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Founders and Past Presidents


Irving K. Zola (1986 – 1989)

Dr. Irving K. Zola (1935-1994) was an internationally known activist and writer in the fields of medical sociology and disability rights. He was a founding member and counselor at the Boston Self-Help Center. His best-known book is Missing Pieces: A Chronicle of Living with a Disability (1982). The Dr. Irving Kenneth Zola Collection, a repository of most of his works, can be found at The Samuel Gridley Howe Library at Brandeis University, where Zola taught for many years. Zola was also a founding member of SDS and the first editor of Disability Studies Quarterly. His legacy continues as SDS awards annually the Irving K. Zola Prize for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies.

Daryl Evans (1989 – 1990)

Dr. Evans (1946 -1999) earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics from Colorado State College, Greeley and his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1980. Evans joined the faculty in the Department of Sociology at the University of Kansas, where he also was a Research Associate in the Bureau of Child Research, researching life-and-death parental decision-making concerning the unborn and infants with disabilities. Evans received five University teaching awards at KU, including the Mortar Board Outstanding Educator Award, the Honor for Outstanding Progressive Educator Award, and the Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award for Outstanding Classroom Teaching (adapted from a tribute to Evans).

Steve Hey, ph.d.

Gary Kiger, ph.d.

John Seidel, ph.d.


Joanne Woiak (2018-2020)

Phil Smith (2016-2018)

Brenda Brueggemann (2015-2016)

Michael Rembis (2014 – 2015)

Michael Rembis is the Director of the Center for Disability Studies and an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Rembis has authored or edited more than 60 books, articles, and book chapters. His recent work includes: Defining Deviance: Sex, Science, and Delinquent Girls, 1890-1960 (University of Illinois Press, 2011 & 2013); Disability Histories co-edited with Susan Burch (University of Illinois Press, 2014); [The Oxford] Handbook of Disability History co-edited with Kim Nielsen and Catherine Kudlick (Oxford University Press, forthcoming); and Disabling Domesticity, forthcoming from Palgrave McMillan. In 2012, Rembis and co-editor Kim Nielsen launched the Disability Histories book series with University of Illinois Press. His research interests include the history of institutionalization, mad people’s history, and the history of eugenics. He is currently working on a book entitled, ‘A Secret Worth Knowing’: Living Mad Lives in the Shadow of the Asylum.

Tammy Berberi (2012 – 2014)

Dr. Tammy Berberi is Associate Professor of French at the University of Minnesota, Morris. She has engaged in disability advocacy in higher education since she served as the first graduate-student member on the MLA Committee on Disability Issues (1997-2000). Along with Elizabeth Hamilton and Ian Sutherland, Tammy is the co-editor of a collection of essays, Worlds Apart? Disability and Foreign Language Learning (Yale UP, 2008) and has published a number of articles related to the representation of disability in the poetry of Tristan Corbière. Berberi is co-editing with Christian Flaugh a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies on Disability in French and Francophone Worlds and continues to develop continental French disability studies. She served various roles on the SDS board between 2009 and 2015: program chair, site chair (twice) Vice-President, and President 2012-2014.

Devva Kasnitz (2010 – 2012)

Trained as a cultural geographer at Clark University and then as an anthropologist at The University of Michigan, Devva Kasnitz did postdoctoral work at Northwestern and at the University of California, San Francisco in urban and medical anthropology. She has worked in the area of disability studies for the last 30 years while still maintaining an interest in ethnicity and immigration. She was on the founding board of the Society for Disability Studies, the Anthropology and Disability Research Interest Group, and has mentored a generation of disability studies scholars in the US, Australia, and Guatemala. She currently works with the Association of Higher Education and Disability. She lives in Northern California surrounded by her family and by spinning wheels and baskets full of yarn and wool waiting to become yarn.

Pamela Block (2009 – 2010)

Dr. Block is Associate Dean for Research in the School of Health Technology and Management, Associate Professor in the Occupational Therapy Program, Director of the Concentration in Disability Studies for the Ph.D. Program in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and a Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Dr. Block received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Duke University in 1997. She researches disability experience on individual, organizational and community levels, focusing on socio-environmental barriers, empowerment/capacity-building, and health promotion. Her qualitative research combines historical analyses with community-based ethnographic and participatory approaches. She has taught in the areas of disability studies, assistive technology, foundations of OT, qualitative research design, human subjects research ethics, and grant writing. Most recently, Dr. Block has been involved in supporting disability social entrepreneurship through organizations such as EmpowerSCI – a nonprofit providing independent living skills and secondary rehabilitation to individuals with recent spinal cord injury, and VENTure – a policy and technology think tank on issues of concern to people who use ventilators.

