Spotlight on Sushil K. Oswal

One of the best aspects of being a part of this community is learning with and from such tremendous colleagues. People working at the Disability Studies/Rhet-Comp nexus are producing fantastic work right now (as I hope we showcased in our last blog). This blog entry showcases one particular scholar whose work intersects the areas of technology, accessibility, and disability. If you don’t know his work already,  you should!

Sushil K. Oswal is a Technical Communication faculty member in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington-Tacoma as well as faculty of Disability Studies at the University of Washington-Seattle. He is a former Taft Fellow and the winner of C.R. Anderson Award for his Environmental Communication research in the area of environmental technology applications in the research and development division of a Japanese-owned company. As a driving voice in our field, his work has addressed faculty access and accommodations, accessibility issues for visually impaired students, design problems in learning management systems employed by higher education, self-service kiosks in the banking industry, and the development of best practices in online writing instruction. He is the accessibility architect and co-author of the College Composition and Communication Conference’s 2013 “Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction (OWI)”, which should be required reading for all writing program administrators and instructors aiming to thoughtfully engage accessibility as they design online curricula.

One of his publications, “Ableism,” a part of collaborative project under the banner of “Multimodality in Motion” for Kairos, offers both a demonstration and an invitation for multimodal rhetoric informed by disability. At the 2014 Computers and Writing Conference in Pullman, Washington, the Computers and Composition Digital Press presented the Accessibility and Digital Composition Award to this project. His chapter on E-portfolios also received an honorable mention from the same sponsor.

Dr. Oswal is presently working on a cross-Atlantic project with colleagues in the United Kingdom on the topic of “Avoidance in the Academy” which aims at critiquing the ways the contemporary  university compulsively ignores disability by making it invisible through its ableist policies and structures while simultaneously tolerating the presence of its disabled members to avoid legal and social complications. So we’ll have that work to look forward to…

In addition to his scholarship, Sushil maintains an invaluable presence at our flagship conference (CCCC), sharing research ideas at the Standing Group for Disability Studies meetings and providing service and critical insight to the Committee on Disability Issues in College Composition (CDICC). Beyond CCCC, he sits on the Disability Committee of the Council for Writing Program Administration and consults in the area of digital technology and accessibility with industry. We invite you to engage his work and cruise through the suggested reading list we’ve provided below. Sushil is also open to being contacted if you have questions, comments, or just want to introduce yourself to a fellow colleague. He can be e-mailed at

Big thanks to Sushil for his willingness to participate in this showcase and for his contributions to our field. We wish everyone happy reading!

Tara & Hilary

Selected Publications

“Participatory Design: Barriers and Possibilities.” Communication Design Quarterly 2.3 (June 2014).
“Paying Attention to Accessibility and Disability in Technical and Professional Communication Online Course Design.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication (October 2014).
“Access to Digital Library Databases in Higher Education: Design Problems and Infrastructural Gaps.” WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation (July 2014).
“Faculty Members, Accommodation, and Access in Higher Education”, Co-Authored with Stephanie Kerschbaum, et. al. Profession. (December 2013).
Book Review, The Online Writing Conference: A Guide for Teachers and Tutors, by Beth L. Hewett, Composition Studies 41.2 (Fall 2013): 3.
“Multimodality in Motion: Ableism.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 18.1 (August 2013).
“Accessible ePortfolios for Visually-Impaired Users: Interfaces, Designs and Infrastructures.” In K. V. Wills, & R. Rice (Eds.), Eportfolio Performance Support Systems: Constructing, Presenting, and Assessing
. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press. (2013): 133-151.
“Exploring Accessibility as a Potential Area of Research for Technical Communication: A Modest Proposal.” Communication Design Quarterly 1.4, (August 2013): 50-60.
“Accessibility Challenges for Visually Impaired Students and their Online Writing Instructors.” In Lisa Meloncon (Ed.), Rhetorical Accessibility: At the Intersection of Technical
Communication and Disability Studies
. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. (2013): 135-155.
“A Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction (OWI)”, Co-Authored with the Committee of Conference on College Composition and Communication for Best Practices in Online Writing Instruction. Digital Publication at (March
2013): 1-35.


