The concentration in disability studies focuses on multiple social and environmental factors that influence the experience of chronic conditions and functional impairments. These factors range from architectural barriers to social discrimination and have a profound influence on access to education, employment, recreation, and participation in other community activities across the life cycle.
Disability Studies draws from philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, law, political sciences, economics, occupational sciences, bioethics, and many other fields. The goal of this concentration is to train researchers from clinical and non-clinical backgrounds to use quantitative, qualitative and community participatory methodologies to operationalize critical theories and focus on the practical and policy implications of disability with the intent of improving quality of life and community access to health services for the disabled. In addition to a critical consideration of ICF conceptualizations of health, activity, and participation, the DS concentration will: (1) examine the role of power, social identity, and status as related to disability (2) consider the role of social and regional inequalities, and (3) assess desired changes at the organizational, community, national, and international levels that might positively affect the disabled.
Only two Ph.D. programs in Disability Studies exist nationally. Neither program is embedded in a Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Ph.D program, but the connections strengthen this program of study. Additionally, a growing number of DS programs are currently being developed. Graduating students from this Ph.D. program will find employment in academic departments, public policy and administrative positions, with nongovernmental organizations and in rehabilitation centers engaged in research.