This essay argues that the emphasis on spoken contributions in English and other humanities courses can exclude disabled students. The COVID-19 pandemic's necessitation of online learning has forced instructors to offer students multiple entry points for conversation—not only through spoken dialogue but also text threads, anonymous polls, and communal annotation assignments. Instructors’ shifts in participation guidelines both before and at the height of the pandemic reveal faculty members’ adoption of a disability justice pedagogy that privileges flexibility. Drawing on these transformations, the author offers pragmatic suggestions for how to value course contributions beyond students’ capacity to voice their reflections aloud. The relinquishment of rigid academic expectations for participation makes space not just for students with disabilities but also for other minority populations, including women students, nonbinary students, first-generation students, and students of color who contribute their expertise in more capacious ways than the standard, discussion-based classroom allows. To conclude, the author considers how instructors might replicate accessible online tools—from Zoom chats to asynchronous platforms—in the return to face-to-face teaching. These new and primarily virtual forms of engagement reframe participation not as individual contributions to conversation, but as ongoing work intended for the purpose of community growth and collective care.

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