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Disability Studies

Disability Studies Research Guide

Welcome to the Disability Studies Library Research Guide!

This guide is designed as a jumping-off point for your research in the field of disability studies. The purpose is not to be provided an exhaustive list of all related resources but rather to cover key resources in the library. 

Guide Navigation

Use the menu on the side of this guide to navigate to the different sections.

What is Disability Studies?

Critical Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary field that approaches disability as a social and cultural category, a lived experience, and an analytical frame. It thus expands understandings of disability and people with disabilities across diverse geographical and temporal contexts. According to the Encyclopedia of American Disability History, "disability is not a characteristic that exists in the person so defined, but a construct that finds its meaning in a social and cultural context.” Critical Disability Studies explores issues of identity, representation, access, citizenship, technology, knowledge, and power—among other topics—and understands disability as inextricably tied to other social forces and identities, including gender, sexuality, class, and race.

Why Disability Studies Matter

Disability Studies recognizes that disability is a key aspect of human experience, and that the study of disability has important political, social, and economic implications for society as a whole, including both disabled and nondisabled people. Through research, artistic production, teaching and activism, Disability Studies seeks to augment understanding of disability in all cultures and historical periods, to promote greater awareness of the experiences of disabled people, and to advocate for social change.

— From the Society for Disability Studies

Often "disability," when viewed from a medical or psychological lens, is considered a distance from the established "norm." The discipline of Disability Studies seeks to challenge the idea of the normal-abnormal binary, rejecting the perception of disability as a functional impairment that needs to be "fixed" or "cured" and instead examining it as a facet of the human experience.

Given that people with disabilities are one of the world's largest minority populations (UN Fact Sheet on Persons with Disabilities) and that becoming disabled can happen to any person at any time, study of disability matters because it forces us to interrogate charged ethical and political questions about the meaning of aesthetics and cultural representation, bodily identity, and dynamics of social inclusion and/or exclusion.

Best Bets for Starting Research in Disability Studies