Open Access Articles- Top Results for Disability studies

Disability studies

Not to be confused with Disability rights.

Disability studies is an academic discipline that examines the meaning, nature, and consequences of disability, as a social construct. Initially the field focused on the division between "impairment" and "disability". Here impairment was interpreted as impairment of an individual's mind or body, while disability is considered a social construction.[1] This premise gave is the basis of two distinct models of understanding of disability - the social and medical models of disability. In 1999 the social model was universally accepted as the model preferred by the field.[2] However in recent years, the division between the social and medical models has been challenged.[1][3] Additionally there has been an increased focus on interdisciplinary research.[4]

Disability studies courses include work in disability history, theory, legislation, policy, ethics and the arts. However, students are taught to focus is the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities. In practical terms. the field is focused on increasing individuals with disabilities access to civil rights and improving their quality of life.[5]

It is a relatively new field, Section for the Study of Chronic Illness, Impairment, and Disability of Social Science Association was renamed the Society for Disability Studies in 1986.[6] The first US disabilities studies program emerged in 1994, at Syracuse University.[5] The first edition of the Disabilities Studies Reader (one of the first collections of academic papers related to disability studies) was published in that same year. The field grew rapidly in the over the next ten years.[7] In 2005, the Modern Language Association established disability studies as a “division of study.” [5]


Universities have long studied disabilities from a clinical perspective.[5] In 1986 the Section for the Study of Chronic Illness, Impairment, and Disability of Social Science Association was renamed the Society for Disability Studies[6] and it's journal "Disability Studies Quarterly" was the first journal in disability studies. The first US disabilities studies program emerged in 1994, at Syracuse University.[5] However, courses and programs were very few. In the 1996 first edition of the "Disability Studies Reader" Lennard J. Davis wrote that "it had been virtually impossible to have someone teaching about disability within the humanities". In the second edition, written ten years later, he writes that "all that has changed", but "just because disability studies is on the map, does not mean that is easy to find".[7]

Still the field continued to grow throughout the 2000s. In 2009 Disability Studies Quarterly published a A Multinational Review of English-language Disability Studies Degrees and Courses. Their found that from 2003 to 2008 the number of disability studies stand alone studies courses in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada grew from 56 to 108 and the number of degree granting courses grew from 212 to 420. A total of 17 degrees in disability studies were offered, with 11 programs in the US, 2 in the UK, 3 in Canada, and one in Australia.[8]

A 2014 New York Times article "Disability Studies: A New Normal" suggests that the expansion in disability studies programs is related to the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Those raised after the passage of the ADA have entered colleges and the workforce, as Disability Studies has grown. In a 2014 article, Disability Studies Quarterly published an analysis on the relationships between student run groups and disability studies, from 2008 to 2012. Their article analyzes groups at four different universities and describes how professors have incorporated student activism into their curriculum and research.[9]


According to the transnational[10] Society for Disability Studies:

"Using an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary approach. Disability sits at the intersection of many overlapping disciplines in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Programs in Disability Studies should encourage a curriculum that allows students, activists, teachers, artists, practitioners, and researchers to engage the subject matter from various disciplinary perspectives.

  • Challenging the view of disability as an individual deficit or defect that can be remedied solely through medical intervention or rehabilitation by "experts" and other service providers. Rather, a program in Disability Studies should explore models and theories that examine social, political, cultural, and economic factors that define disability and help determine personal and collective responses to difference. At the same time, Disability Studies should work to de-stigmatize disease, illness, and impairment, including those that cannot be measured or explained by biological science. Finally, while acknowledging that medical research and intervention can be useful, Disability Studies should interrogate the connections between medical practice and stigmatizing disability.
  • Studying national and international perspectives, policies, literature, culture, and history with an aim of placing current ideas of disability within their broadest possible context. Since attitudes toward disability have not been the same across times and places, much can be gained by learning from these other experiences.
  • Encouraging participation by disabled students and faculty, and ensuring physical and intellectual access. Prioritizing leadership positions held by disabled people; at the same time, it is important to create an environment where contributions from anyone who shares the above goals are welcome."[4]

Disability studies and medical humanities

The social model of disability is expanded to chronic illness and to the broader work of the medical humanities.[11] Practitioners are working towards improving the healthcare for disabled people through disability studies. This multi-disciplinary field of enquiry draws on the experiences and perspectives of people with disabilities to address discrimination. Inclusion of disability studies in medical curriculum is being reported as a preliminary step towards bringing medical humanities into classrooms.[12] Infinite Ability has done some preliminary work in India to introduce disability studies to medical students.[13][14][15]

Intersectionality: Disability, Ethnicity, Race, Gender, and Sexuality

Recent scholarship has included studies that explore the intersection between disability and race. Ellen Samuels explores gender, queer sexualities, and disability.[16][17] Christopher Bell’s posthumous[18] volume on Blackness and Disability;[19] and the work of Robert McRuer both explore queerness and disability. These works engage with issues of neoliberal economic oppression. Scholars of Feminist Disability Studies include Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and Alison Kafer.[citation needed] The 2009 publication of Fiona Kumari Campbell’s "Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness" signalled a new direction of research — studies in ableism, moving beyond preoccupations with disability to explore the maintenance of abledness in sexed, raced and modified bodies.[citation needed]

In addition to work by individual scholars, disability Studies organizations have also begun to focus on disability and race and gender. The society for disability studies created a memorial scholarship to honor Bell's commitment to diversity in disability studies.[20] Postsecondary Disability Studies programs increasingly engage with the intersectionality of oppression. The University of Manitoba offers a course in on "Women with disabilities".[21] Several recent masters' student research papers at the University of York focus on issues related to women with disabilities and people of African Decent with disabilities.[22]