What’s New?! 2014

There is so much going on in Disability Rhetoric these days, our list of things to watch/read/listen to seems almost never-ending. But in an exciting way, of course! This post is meant to share a few recent items that we’re suggesting should be on your list as well (if they aren’t already). First, Dev Bose has been working tirelessly at updating the Disability Rhetoric site, so please take some time to cruise around the various pages and see what’s new. Let us (Tara Wood, Hilary Selznick, Dev Bose) know if there is anything you’d like to add or any ideas you have for enhancing the site.

Second, 2014 has been an exciting year for books that focus on the intersections of rhetoric, disability, and writing studies. Here are a few highlights:

  • Dolmage, Jay. Disability Rhetoric. New York: Syracuse UP, 2014. Print.
  • Kerschbaum, Stephanie. Toward a New Rhetoric of Difference. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2014. Print.
  • Ben-Moshe Liat, Chris Chapman and Allison Carey, eds. Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada. New York: Palgrave, 2014. Print.

Several articles should also be mentioned:

  • Dolmage, Jay. “Framing Disability, Developing Race: Photography as Eugenic Technology.” Enculturation17 (March 2014). Web. 27 September 2014.
  • Dunn, Patricia. “Disabling Assumptions: Challenging Stereotypes for a More Democratic Society. English Journal 103.2 (November 2014). Print.
  • Kerschbaum, Stephanie. “On Rhetorical Agency and Disclosing Disability in Academic Writing.” Rhetoric Review 33.1 (2014). 55-71. Print.
  • Shachmut, Kyle. “A New Obstacle for Students with Disabilities.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (September 2014). Web. 27 September 2014.

In addition to these publications, the following recent presentations are available to view:

In addition to the books and presentations listed above, Emily Clark recently reviewed Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson Jen Cellio’s Disability and Mothering: Liminal Spaces of Embodied Knowledge for JAC 34.1/2; Elizabeth Brewer reviewed Jay Dolmage’s Disability Rhetoric for DSQ 34.2; and Amy Vidali reviewed Stephanie Kerschbaum’s book Toward a New Rhetoric for DSQ 34.3. And speaking of DSQ, they recently put out a call for a multidisciplinary editorial team.

Finally, we’d like to mention the fantastic work of one of Amy Vidali’s graduate students, Marissa Michael who put together a website focusing on first-year composition and disability studies.

The work we’re highlighting here is by no means exhaustive; it represents our efforts to applaud, amplify, and share the tremendous quality of work produced by/in this research community. And we want to know what you’re up to! Let us know what you have on your disability to do-list, whether it’s something we should read, a site we should visit, or a talk we can listen to!

Tara & Hilary

Join our mentor program!

Hi all! As you may or may not know, I’m stepping into the role of co-chair (along with Amy Vidali) of the Standing Group on Disability Studies. Part of this role entails coordinating the mentoring program, which is set up for scholars, teachers, and researchers interested in cultivating productive and supportive relationships between those of us vested in the intersections of disability and rhetoric. Many of us often feel a bit isolated as the only “disability studies” person in our departments and connecting with the wonderful group of DS/rhet comp can create a sense community.

In my own experience as a mentee, I cannot begin to describe the absolute pleasure of having someone who “gets it” respond to my work, not to mention the added (and perhaps even more crucial) benefit of tapping someone outside the confines of my own campus to offer me advice on navigating the often lonely and murky waters of graduate school survival. Although our mentor-mentee relationships are not meant to be hierarchical by nature, I found it very helpful to consult my mentor about the job market, about completing large-scale research projects, and about balancing my various academic and personal roles. She’d been there, done that!

I know that Amy has also loved working in a more peer-to-peer capacity, where she can get feedback on her work and provide feedback for her “mentee.”

We’d love to keep this program growing, hearty, and vibrantly demonstrating our community’s shared values of collaboration, connectedness, and interdependence. So if you are interested in becoming either a mentor or a mentee, please send an email to Tara Wood at