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Disability Studies



Disability Studies is interdisciplinary, examining the experience of disability from a spectrum of “truths”. However, people living with disability and their experiences are integral to what we learn and understand. Disability Studies scholars are lawyers, philosophers, social workers, medical professionals, public health officials, educators, artists, anthropologists, architects, and more. Scholars are encouraged to think inclusively and creatively. The deconstruction of assumed knowledge, stigma, and bias are integral to the field with a focus on unraveling the boundaries between “normal” and “abnormal” and what these terms actually mean. Disability is understood to be conditional to environmental and social factors as well as physical, cognitive, and mental factors (Adams, Reiss, & Serlin, 2015). The term “disability” has not remained stable throughout history and will likely continue to change. This is an important facet of disability.

Text for this section courtesy of UT's Texas Center for Disability Studies.

Why is Disabilities Studies Research Challenging?

The interdisciplinary nature of disability studies

  • Disability Studies is interdisciplinary.
  • You will need to learn to distinguish between medical, scientific, historical, and sociological treatments of disability, and find sources that fit in with your research framework. This can take some experience.

Terminology may be offensive and inaccurate

  • Current and historical research may use outdated terminology.
  • Research, especially books, may be cataloged using outdated and/or biased terminology.
  • Some terminology may be considered politically incorrect, hurtful or even triggering.
  • Although you may want to avoid outdated terminology in your own research, you might need to use them as search terms if you want to be comprehensive, especially when searching historical materials and primary sources.

Historical Lack of Cataloging

  • Until relatively recently, disability studies material may not have been identified with relevant subject headings and tags.
  • Historically, some subject headings and tags did not exist.

Text for this section courtesy of Stacy Reardon and Jennifer Dorner from the UC Berkeley Libraries

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Image of a workstation with assistive technology equipment at PCL.The University of Texas Libraries is committed to providing access to our collections and services in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our goal is to provide, whenever possible, arrangements that enable library users with disabilities to work independently.

For more information related to accessibility and assistive technology at UT Libraries, visit our page on Assistive Technology and related services.  

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Librarian Support

Because Disability Studies is such an interdisciplinary field, several librarians are available for research support, such as one-on-one research consults and email questions. 

Gina Bastone

  • Humanities Librarian for English Literature, Women's & Gender Studies, and LGBTQ Studies

Grant Hardaway

  • Behavioral Sciences Librarian for Social Work, Kinesiology & Health Education, and Educational Psychology

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.