Why Disability Studies?

Most people think of disability as a medical issue − the kind of thing studied by doctors, rehabilitation specialists, and healthcare providers. But thinking about disability in purely medical terms misses so much of what is interesting about disability and what is important to the lives of disabled people. Disability studies grew out of the disability rights movement in the late twentieth century.  Scholars in the field are committed to exploring the social, political, and cultural aspects of disability.  By bringing together researchers from the humanities, social sciences, education, and beyond, we study disability’s complexity and mutability. In doing so, we emphasize the importance of seeing disability, not as a problem or tragedy, but as an integral aspect of human diversity. 

Most of our students here at UVA know someone who is disabled. Many have disabled family members or are disabled themselves. Most will eventually be disabled themselves at some point in their lives. Thinking critically and carefully about disability is a crucial part of helping our students understand their society, their relationships, their families, and their own experiences and to making the world more accessible and accepting.