Skip to Main Content

Disability Rights, Studies & Justice: Disability Studies

Provides a background in the frameworks of disability history, disability as a field of academic study, and disability work within justice movements.

Models of Disability

The medical model of disability sets forth the idea that it is the disability itself that diminishes a disabled person's quality of life.

The social model, as described by Stella Young below, argues that it is barriers in one's enviornment that hinders a person's ability to thrive, not the disability itself.


What are Disability Studies?

Disability Studies critiques the idea of disability as an individual medical flaw and nothing more. The field is the creation of space to complicate what are conventionally medical narratives by folding in historical, personal, and cultural contexts to examine how disability exists in the realms of healthcare, education, work, and countless other aspects of society.

Some key themes include independence vs. interdependence, shame and pride, body and death politics, incarceration and hospitalization, and disability intersection with class, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and other identities. Some works focus on particular diagnoses (Deaf Studies, Mad Studies) while others generalize disability experience as a whole. Disability studies scholarship is often created by disabled people, but does not exclude non-disabled scholars.