Disability Studies views disability as a political and cultural identity, not simply as a medical condition. Disability is not solely a set of physical or mental limitations but the product of an interaction between physical and cultural environments shaping the perception and experience of different capacities.
Several important social developments have brought the issue of disability to the forefront of our national consciousness:
Disability Studies has emerged in tandem with these important events. Its purpose is to expand the concept of diversity in democratic society and to increase the awareness of how disability influences the life course of human beings, the organization of societies, and the shape of knowledge in the arts, sciences, and humanities.
Dozens of college and university campuses in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have established programs and departments in Disability Studies. Some programs lead to undergraduate or graduate degrees, some certification; some courses are offered by established academic departments ranging from Romance Languages to Rehabilitation Science, from Law to Literature, from Psychology to Engineering. The field as a whole is broadly interdisciplinary, and the University of Michigan is an ideal place for maximizing the interdisciplinary reach of Disability Studies.