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Disability is part of a continuum of the human experience that touches everyone sooner or later.

Disability studies focuses on how disability has been constructed historically, socially, and politically. It is inter-disciplinary insofar as many academic areas have stories and discussions to offer about the experience of disability in society.

Many academic areas are relevant to disability studies including (but not limited to):

  • Health and human physiology
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Social work
  • English and literature
  • Speech and audiology
  • Law
  • Women’s studies
  • Special education
  • Dance
  • Art
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy
  • Occupational therapy (OT)
  • Physical therapy (PT)
  • Therapeutic recreation (TR)

The disability studies certificate is designed to provide an overview of important topics and discussions that pertain to the experience and legacy of being disabled. Topics include an overview of disabling conditions, definitions of what constitutes “normal” and its impact on disability.

The certificate is an appealing complement to many areas of study and pre-professional programs that lead to work with persons who have illnesses, impairments and limitations of one sort or another. Because disability studies appreciates and respects the perspective of the disabled person, it offers a viewpoint distinct from that experienced in professional preparation programs in health-related fields. The emphasis of the helping profession (e.g., PT, OT, TR, social work, etc.) understandably focuses on skill and knowledge acquisition necessary to be an effective therapist; but curricula often do not have time to address and even challenge assumptions about disability (e.g., the life of a disabled person is always miserable). As such, disability studies offers the student a chance to critically examine how it is to be disabled from the disabled person’s point of view.

The certificate requires 19 credits. There are four core classes with remaining credits selected from a list of focused electives across many disciplines. One of the core classes is a two credit hands‑on, interactive experience to learn what is involved in working with young adults with multiple learning and cognitive disabilities with the College of Education’s UI REACH program (Integrated Disability Studies Practicum).

For more specific information about the certificate requirements visit the catalog.

Also, learn more about the Disability Studies certificate by contacting the coordinator.


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Kristina Gordon


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