This study examines racist ableism in the experiences of Preservice Teachers of Color (PSToCs) and Family / Community Members of Color (F/CoCs) who support Black and Brown K-12 students seeking 504/IEP services in Southern Nevada. Racist ableism is the positioning of Black and Brown students “… as intellectually and academically inferior on the basis of racialized perceptions of ability, capability, and productivity, but also pathologizes them as lazy, deviant, and criminal” (Mireles, 2022, p. 19).

A braid of hair that alternates between light, medium, and dark brown.

We “braid” Disability Critical Race Theory (DisCrit) with racial literacies.

* for a full visual representation of the theory braiding, please click here.


A group of disabled queer Black folks talk and laugh at a sleepover, relaxing across two large beds. Everyone is dressed in colorful t-shirts and wearing a variety of sleep scarves, bonnets, and durags. On the left, two friends sit on one bed and paint each other’s nails. On the right, four people lounge on a bed: one person braids another’s hair while the third friend wearing a C-PAP mask laughs, and the fourth person looks up from their book. In the center, a bedside lamp illuminates the room in warm light while pill bottles adorn an end table.

We interviewed:

  • 10 Preservice Teachers of Color (PSTs) and 
  • 4 Families / Community Members of Color (F/CoCs)

Data are thematically analyzed for emergent themes in correspondence with the RQs and the literature which informed the conceptual framework.

Preliminary Results

  • PSToCs observed that globally, race and Dis/ability are socially constructed and interwoven. PST Court Doggy Dawg relays the following:

“It’s a construct to where, if I take my resources out just like I take the wheelchair ramp out, or don’t even mention about the wheelchair ramp, I think that those go hand in hand, and so when you look at it with education, if the resources are not in certain schools or in certain neighborhoods, just like ableism, you know, they will intertwine.”

  • PSTs offered that their SPED education was vital but missing emphasis on methods to support the learning of all students; Aaliyah shared a desire to learn more about universal design for learning. She also noted that ableism is ‘in a lot of people’s thought processes’ and is ‘super ingrained in vocabulary.’
  • F/CoCs demonstrated their struggles to protect and advocate for their children while not receiving adequate communication from stakeholders in the school. J.T’s daughter was pushed by another student: “we never knew this happened two days prior. It would be nice to get the communication, but we relied on our child… to try to come up with her own way to let us know what happened.”

Conclusion & Reflection

Black and Brown PSToCs recognized the structural, linguistic, and interpersonal components of racist ableism. They also indicated the need for teacher education to centralize these issues. However, this was not expressed by all participants, reflecting a spectrum of perspectives and racial literacies.

Collectively, F/CoCs relayed that they struggle to communicate with school stakeholders around their children’s Dis/ability. Thus, a lack of teacher preparation to support Black and Brown students shows up in K-12 schools.

Three Black friends sit in comfortable chairs and supportive recliners during an evening conversation. In the middle, a friend with narcolepsy falls asleep smiling while clouds drift behind her head. Her girlfriend sits to the left, holding her hand while talking to another sleepy friend across the table. This friend cups hot cocoa to their chest. Everyone is dressed in colorful t-shirts and there is cozy, warm light throughout the room.

By understanding the ways in which racist ableism is (re)produced in the lives of teachers, students, families, and communities of Color, we aim to provide suggestions to improve teacher education and pathways to 504/IEP services.

Research Team

Azul Ureño

Co-Principal Investigator & NITEP Fellow Researcher

Eden Wolde

Co-Principal Investigator & NIEPRR Fellow Researcher

Marla Goins

Principal Investigator

Danielle Mireles

Co-Principal Investigator

Norma Marrun

Co-Principal Investigator

Christine Clark

Co-Principal Investigator

This research was made possible thanks to generous funding from the Nevada Department of Education to support the Nevada Institute on Educator Preparation (NITEP), the Nevada Institute on Educator Preparation, Retention, & Research (NIEPRR), and the Nevada Educator Preparation Institute & Collective (NV-EPIC).