Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability Volume 23, Number 1 (2010) Special Issue: Disability Studies Guest Editor

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Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability

Volume 23, Number 1 (2010)

Special Issue: Disability Studies

Guest Editor

Sue Kroeger, University of Arizona

Executive Editor

James Martin, University of Oklahoma

Managing Editor
Richard Allegra, AHEAD

Editorial Assistant

Marsha Dempsey, University of Oklahoma

Editorial Review Board

Manju Banerjee - University of Connecticut

Joan Bisagno - Stanford University

Ron Blosser - Green River Community College

Loring Brinckerhoff - Educational Testing Service

Stephanie Cawthon - University of Texas at Austin

Connie Chiba - University of California, Berkeley

Justin Cooper - Eastern Kentucky University

Lyman Dukes III - University of South Florida at St. Petersburg

Stephanie Gaddy, Lincoln College

Elizabeth Evans Getzel - Virginia Commonwealth University

Christie L. Gilson - University of Illinois

Sam Goodin - University of Michigan

Wendy S. Harbour - Syracuse University

Cheri Hoy - University of Georgia

Charles A. Hughes - The Pennsylvania State University

Michael John Humphrey - Boise State University

Kristina Krampe - Eastern Kentucky University

Tracy Knight Lackey - Jackson State University

Ruth C. Loew - Educational Testing Service

Pamela Luft - Kent State University

Joseph W. Madaus - University of Connecticut

Elaine Manglitz - Clayton College & State University

Joan McGuire - University of Connecticut

Janet Medina - McDaniel College

Deborah Merchant - Keene State University

Ward Newmeyer - Dartmouth College

Christine O’Dell - University of California, Davis

Nicole Ofiesh - Notre Dame de Namur University

David Parker - Wayne State University & CRG, Inc.

Betty Preus - College of St. Scholastica

Kelly Drew Roberts - University of Hawaii at Manoa

Frank R. Rusch - The Pennsylvania State University

Daniel Ryan - SUNY at Buffalo

Charles Salzberg - Utah State University

Mary Catherine Scheeler - Pennsylvania State University Green Valley

Sally Scott - University of Mary Washington

Stuart S. Segal - University of Michigan

Stan Shaw - University of Connecticut

Sharon K. Suritsky - Upper St. Clair School District

Colleen A. Thoma - Virginia Commonwealth University

Susan A. Vogel - Northern Illinois University

Ruth Warick - University of British Columbia

Kristine Webb - University of North Florida

Marc Wilchesky - York University

Lee Woods - Boise State University

Practice Brief Review Board

Doris A. Bitler - George Mason University

Melinda S. Burchard - James Madison University

Trey J. Duffy - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Alberto Guzman - University of Illinois, Chicago

Andrea Henry - Massasoit Community College

Andrew Jason Kaiser - St. Ambrose University

Angela S. Mooneyham - University of Alabama, Birmingham

Lori R. Muskat - Georgia School of Professional Psychology, Argosy - Atlanta

Jack Trammell - Randolph-Macon College

Mary Lee Vance - University of Wisconsin - Superior

Margaret P. Weiss - Virginia Tech

AHEAD Board of Directors

Mike Shuttic, President - Oklahoma State University

Jean Ashmore, President-Elect - Rice University

Kathleen McGillivray, Secretary - Bethel University

Michael Johnson, Treasurer - Monroe Community College - Damon City Campus

Bea Awoniyi, Director - Florida State University

Karen Saracusa, Director - Mount Union College

Emily Singer, Director - The Catholic University of America

Jose Soto, Director - Southeast Community College

Scott Bay, Director - Anoka Ramsey Community College

Tom Thompson, Director - William R. Harper College

Mary Lee Vance, Director - University of Wisconsin - Superior

Stephan J. Hamlin-Smith, Executive Director - AHEAD
The Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability is available in accessible formats. Please contact AHEAD to discuss accessibility requests. All members of the Association on Higher Education And Disability receive the Journal.

