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Universal Design for Learning
Equity Education and Anti-Oppression Frameworks

Intersectionality and Representation

An intersectionalOpens in a new window framework in an education context requires that we reflect on the ways that multiple social identitiesOpens in a new window interact and compound to affect the learner’s experience of what we represent in our education environments.

In doing so, we are then required to learn about our own individual social identities (or socially constructed binaries), especially when one or more of our own individual identities represent the constructed (mythical) norms of dominant culture.

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Deaf and hearing interpreters advocate for intersectional representation: HumanifestoOpens in a new window (Runtime: 8:12 min).

Our social identities play a significant role in determining our values, the ways in which we are affected by established norms, and the ways we also participate in establishing these norms. When our values come from a place of power, it is easier to internalize them and take them for granted.

An intersectional framework can help us to acknowledge the ways that historically ingrained prejudices are built into our institutions, creating barriers and limiting opportunities for many. The term intersectionalityOpens in a new window was first coined in 1989 by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw as a way to describe how gender, race, and class intersect to create an interdependent system of discrimination and differential access to resources. This definition is now in wide use, recognizing that the combination of various social identities, together, produce something unique and distinct from any one form of discrimination standing alone (OHRC, 2001). As Crenshaw says, “intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there.

Many times, that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things” (Crenshaw, 2017). In the Learn More here, Kimberlé Crenshaw applies the theory of intersectionality to systems and outcomes in education.


Take a moment to reflect on your own intersecting identities. You can use this chart to do this: Power/Privilege WheelOpens in a new window.

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Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an AllyOpens in a new window (Runtime: 6:45 min). CC is autogenerated.

When we understand the potential obstacles and discrimination that some groups experience over others, we can act. All of us involved in education, faculty, administrators, student support professionals, librarians, interpreters, and so on, can advocate for change in our sphere of influence.

Watch this video clip in which a faculty explains how you might think about intersectionalityOpens in a new window by modelling her own self-reflection in a Learn and Share she presented in her UDL community of practiceOpens in a new window.

A Professor Facilitates a Self-Reflection on Intersectionality with Colleagues 6:07min

Modelling our own reflection on challenging topics is a great way to represent content to students. Also, as mentioned in Module 1, when we consider our own social identities along with the social identities of our learners, we can find opportunities to stretch, (re)learn, and identify ways to challenge Eurocentric materials and delivery methodologies in our curriculumOpens in a new window. We can strive to honour the diverse identities of our colleagues and learners.

At the same time, it is “never acceptable to place those whose voices are marginalized by the very theories we are critically investigating to bear the responsibility of educating the class" (Ridgley, 2015).

We can strive to honour the diverse identities of our colleagues and learners. As educators, we especially have a role to play when it comes to supporting any of us who are engaged in advocacy with our institutions. Educators also experience identity threatOpens in a new window. Educators and support professionals who also navigate individual, systemic, and structural racismOpens in a new window and could also benefit from supports and resources similar to those that they provide to students.

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Andratesha Fritzgerald full keynote: Pathways to SuccessOpens in a new window (Runtime: 1:27:12 min).

Institutionally, the social identities of learners, educators, staff, and college leaders all have a bearing on the ways we proceed when designing our educational spaces. In this recent (and first) Ontario address, Andratesha Fritzgerald was asked by Nadia Richards about the connections between intersectionalityOpens in a new window and UDL.

Andratesha Fritzgerald: Connections Between Intersectionality and UDL1:51 min

Join us for a conversation and reflection about how we, as educators, can foster inclusion and belonging for all learners.

Intersectionality activity

Intersectionality: Multiple Identities Exploration


The intersectionality activity is an opportunity to explore your various social identities.

If using a mouse, trackpad, or touch device, press the checkbox button or label on the answer that applies to you.

If using a keyboard or screen reader, press the Tab key to navigate between checkboxes, and use the and the Space key to select an answer. To get your results, focus on the Submit button and press Enter to submit the form.

All questions are optional.

We all have a variety of identities, some with social stigma and some that align with dominant culture. As a result, each of us has a unique experience of self in relation to the world. Earlier in this chapter, you saw a professor share an exploration of her own social identities using a Wheel of Power and Privilege. This type of reflective exercise helps us to consider the ways that our various perspectives shape the way that we design curriculum, educational spaces, and relate to learners.

In this private activity you can choose from a number of social identities. Please select any and all that apply to you and press SUBMIT.

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