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Experience Disability in Books

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

The term ‘Experience Disability’ was first explored at elementary school in Georgia. It was a one day event and grade by grade, the children moved through various stations of experiences. At one table they wore glasses smeared with vaseline and were asked to read. At another, they were given marshmallows to fill their mouths and then they tried to speak. There were wheelchairs and crutches to maneuver and a secret told to ears full of cotton. They were given headphones playing loud static noise and encouraged to try and answer a question. Each station was designed to expand their understanding of being disabled. It was an incredible perspective-changing experience for both the children and their teachers.

Not everyone has the opportunity to actually experience disability but we can immerse ourselves in words and images. Through this list of highly-rated new and classic fiction and nonfiction books, readers of all ages can experience what is like to be physically, emotionally and mentally challenged.

Disability Visibility: First Person Stories From The Twenty-First Century

Edited by Alice Wong,

A collection of true life experiences told by

individuals with disabilities

Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

Classic novel about an experiment gone right then wrong

True Biz

by Sara Novik

Students and teachers at boarding school for the deaf

and their struggle in a mainstream world

Fish In A Tree

by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

A student tries to hide their learning disability and finds redemption

Stones from the River

by Ursula Hegi

A woman with dwarfism navigates life during World War I and II

The Sound and The Fury

by William Faulkner

Complex southern novel with a first person account told by a sensitive young man with an intellectual disability

Laughing at my Nightmare

by Shane Burcaw

Living in a wheelchair viewed with humor and candor

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime

by Mark Haddon

An English teenager with “differences” solves a

mystery and discovers even more

Of Mice and Men

by John Steinbeck

Two migrant working friends, one with an intellectual disability, face a callous world

Haben: The deafblind woman who conquered Harvard Law

By Haben Girma

The inspiring true story of a lifetime of determination told with warmth and wit

And 10 Notable Children's Books

The Planet Earth is Blue

by Nicole Panteleakos

A nonverbal girl and her passion for space

Dancing with Daddy

by Anitra Rowe Schulz

A young girl in a wheelchair anticipates an upcoming dance

A Storm of Strawberries

by Jo Cotterill

First person narrative by a 12-year old with Down syndrome who loves chocolate and dancing

El Deafo

by Cece Bell

Cece is deaf with superpowers and both present

interesting and funny events

A Walk in the Words

by Hudson Talbott

A boy with dyslexia struggles with words and finds solace in nature

The Beach is Loud

by Samantha Cotterill

A child with Autism struggles with the reality of noise

A Sky Blue Bench

by Bahram Rahman

A young Afghan schoolgirl resumes school after an accident disables her

My City Speaks

by Darren Lebeuf

A visually-impaired girl explores her city

using all of her other senses

A Bird will Soar

by Alison Green Myers

A bird-loving boy with autism finds an eaglet

It's Okay to be Different

by Todd Parr

A picture book for youngsters about embracing our differences

As parent of a child with a disability and a former teacher and children's librarian, I believe that books can expand awareness and build acceptance about the wonderful uniqueness of all of us in this world.

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