Noam Ostrander (2008 – 2009)

Noam Ostrander, PhD, LCSW serves on the faculty of DePaul University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) Program. He received his A.M. from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to joining the faculty, Dr. Ostrander worked with former gang members who sustained violently-acquired disabilities. Additionally, he served as a clinical therapist for members of LGBT communities. Dr. Ostrander has published articles on disability identity formation, sexuality, and social work education in journals such as Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Disability and Society, and Disability and Sexuality. Recently, he has co-edited a book with Bruce Henderson entitled, Understanding Disability Studies and Performance Studies (Routledge). Dr. Ostrander has presented his research at numerous major conferences in the United States and has been an invited speaker at colleges and universities across the globe on disability and violence. Dr. Ostrander has served as co-editor for Disability Studies Quarterly.

Elaine Gerber (2006 – 2008)

Dr. Gerber is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Prior to joining their faculty, Dr. Gerber served for five years as the Senior Research Associate for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and taught in the graduate program in Disability Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY). She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and her B.A. from the University of Michigan. (Let’s Go Blue!) She is currently a member of the Disability Studies Quarterly editorial board, and served as a Guest Editor for a DSQ Special Theme Issue entitled, “Eat, Drink & Inclusion: The Politics of Disability & Food” (Summer 2007). Her current research includes issues related to: food security & disablement; active living; audio description; blind theater; and the cultural construction of disability. Her earlier work also centered around culture and the body, particularly in the area of women’s reproductive health. Dr. Gerber is proud to have participated with Devva Kasnitz as a Visiting Instructor for the National Association of Applied Anthropology-Occupational Therapy (NAPA-OT) Field School in Antigua, Guatemala. She currently lives in New York, where she dotes upon her cat and dog, dabbles in pottery, and loves to bike. More info about her work can be found here:

Chris Bell (2006 – 2007)

Chris Bell (1974  – 2009) was a Lecturer and Advisor in the Department of English at Towson University; an affiliate faculty member in Cultural Studies, LGBT Studies, and the Honors College; and the Advisor of the Queer Student Union. Prior to his appointment at Towson in August 2006, Chris lived in Poland where he researched disability access and representation at the museum spaces of Auschwitz and Birkenau. He also taught Cultural Studies classes at the University of Bielsko-Biala and Thesis Writing classes at the Warsaw School of Social Psychology. Chris had 10 chapters in edited collections, 4 journal articles, 34 book reviews, and 39 encyclopedia entries in print or press. He was the editor of two essay collections, both of which were under review at academic presses. One of his most influential pieces is “White Disability Studies, A Modest Proposal,” in the Disability Studies Reader.

Corbett OToole (2006)

Corbett Joan OToole is one of the few SDS Presidents to come from the community and not the academy. Armed with her mighty B.S. she fearlessly entered the academic world of journals and presentations. Through much of her early academic writing, she was mentored by Canadian researcher Tanis Doe (also known as Vicky D’aoust). Tanis provided invaluable support and training which allowed Corbett to publish over 20 articles in peer reviewed journals. This academic work allowed Corbett to share her decades of grassroots work in disability communities with academic audiences.

Corbett’s a pivotal organizer on issues related to disabled women and disabled queers. She brought 50 North American women to the United Nations Fourth International Conference on Women and the Disabled Women’s Symposium in Beijing, China in 1995. She also created and led the first National Project on Disabled Women and Girls at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. She co-organized the first International Queer Disability Conference in 2002.

She recently co-founded Autonomous Press and published her groundbreaking book, Fading Scars: My Queer Disability History which became a finalist in the 2016 Lambda Literary Awards. She creates art to commemorate and celebrate disability communities and had a one-woman show at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2016. Her Disabled Women of Color quilt’s been shown at SDS, Dis/Play at SOMArts in San Francisco in 2015, and is the focal art piece for the Intersectionality Conference in Boston in 2016.

Jim Ferris (2005 – 2006)

Jim Ferris is a poet and performance artist. He is author of Slouching Towards Guantanamo, Facts of Life, and The Hospital Poems, which won the Main Street Rag Book Award in 2004. Ferris, who holds a doctorate in performance studies, has performed at the Kennedy Center and across the United States, Canada and Great Britain; recent performance work includes the solo performance piece “Scars: A Love Story.” Past president of the Society for Disability Studies, he has received awards for performance and mathematics as well as poetry and creative nonfiction. His writing has appeared in dozens of publications, ranging from POETRYto Text & Performance Quarterly, from the Georgia Review to weekly newspapers. He holds the Ability Center Endowed Chair in Disability Studies at The University of Toledo.

