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This guide recommends resources for disabled individuals and those studying issues pertaining to ability/disability.

What is Disability Studies?

Disability Studies is an academic field devoted to studying all aspects of the disabled experience and developing new understandings of the meaning of disability and the disability experience in society. It intersects with a number of different fields, including history, sociology, literature, cultural studies, politics/government, philosophy, and the arts. 

Disability studies scholars were central to the development of the "Social Model" of disability, which is often set in opposition to the "Medical Model" of disability. The Social Model of disability focuses on the way that society is organized and how this impacts disabled people. It states that the barriers encountered due to this societal organization are what "disable" or limit the disabled individuals. The Medical Model of disability, on the other hand, focuses on the diagnosis of a disability and it's relation to the individual's body and physical abilities. This model tends to focus on managing or even curing disability, particularly through medical interventions. It is important to note, however, that the boundaries of these models have been challenged and some scholars question whether either model addresses all aspect of the disabled experience adequately. The graphics below provide a visual representation of these two models. 

Diagram showing how external factors limit the abilities and opportunities of disabled people

Diagram showing how the factors of the medical model of disability focus on diagnosis and medical intervention.

Recommended Books

Recommended Journals & Databases

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