© 2010, The Association on Higher Education And Disability,

107 Commerce Centre Drive #204, Huntersville, NC 28078 USA


Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability:

Special Issue: Disability Studies

Volume 23, Number 1, 2010
From the Special Issue Editor 3 - 4

Sue Kroeger

The Social Justice Perspective 5 - 18

Gladys Loewen

William Pollard

Yes We Can Change: Disability Studies—Enabling Equality 19 - 28

Michael A. Rembis

Using Disability Studies Theory to Change Disability Services:

A Case Study in Student Activism 29 - 38

Rebecca C. Cory

Julia M. White

Zosha Stuckey

How to Crip the Undergraduate Classroom: Lessons from

Performance, Pedagogy, and Possibility 39 - 49

Ann M. Fox

Disability Service’s Standards and the Worldviews Guiding

Their Implementation 50 - 64

Alberto Guzman

Fabricio E. Balcazar

A Disability Studies Framework for Policy Activism in

Postsecondary Education 65 - 73

Susan L. Gabel


Walking the Walk: Social Model and Universal Design in the Disabilities Office”

Melanie Thornton

Sharon Downs


Bridging the Gap Between Disability Studies and Disability Services in Higher Eduction:

A Model Center on Disability”

Alan L. Strauss

Amos Sales

Book Review 87 - 89

Irene Carter

Book Review 90 - 91

Marcy Epstein

Appendix A 92 - 93

Appendix B 94

Author Guidelines Inside Back Cover

From the SPECIAL ISSUE Editor

Sue Kroeger

University of Arizona

Over the years, disability rights advocates have scored significant victories. The most notable, the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and most recently, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. Additionally, alongside the political movement, we have seen the emergence of disability studies, which now sets the pace for developing new representations of disability.

This relatively new area of academic inquiry reframes the analysis of disability by focusing on it as a social construct and on the conditions that produce disability: the social, political, economic, medical, and legal systems that create barriers for disabled people. This shift in thinking is profound and not easy in light of how deeply disabled and nondisabled people1 have been socialized to think of disability.

Society’s view of disability is pervasive and consistent across language, media portrayals of disability, educational curriculum, human services, and environmental design. It clearly locates the problem of disability within the individual and sees this problem stemming from physical, sensory, emotional, or cognitive limitations.

Disability activists and scholars continue to reject this view and have developed a conceptualization that locates the problem of disability within society. They proclaim that it is not individual limitations or biological differences that are the primary cause of the problem, but society’s failure to value and appreciate disability and design environments that are welcoming and inclusive.

Unfortunately, the disability service industry, including disability services (DS) in higher education, generally has not engaged in any consistent and meaningful way with disability studies. Indeed, it is the service industry and we the professional service providers, that help maintain the very frame that scholars and activists are working so hard to change.

Operating within a legal narrative and a deficit frame of disability, most DS offices are unaware of the underlying negative messages about disability that they send. This is confirmed for me in talking with colleagues, attending AHEAD’s national conferences, reading listservs, and perusing DS Websites. It is my hunch that most service providers have not taken the time to identify the values and beliefs they have about disability and how those values and beliefs guide their work. Moreover, individuals working in DS offices have little academic experiences that would provide them the opportunity to frame disability in a progressive way, with the majority of us coming from such disciplines as special education, rehabilitation, social work, and counseling.

Because we typically and mostly without thinking, frame disability as abnormal, negative, and an individual problem, then it follows that our response to it would be reactive rather than proactive. In other words, we accommodate disability. While this is an improvement over institutionalization, sterilization, and euthanasia, accommodations as a comprehensive response maintains the notion that access is a disabled individual’s problem to solve.

On most college and university campuses, disabled students spend an inordinate amount of time establishing eligibility and requesting accommodations. Additionally, they are asked to perform a number of tasks to both schedule and receive accommodations. Oftentimes the rationale for this is self-determination and/or self-advocacy. While it is important for all students to learn to be responsible and assertive, identify issues, solve problems, and make decisions, why should disabled students be required to take responsibility for those access issues that are institutional problems? Why should the academic experience for disabled students be so different from their nondisabled peers?

