Build Your Knowledge & Skills:

Students in the undergraduate Disability Studies Minor and the Individualized Studies Major in Disability Studies have the opportunity to study disability rights and culture through courses in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

Disability Studies is a multi-disciplinary field that investigates, critiques, and enhances Western society’s understandings of disability. The Minor and Major will introduce you to a critical framework for recognizing how people with disabilities have experienced disadvantages and exclusion because of personal and societal responses to impairment, and for exploring how disability activists and scholars have re-conceptualized disability from a more empowering social-political and human rights perspective as an element of human diversity and a source of community.


Learning Goals:

1. Articulate the concept of disability as a social construction.

  • Understanding the major frameworks (models) for analyzing disability.
  • Understanding the history of disabled people and society's perceptions of disability in local, national, and global contexts.
  • Identifying how society's concept of normalcy shapes representations and perceptions of disability.


2. Engage in interdisciplinary inquiry about disability as diversity.

  • Acquiring analytic tools for evaluating representations of people with disabilities in literature, art, film, and other cultural texts.
  • Applying social science approaches to understanding processes of disability marginalization and empowerment.
  • Engaging in critical inquiry into how disability intersects with other social movements and markers of diversity such as gender, race, age, class, and nationality.
  • Developing familiarity with personal narratives and cultural contributions of disabled people.
  • Understanding how to apply disability studies topics and concepts to coursework across disciplines.


3. Demonstrate understanding of disability rights, laws, and policies.

  • Identifying and describing the major US and international disability civil rights laws and human rights instruments.
  • Understanding the processes of policy development and policy analysis from a disability perspective.
  • Becoming adept at comparative approaches to law and culture.
  • Developing informed positions on rights and policy issues and how these impact disabled people.


4. Prepare for community and professional engagement.

  • Identifying social and physical barriers for people with disabilities.
  • Developing awareness of grassroots and civil society disability organizations locally or through study abroad.
  • Gaining exposure to areas of practice and study where applied knowledge about disability and ableism is needed. 
  • Gaining an understanding of how historical ways of representing and treating disabled people have impacted current policies and practices.

Learning Goals approved by DS Faculty (10/7/2019)


Consider A Career:

Our graduates are currently employed in positions with state and regional disability advocacy organizations; community agencies; independent living centers; higher education disability resource offices; local government in civil rights policy; K-12 education; and the state medical association in legislative and regularly affairs.

Some have also gone on to law school and to graduate school in diverse disciplines, including public policy and administration, psychology, speech and hearing sciences, communication, education, and social work.

What Our Graduates Say:

My world perspective was altered through my time in the Disability Studies Program in a very positive way. The knowledge I gained has propelled me into a career fighting for disability rights and environmental accessibility in higher education.

  • Eric Bell, English Major and Disability Studies Major, 2014


Being in the Disability Studies Program has been nothing but a great experience! I have become more aware of the social justice issues and topics in the disability community, and I learned more about my positionality as a nondisabled person and what I could do to become more of an ally.

  • Adanna Abakporo, Social Welfare Major and Disability Studies Major, 2015


What I learned in the Disability Studies Program is invaluable to my work for the Seattle City Council's civil rights committee. As a member of the disability community myself, the program taught me new ways of looking at disability that allow me to explore intersections I wasn't even aware existed.

  • Jeremy Racca, Political Science Major, 2011


The Minor in Disability Studies introduced me to an interdisciplinary range of scholarship as well as valuable faculty mentorship. The program has played a key role in my admission to graduate school, my approach to research, and even the way I view everyday life.

  • Riley Taitingfong, Communication Major, 2014


The Disability Studies Program changed the way I view society. I think the best part was learning so many different views and being a part of such a diverse community! I found a home in the program.

  • Sarah Coleman, Psychology Major, 2013


Want to join the DS minor or major?  Follow this link to set up an appointment with our academic advisors!