Disability, stigma and suffering in schools

Photo: Paula Verde Francisco

Emerging narratives for the right to inclusive education


Eduardo S. Vila-Merino
University of Malaga, Spain

María Teresa Rascón-Gómez
University of Malaga, Spain

Ignacio Calderón-Almendros
University of Malaga, Spain


Inclusive education, special education, right to education, educational discrimination, disability discrimination, access to education


Based on the Social Model of Disability, this article seeks to highlight the processes of stigmatisation, discrimination and suffering that take place in schools, while also examining the processes of socialisation and education that students, families, professionals and activists encounter within the school setting. Furthermore, it addresses the absence of educational responses to diversity and the social and professional demands required from an inclusive perspective. To this end, narrative research is used to analyse the social and educational experiences of six individuals’ life histories and thirteen life stories of students, families, professionals, and activists, categorised into three groups: the labelling process and its consequences; the response of students, families and professionals; and the effects of discrimination on the person and his or her environment. The results show the challenges they face in finding the support necessary to engage in activism and empowerment processes with the goal of creating an inclusive educational environment that does not segregate students with disabilities in special education settings, but rather takes them into account in all pedagogical decision-making processes. The paper shows the need to place the voice of students and families at the very heart of the inclusive discourse; to recognise them as activists with the capacity to show, from their narrated experiences, the need to challenge the labelling process; and to play a leading role in research committed to educational and social change, thereby enabling new life maps while promoting a social movement for the right to education.


Full English Paper PDF

How to cite this paper: Vila-Merino, E. S., Rascón-Gómez, T., & Calderón-Almendros, I. (2024). Disability, stigma and suffering in schools. Emerging narratives for the right to inclusive education. Educación XX1, 27(1), 353-371. https://doi.org/10.5944/educxx1.36753


This article is part of the research project “Emerging Narratives on Inclusive Education from the Social Model of Disability. Resistance, Resilience and Social Change”, funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (RTI2018-099218-A-I00).

The authors would like to thank everyone involved in the research for their dedicated and selfless collaboration.