This special issue is designed to introduce or re-connect practitioners with disability studies and initiate concerted application of disability studies’ philosophical foundations to the service arena. Included are six articles (each followed by a professional perspective), two practice briefs, and two book reviews. The professional perspectives are intended to be additive and assist the practitioner in application. Ward Newmeyer, Amanda Kraus, Teresa Havens, Katheryne Staeger-Wilson, and Carol Funckes all graciously agreed to write these perspectives and have offered some real pearls of wisdom.

The issue begins with “The Social Justice Perspective” by Gladys Loewen and William Pollard, who introduce us to the philosophical constructs that guide the disability rights movement and the important role that service providers must play in ensuring systemic change.

This is followed by an article by Michael Rembis who provides a historical account of the rise of international disability rights and disability studies. He also helps us to understand the complexity of incorporating the social model of disability into practice.

Rebecca Cory, Julia White, and Zosha Stuckey present a case study in how disability studies theory informed campus thinking about disability. They offer application recommendations to service providers.

Ann Fox’s essay on “cripping the classroom” is an engaging essay on incorporating disability studies into campus community life. Her purpose, as she describes it, is to “blur the divide between disabled and nondisabled and to multistream rather than mainstream.”

The next article by Alberto Guzman and Fabricio Balcazar presents a quantitative study analyzing the disability perspectives held by service providers in higher education. Informed by disability studies scholarship, the study identifies the thinking behind service delivery policies and practices and provides a framework for future research and professional development. Finally, Susan Gabel discusses social model thinking and presents a project that applied studies and activism.

Two practice briefs, one by Melanie Thornton and Sharon Downs and another by Alan Strauss, offer wonderful examples of efforts that practitioners have engaged in that support and are consistent with the foundations of disability studies.

While there are hundreds of disability studies articles and books that disability service providers would find interesting and engaging, two recent publications were chosen for this issue. Irene Carter’s review of Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice, and Marcy Epstein’s review of Disability and the Politics of Education: An International Reader help to provide a starting point. Additionally, I included two appendices: a selective list of readings, organizations, and Websites; as well as Disability Studies’ Guidelines as outlined by the Society for Disability Studies.

Reframing disability and applying this new frame is a great challenge. The field of disability studies provides us with the scholarship, but it is we, the professionals, that must find ways to apply it. That will require us to think and act differently, both personally and in our professional practices. While we may not be able to mandate large systemic change, we can initiate small steps. How do we represent and frame disability on our Websites, in our awareness programs, in our job titles and descriptions, and in our mission statements? While disability studies challenges us to alleviate the need for individual accommodations, how can we deliver them in ways that are consistent with new thinking? Over time, I’m optimistic that these small, but relevant changes will contribute to a new and more progressive disability frame.
About the Guest Editor

Sue Kroeger, Ed.D. has been Director of Disability Resources at the University of Arizona since 1999. Prior to that she had been Director of Disability Services at the University of Minnesota for fourteen years. She received her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Arizona and her doctorate in human rehabilitative services at the University of Northern Colorado. Prior to coming to higher education she worked in public and private rehabilitation.

Dr. Kroeger, in addition to her administrative duties, has presented at numerous conferences, published articles on disability and higher education, and co-edited Responding to Disability Issues in Student Affairs. She has been Treasurer and President of the National Association of Higher Education and Disability. She holds adjunct faculty status in the Department of Rehabilitation where she teaches undergraduate courses in Disability Studies and advises graduate students. She has been principal investigator for numerous federal grants and has consulted nationally and internationally.

Linton, S. (1998). Claiming disability: Knowledge and identity (Cultural front). New York: NYU Press.

