Disability Studies in the Humanities

Pictured, an aerial view of several tan-colored stately stone buildings from UB’s South Campus. In the center of the frame, a sidewalk cuts vertically between the buildings and fades into the distance, with lush green trees and grass on either side and a bright blue sky with billowing white-grey clouds above.

The Center for Disability Studies adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the study of disability as a social justice concern. The new disability studies program at UB focuses on providing students and interested community members with broad exposure to innovative methodological and theoretical approaches to studying disability primarily in the humanities, with extensive collaboration in the social sciences, education, law, and the health sciences. The disability studies curricula and research agenda is driven by an interdisciplinary focus that seeks to reconstruct and evaluate the broad and diverse experiences of marginalized populations. The Center for Disability Studies focuses on disability as a category of analysis and a lived embodiment and emphasizes the diverse experiences of disabled people in various times and locations.

The UB Center for Disability Studies seeks to examine how addressing disability in its full complexity can promote the participation, self-determination, and equal citizenship of people with disabilities in society. The program remains open to any student, faculty, administrator, or community member who is committed to studying the complex nature of disability, with all of its implications, as well as more pragmatic measures that can be taken to minimize the negative personal and social consequences of disability. A particular strength of the program is its incorporation of a diverse array of faculty and students from the humanities and the social sciences, as well as community members. The program explores issues that cut across impairment, clinical, social, cultural, ethical, legal, educational, and policy perspectives on disability.

In addition to serving as an intellectual hub for scholars across the university, the center also partners with local organizations such as People, Inc. (Western New York’s largest service provider to people with disabilities) and their affiliated Museum of disABILITY History to create programming that strengthens the UB’s ties to the local and regional community. During the few short years of the CDS's existence, we have developed a new Master's program, organized an annual conference, created, and received funding for, an ongoing multistage, multiyear oral history project, and implemented a speaker series. Our events attract a mixed audience from both within UB (faculty and students alike) and outside of the university in the form of community members and activists.