A degree in disability studies offers students a unique academic opportunity to understand disabilities from an interdisciplinary perspective that includes psychology, politics, science, law and the humanities. The basic premise of a disability studies program is that genuine knowledge must be gained through direct experience with disable individuals and their families.
These programs typically use the social model of disability that requires students to discover new ideas and understanding of disability and society. The degree gives students the intellectual tools, professional ethics and analytical methodological to assume greater leadership and responsibility in their future jobs. Most of the faculty will be expert disability advocates and practitioners from public and private organizations. Graduates of the degree program are trained to be reflective and knowledgeable educators, researchers and advocates.
These programs aim to help graduates to critically think, write and speak about individual and group disability experiences. Students learn to promote the arts, dignity and creativity within disability culture. Programs focus on the improvement in quality of life and justice for the disabled. Students are usually required to conduct field work, disability-related research or speak in public about disability studies.
The most basic class is disability studies, which focuses on contemporary practice concepts and individual issues experienced by the disabled. These courses provide a comprehensive analysis of classification systems for disability, conceptual frameworks for disability categories and tools for understanding disability as a multi-level phenomenon. Advanced topics will present current state, national and international policy issues in disability. Students will explore and analyze the key definitions of disability and the associated debates, major theories and proposed public policy revisions.
Classes may pose important research questions that students answer through the development and analysis of testable hypotheses. Students will learn the core concepts of research traditions used in disability research. Courses will cover civil rights, social policy, human rights, self determination, health care regulations and the role that the government places in controlling the choices of the disabled and their families.
Students are usually offered electives related to legislative foundations, disability policy, ethical issues, bioethical dilemmas, medical overviews, community action and family perspectives on disability. For example, students may take classes on the physical limitations, such as fatigue and immobility, which impact the disabled. These courses explore the relationships between fatigue and social, psychological and community isolation. Electives on qualitative research methods examine design tools, data collection and report writing. These classes heavily rely on the critical evaluation of research literature, personal stories and regulatory evaluations.
An elective on disability in urban environment introduce the social, cultural and economic elements that influence the experience of disable persons. These electives may examine how inner city environments and low income urban communities impact the disabled. Electives on program evaluation will examine state departments of health and human services in order to understand policy, documentation and participatory evaluation.
Related Resource: 20 Best Deals on Colleges for Disability Studies
When it comes to career prospects, a degree in disability studies prepares students to become the next generation of leaders in health care, nonprofit, community and governmental organizations. The degree is ideal for students who want to become educators, researchers, advocates, administrators and social service professionals. The BLS offers an introduction to the disabled labor force here.