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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA works to develop disability studies major

    Steps are already being taken to organize a disability studies majors for UA students, which would focus on the experience and perspective of people with disabilities.
    Steps are already being taken to organize a disability studies majors for UA students, which would focus on the experience and perspective of people with disabilities.

    The UA is working to develop a new undergraduate major in disability studies within the next few years, which would make it one of 35 universities that offer some type of disability studies program.

    The major would take an interdisciplinary approach to studying disability from a social sciences perspective, said Michael Rembis, coordinator of the Disabilities Studies Collaborative at the UA.

    “”It’s a rapidly growing field, and we feel that the UA is in a pretty great position actually to become a regional leader in the Southwest and then ultimately in the future a national leader,”” Rembis said.

    While there are programs of study in therapy for the disabled and the study of disability from an academic perspective, many programs do not incorporate the voices of people with disabilities, said Joy Hammel, executive officer of the Society of Disability Studies, which is devoted to the field of disability studies.

    “”(Disability studies is) studying the experience of disability from the perspective of people with disabilities themselves,”” Hammel said. “”And then it’s also looking at equally what are the political, economic, social, cultural influences that construct how people with disabilities experience the world.””

    Research that incorporates voices from the disabled community makes the knowledge gathered more authentic, Hammel said.

    “”It’s an incredible gap in voice,”” Hammel said. “”The majority of research that’s been done about disability or theory-building or knowledge-building of any kind has not been from the perspective of the very people themselves, and that’s a huge leap.””

    The lack of input from the disabled community is being addressed by emerging programs and research methods. New ways of studying disability focus on those who are disabled as a social minority group with a culture of their own, rather than viewing disability as a deficit or weakness, Hammel said.

    While building a strong program in disability studies at the UA will be a difficult task, steps are already being taken to begin organizing the program.

    Key faculty and administrators who could become involved in the program will be meeting Friday at a luncheon to present proposals for the program. Organizers of the program will also meet with President Robert Shelton on Tuesday to discuss the new major. Finally, a new class will be offered on the history of disability during the next academic year, Rembis said.

    “”We’ve received a lot of support throughout campus through all the different departments and things,”” Rembis said. “”People are actually really excited about it.””

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