Anne Finger (2002 – 2005)

Activist, educator, and cultural worker Anne Finger has long been prominent in the U.S. disability movement. The author of three volumes of fiction and two memoirs, she has served as President of the Society for Disability Studies, written forDisability Studies Quarterly, and contributed to countless disability anthologies and conferences; at present, she is the board president of AXIS Dance Company, an organization started by disabled people. In addition to disability-specific work, her career of activism extends from the 1960s peace movement to the Occupy movement: she has marched on the Pentagon and helped to shut down the Port of Oakland.

Finger’s first book, the 1988 story collection Basic Skills, contains several disability-themed works, two of them drawing on her childhood experiences of polio. Her 1990 memoir Past Due: A Story of Disability, Pregnancy, and Birth, integrates accounts of her early life, her social activism, and her experiences at the hands of the medical profession, both as a polio survivor and as the mother of a baby in intensive care. In the process it explores the impact of sexist and ableist oppressions on her life and mind, and dramatizes her struggles with them. Her 1994 novel Bone Truth, incorporating a number of autobiographical elements, tells a story of a woman considering motherhood and struggling to frame a narrative explaining her own life and her difficult parents, particularly her abusive father. Among many other things, it is a historical critique of masculinism on the Old and New Left. With 2006’s Elegy for a Disease: A Personal and Cultural History of Polio, Finger produced an anti-individualist memoir, one that integrates her own experiences and feelings into a wealth of social and historical contexts. The stories collected in her 2009 Call Me Ahab, like Elegy, aspire to reveal the breadth of disability culture. The volume is a postmodern tour de force that re-envisions the experiences of legendary disabled characters from art, fiction, and history, through a disability-justice perspective.

Phil Ferguson (2000 – 2002)

For more than three decades, Dr. Ferguson has pursued an interest in the field of disability studies with an emphasis on issues affecting people with intellectual disabilities. His research is focused on family/professional interactions and support policy, social policy and the history of disability, as well as qualitative research methods in disability studies and education. Prior to coming to Chapman in the fall of 2007, Dr. Ferguson held the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Chair for the Education of Children with Disabilities at the University of Missouri St. Louis. He also was on the faculty at the University of Oregon for 15 years.   Dr. Ferguson is a past President of the Society for Disability Studies and was the Chair of the Board of Directors for Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services. In addition to numerous articles, book chapters, and monographs, Dr. Ferguson’s publications include Abandoned to Their Fate: Social Policy and Practice toward Severely Disabled Persons, 1820-1920 – a book and accompanying video on the history of individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. Together with colleagues Dianne Ferguson and Steven J. Taylor, he is the co-editor of Interpreting Disability: A Qualitative Reader.

David Mitchell (1998 – 2000)

David Mitchell’s work primarily focuses on representations of disability in literary and filmic texts.  He has recently completed a new book titled, The Biopolitics of Disability: Neoliberalism, Ablenationalism, and Peripheral Embodiment, which has been published by the University of Michigan Press in the series “Corporealities: Discourses of Disability” (which he has co-edited with Sharon Snyder for 17 years).  The book considers how contemporary practices of social inclusionism for people with disabilities have proven anemic to a more significant engagement with non-normative embodiment as a map to an alternative ethics of living outside of normalcy.  His new book project tentatively titled, Precarity, Geopolitics, and the Matter of Disability, theorizes the fraught relationship between experiences of disability and the “precarity” born of processes of globalization.

Adrienne Asch (1996 – 1998)

Adrienne Asch (1946 – 2013) was blind from birth as a result of prematurity. She received the standard treatment of the day, high dose oxygen, and, sadly, experienced one of the known side effects, severe retinopathy.

Adrienne utilized her experience of blindness to become one of the most brilliant, respected, and prolific teachers and writers on the spectrum of subjects that impact the lives of those living with a disability. She was the author of a number of books and articles, and her scholarship would have been a point of great pride for anyone. Adrienne was also a powerful and compelling speaker at a number of major scholarly meetings, addressing such topics as prenatal screening and genetic testing, including Gender and Justice in the Gene Age and The Tarrytown Meetings. Many who heard Adrienne speak or read her work, found her reflections on theassets of blindness, which she herself had experience, to be very powerful.

