Disabilities Studies Initiative

About the Disability Studies Initiative

Disability Studies is a cross-disciplinary examination of disability in society. The perspectives of various disciplines, such as architecture, history, law, literature, philosophy and sociology are used to understand the intersection of personal perspective, social identity, and cultural understandings. This occurs in contexts similar to those created in American Studies, Multi-Cultural Studies and Women's Studies. Many have argued that our understanding of disability from a cultural point of view is as important to our understanding of what it means to be human as is gender and race.

Disability Studies is an emerging academic field with support from professional organizations (e.g. Society for Disability Studies), academic journals (e.g. Disability Studies Quarterly, Journal of Disability Policy Studies, and Disability & Society). Currently, several institutions of higher learning offer a degree or concentration in Disability Studies (e.g., Syracuse University and the University of Illinois at Chicago).

The UO Center For Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) is in a position to promote and nurture a disability studies program at the University of Oregon. We are building on a previous initiative under Dr. Phil Ferguson who is no longer at the university.

Our activities have led to:

  1. The development of a Disability Studies Advisory Committee across several disciplines.
  2. The development of a Disability Studies minor Option within the College of Education's special education program.
  3. The development of the INTL 410/510: Youth and Disability through Film: An International Perspective course which explores experiences and representations of children who are growing up with a disability in different societies around the world, as portrayed through the medium of film.
  4. The development of the LAW 600/610: Sem. Disability Law course which is a combined law course open to law students and all UO doctoral students.
  5. The hosting of the 2005 and 2006 Disability Film Festivals devoted to the experience of disability: to increase awareness, to reinforce accurat portrayals, and to subvert stereotypes.

Our activities over the next 5 years will include:

  1. Hosting a Disability Studies Institute on the infusion of disability-related content into the curriculum.
  2. Continuing to create awareness of disability issues across the campus that will stimulate interest in a Disability Studies Program.
  3. Continuing to make connections with allies on and off campus.
  4. Developing a graduate certification program consisting of 18-22 credits of upper division and graduate courses.

This effort will be coordinated by Deborah Olson, Ph.D. who teaches one of the existing College of Education courses considered to be oriented toward disabilities studies, Foundations of Disability II and Heidi von Ravensberg, JD, MBA who teaches the School of Law course, Seminar in Disability Law.

Contact: Deborah Olson at dlolson@uoregon.edu or (541) 346-2483.

Contact: Heidi von Ravensberg at hvr@uoregon.edu or (541) 346-2472.

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