October 26, 2020

Disability Studies Course Gains Acceptance at UMW

UMW senior Claudia Woods, president of the student club DiversAbility (shown here in a psychology course last year with her service dog, Hearo), is taking “Intro to Disability Studies.” Offered for the first time this fall, the course takes an interdisciplinary look at disability as key to the human experience as race or gender. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW senior Claudia Woods, president of the student club DiversAbility (shown here in a psychology course last year with her service dog, Hearo), is taking “Intro to Disability Studies.” Offered for the first time this fall, the course takes an interdisciplinary look at disability as key to the human experience as race or gender. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

One in four Americans lives with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the University of Mary Washington, it’s one in eight.

“With those sorts of numbers, it’s mind-boggling [that] disability doesn’t have more automatic inclusion when people think about diversity,” said UMW Professor of English Chris Foss.

As the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 30th year and October’s Disability Awareness Month shine a light on one of the country’s most underrepresented groups, so does a new UMW course. Offered for the first time this fall, Intro to Disability Studies (IDS) delves into the 21st-century experience of a diverse population, exploring cognitive, sensory, mobility and other differences as just as essential to the human condition as gender and race.

The 16-week course fans out across disciplines, examining disability throughout the lifespan in historical, political, social and other contexts. Years in the making, the class is team-taught by faculty and staff – from art history, education, English, historic preservation, psychology and the Office of Disability Resources (ODR) – who’ve poured their time and passion into the topic in hopes it gains traction. Read more.

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