Disability Studies examines the concept of disability as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon. In contrast to medical, clinical, or therapeutic perspectives on disability, Disability Studies focuses on how disability is defined and represented in society. It rejects the perception of disability as a problem that needs to be “fixed” or “cured.” From this perspective, disability is not a characteristic that exists in the person or a problem of the person. Instead, disability studies focuses on the social, cultural and political barriers that exist within society.
Disability Studies includes a diverse group of people. People who are deaf, blind, or use wheelchairs, learn at a slower pace than others, have chronic pain, or have atypical perceptions of the world, share in common society’s definition of them as disabled. Their commonality is how society views and treats them.
Why study Disability?
Despite laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability, people with disabilities continue to have limited opportunities to participate in education, employment, recreation, and many other aspects of community life open to people without disabilities. Our society has made much progress since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - but many people are still segregated in their homes, limited in their employment, and restricted in their daily activities and social roles without needed supports. The perspective that disability is a deviant condition and that people with such should be relegated to the treatment of specialized professionals is prevalent. Our culture supports participation of people who are able to participate in the mainstream of life while excluding people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs and abilities, including people with disabilities.