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What is Disability Studies? – Society for Disability Studies Skip to content

What is Disability Studies?

Using interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, Disability Studies 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.

Disability Studies is about:

  • 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.