While on faculty at Wellesley College, Adrienne served as a board member of Our Bodies Ourselves (formerly known as the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Inc.) from 1998 to 2002, bringing wisdom, compassion, and mentorship during a critical time for the organization. She contributed to various editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and was a champion of women with and without disabilities.

Corinne Kirchner (1995 – 1996)

Corinne Kirchner, Ph.D., is Faculty Fellow (Institute of Social & Economic Research and Policy) and Lecturer (Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health) at Columbia University, New York. After working for 30 years for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) as Director of Social Research, Kirchner began researching, publishing and organizing in Sociology of Language. She is a reviewer for two Institutional Review Boards, scholarly journals and granting agencies. AFB created the “Corinne Kirchner Research Award” in her honor. At AFB, she researched employment and other issues of policy concern to people with disabilities, thanks to funding from the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others. Kirchner served as co-editor of Disability Studies Quarterly as well as the editorial board of the Journal of Disability Policy Studies; the Census Bureau’s Advisory Committee on the Decennial Census; president and other positions in the NY chapter, and the American Association for Public Opinion Research, which gave her a career achievement award in 2011.

Richard Scotch (1994 – 1995)

Richard K. Scotch is Professor of Sociology, Public Policy, and Political Economy at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he coordinates the programs in Sociology and Evaluation Research. Dr. Scotch received his B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from Harvard University. Prior to joining the UTD faculty in 1983, Dr. Scotch served as an analyst for the Virginia Division for Children and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and as a AAAS Congressional Science Fellow.

Dr. Scotch is the author of two books, including From Good Will to Civil Rights; Transforming Federal Disability Policy and numerous articles and monographs on social policy reform and social movements in disability, health care, education, and human services. His current research interests include the long-term impact of early childhood education, the political economy of local health and human service delivery systems; the comparative study of state Medicaid policies; and community-based approaches to addressing indigent health care and health disparities.

Dr. Scotch is past president of the Society for Disability Studies, was named a 1999 Switzer Fellow by the National Rehabilitation Association, and served on the Advisory Committee on Disability Studies in the Twenty-First Century of the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research. He has been active in the local health and human service community in North Texas since the mid-1980s, working with numerous local government and nonprofit agencies, including Collin and Dallas Counties, the Dallas Healthy Start Initiative, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Mental Health America, Family Gateway, and Educational First Steps.

Sharon Barnartt (1993 – 1994)

Sharon Barnartt is Program Coordinator and Professor of Sociology in the Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Sociology at Gallaudet University, where she has taught since 1980.

She has co-authored two books:

Dr. Barnartt has presented papers and published widely in the areas of gender differences in socio-economic status, disability policy issues, social movements in the deaf and disability communities, and disability in developing countries. From 1989-1990 she had a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship at the University of Zimbabwe. At Gallaudet, she was named a Distinguished Faculty Member in 1998 and received the Schaefer Professorship for Outstanding Research, 2005-2006.

She has been a board member and president of the Society for Disability Studies as well as member and Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

David Pfeiffer (1991-1993)

An internationally recognized scholar in the field of disability studies, Pfeiffer (1934-2003) received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Rochester in 1975. He was Chair of the Department of Public Management at Suffolk University. He initiated Suffolk’s Disability Studies concentration in the MPA program. In Hawai‘i, Pfeiffer became Resident Scholar at the Center on Disability Studies, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Political Science, and affiliated with the School of Medicine. Pfeiffer published over 200 articles about disability studies. He also was a well-known advocate who spent the years from 1977 to 1980 as the Massachusetts State Director for the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals. In recognition of his combined excellence in the areas of research, teaching, and advocacy in disabilities, the American Public Health Association DisAbility Special Interest Group awarded Pfeiffer the Alan Meyers Award during its annual meeting in San Francisco in November 2003.

Barbara Altman (1990-1991)

Barbara M. Altman is a sociologist with a PhD from the University of Maryland. Retired from the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, where she served as Special Assistant on Disability Statistics to the office of the Director, she also worked at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality on the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Prior to her work in the government, she served as Undergraduate Coordinator in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland. She currently serves as a consultant on disability statistics issues. She played a key role in the organization and development of the work of the Washington Group, an international group working under the auspices of the United Nations, to develop culturally compatible measures of disability for international use and still consults on that activity. Her disability research interests focus primarily on disability definition and measurement, financing and utilization of health care services by persons with disabilities, and disability among minority groups, particularly Native Americans. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on disability topics including the recent Disability and Health in the United States Chartbook, and currently is co-editor of the series Research in Social Science and Disability.

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