Biesta, G., Wainwright, E. and Aldridge, D. (2022) ‘Editorial: A case for diversity in educational research and educational practice’, British Educational Research Journal, 48(1), pp.1-4.

Williams, D. (1996) Autism: an inside-out approach: an innovative look at the 'mechanics' of 'autism' and its developmental 'cousins'. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.




How to Cite

Ingle, J. (2023) “The problem of inclusion and invisibility: working with disabled students in HE ”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (29). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi29.1105.

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