Questioning the Social Model

Once universally accepted in the field, the social model of disability [2] has recently been challenged.[3] In a 2014 Disability Studies Quarterly article. students involved in campus disability drops note that they actively seek cures for their chronic illnesses and "question the rejection of the medical model" of disability.[9]


Exclusion of Cognitive and mental Disabilities

One major area of contention is the frequent exclusion of the personal experience of impairment, cognitive disability, and illness, which is often left out of most discussion in these circles in the name of "focused" academic discourse.[citation needed]

Disability, Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality

Disability studies has also been criticised for its failure to engage with or to take into consideration other potential layers of sociopolitical oppression, such as ageism, racism, sexism, transphobia or homophobia, as they may apply to disabled people in these oppressed groups[23]

Notable disability studies theorists

Notable Works

  • Albrecht, Gary L., ed. Encyclopedia of Disability (5 vol. Sage, 2005)
  • Barnes, C. and G. Mercer. Exploring disability [2nd edition]. Cambridge, Polity Press, 2010.
  • Bell, Christopher, ed. Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions (Forecaast Series). LIT Verlag Münster, 2011.
  • Burch, Susan, and Paul K. Longmore, eds. Encyclopedia of American Disability History (3 Vol. 2009)
  • Campbell, Fiona K. "Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness", Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • Corker, Mairian and Tom Shakespeare. Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory, Continuum, 2002.
  • Davis, Lennard J., ed. The Disability Studies Reader. Routledge 1997
  • DePoy, Elizabeth, and Stephen Gilson, Studying Disability:. Los Angeles, CA: Sage 2011.
  • Guter, Bob, and John R. Killacky, Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories. New York: Harrington Park Press, 2004.
  • Johnstone, David. An Introduction to Disability Studies, David Fulton Publishers Ltd 2001
  • Linton, Simi. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York University Press, 1998.
  • McRuer, Robert and Michael Bérubé. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (Cultural Front), NYU Press, 2006.
  • Oliver, M. Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. New York, Basigstoke, 1996
  • Pothier, Dianne and Richard Devlin, eds. Critical Disability Theory: Essays in Philosophy, Politics, Policy, and Law (Law and Society Series), UBC Press, 2006.
  • Ronell, A. The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech, University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
  • Siebers, Tobin Anthony. Disability Theory (Corporealities: Discourses of Disability), University of Michigan Press, 2008.
  • Snyder, Sharon, Brenda J. Brueggemann, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, eds. Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Modern Language Association, 2002.
  • Snyder, Sharon L. and David T. Mitchell. Cultural Locations of Disability, University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • Smith, Bonnie G., and Beth Hutchison, eds. Gendering Disability. Rutgers University Press, 2004.
  • Thomas, C. Sociologies of Disability and Illness: contested ideas in disability studies and medical sociology, London, Palgrave, 2007.

See also

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  1. ^ a b "Session Details: Avenues of Access: The State of Disability Studies". Modern Language Association. Modern Language Association. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Bickenbacha, Jerome E; Chatterji, Somnath; Badley, E.M.; Üstün, T.B. (1999). "Models of disablement, universalism and the international classification of impairments, disabilities and handicaps". Social Science & Medicine 48 (9): 1173–1187. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Dewsbury, Guy; Karen, Clarke; Randallb, Dave; Rouncefield, Mark; Sommerville, Ian (Oct 2010). "The anti‐social model of disability". Disability & Society 19 (2): 145–158. doi:10.1080/0968759042000181776. 
  4. ^ a b "what is disability studies?". Society for Disability Studies. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e CAPUZZI SIMON, CECILIA (1 November 2013). "Disability Studies: A New Normal". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Mission and History". Society for Disability Studies. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Davis, Lennard J., ed. (2006). The Disability Studies Reader (2 ed.). Routledge. 
  8. ^ "A Multinational Review Of English-Language Disability Studies Degrees And Courses". Disability Studies Quarterly 29 (3). 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Stout, Allegra; Schwartz, Ariel (2014). ""It'll Grow Organically and Naturally": The Reciprocal Relationship between Student Groups and Disability Studies on College Campuses". Disability Studies Quarterly 34 (2). Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "About". Society for Disability Studies. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Garden, R (December 2010). "Disability and narrative: new directions for medicine and the medical humanities.". Medical humanities 36 (2): 70–4. PMID 21393285. doi:10.1136/jmh.2010.004143. 
  12. ^ "Disability Studies in Medical Education". Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Singh, S; Khosla, J; Sridhar, S (July 2012). "Exploring medical humanities through theatre of the oppressed.". Indian journal of psychiatry 54 (3): 296–7. PMC 3512382. PMID 23226869. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.102461. 
  14. ^ Khetarpal, A; Singh, S (2012). "Infertility: Why can't we classify this inability as disability?". The Australasian medical journal 5 (6): 334–9. PMC 3395292. PMID 22848333. doi:10.4066/AMJ.2012.1290. 
  15. ^ Singh, S (May 2012). "Broadening horizons: looking beyond disability.". Medical education 46 (5): 522. PMID 22515781. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04246.x. 
  16. ^ "Department of Gender and Women's Studies". 2013-02-27. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  17. ^ "Women and Disability: Feminist Disability Studies [Disability Studies]". Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  18. ^ BA Haller (2009-12-26). "Media dis&dat: Obituary: Chris Bell, disability studies scholar on race, HIV/AIDS, dies". Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  19. ^ Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  20. ^ "chris bell memorial scholarship". Society for Disability Studies. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  21. ^ "Disability Studies Courses". University of Manitoba. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  22. ^ "COMPLETED MA PROJECT RESEARCH PAPERS". York University. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  23. ^ Caldwell, K. (2010). "We Exist: Intersectional In/Visibility in Bisexuality & Disability". Disability Studies Quarterly 30. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 

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