Swain, J., French, S., & Cameron, C. (2003). Controversial issues in a disabling society. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

The Social Justice Perspective
Gladys Loewen

University of Arkansas Little Rock
William Pollard

University of Massachusetts Boston

This article shines an important light on the continuing struggle of disabled people for dignity, citizenship rights, and access to the marketplace. Common threads bind the struggle for basic human rights among disenfranchised groups, offer experience and approaches to facilitate change, and move society towards social justice. The philosophy behind the Disability Rights movement offers disability service professionals the opportunity to reframe disability in order to effectively advocate for and facilitate social changes in higher education. Disability service professionals have an important role and crucial responsibility in moving their profession, students, and the campus towards a social justice model, supporting disability pride, offering equality, and promoting participatory democracy to disabled students.
Blind man breakin’ out of a trance

Puts both his hands in the pockets of chance

Hopin’ to find one circumstance

Of dignity”

(Dylan, 1994)
Striving for dignity is at the core of social justice movements. Activists involved in social justice movements believe that oppressed people have a right to fair treatment and a share of the benefits of society based on their human rights and equality of all people (Longmore, 2003; Miller, 2001; Waddington & Diller, 2000), and the principles of participatory democracy (Weisman, 1999). This article will review the history of the Disability Rights movement within a social justice perspective and reflect on the implications this movement has on the disability service (DS) profession and the delivery of services to disabled students in higher education.

Social justice movements have struggled and continue to struggle with issues such as sexism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, and classism (Johnson, 2006). The Women’s movement opposes oppression from violence and harassment, and works for equal wages as well as reproductive and voting rights (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998; Epstein, 2002; Hugemark & Roman, 2002; Jones, 2008). Vietnam War Veterans advocated for medical, educational, and disability benefits (Madaus, Miller, & Vance, 2009); Veterans of the Gulf War and the Iraq invasion are fighting to get recognition and understanding for the debilitating, emotional trauma experienced in current approaches to war (Church, 2009; Madaus, Miller, & Vance, 2009; Shackelford, 2009). The Gay and Lesbian movement’s priority is acceptance and dignity, full inclusion in society with marriage rights, and access to benefits for partners (Gianoulis, 2004; Johnson & Summers, 2004; Nedeau, 2008). Through the Civil Rights movement, African Americans fight for racial dignity, respect, economic and social equality, and freedom from white domination (Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, 2009; National Park Service [NPS], n.d; Ruehl, 2009; Teaching Tolerance, 2009).

“I know one thing we did right

Was the day we started to fight

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on (hold on)

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on” (as cited in Marsh, 2009)
Alice Wine wrote this song after African Americans had won the right to vote, only to discover one more barrier; they were required to pass a literacy test in order to qualify to vote. Songs of hope and empowerment were influential during the Civil Rights movement as they identified the common goal worth fighting for and offered optimism that the prize was achievable (Marsh, 2009; Ruehl, 2009).

All these social justice movements have made gains to varying degrees in achieving their goals related to social justice (Crow, 1996). African Americans and women won the right to vote (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998; Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, 2009) as well as equal pay for equal work (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter, 1998); women won reproductive rights with Roe vs. Wade (Eisenberg & Ruthsdotter,1998; Nedeau, 2008). Several American states as well as countries such as Canada have passed legislation granting same-sex couples the right to marry (Gianoulis, 2004; Johnson & Summers, 2004; Jones, 2009.). Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is now a recognized outcome of war (Church, 2009). These movements have worked hard to remove the barriers caused by privilege, which “...exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything that they’ve done or failed to do” (Johnson, 2006, p. 21).

As a result of these gains, the Disability Rights and Gay Rights movements (Jones, 2009) were able to utilize those experiences, strategies, and perspectives in order to enhance their own struggle towards achieving social justice and empowerment in several ways (Crow, 1996; Madaus, 2000; Malhotra, 2001; Waddington & Diller, 2000). Activists realized that issues of physical access and attitudinal barriers could now be described as a socio-political problem (DeJong, 1983; Waddington & Diller, 2000). They also gained awareness that social programs, segregated education and housing programs, and employment quotas, inspired by a social welfare model (Hugemark & Roman, 2002; Marks, 2008; Waddington & Diller, 2000), lead to “social exclusion” (End Exclusion, 2007). Disability activists and scholars also recognized that social welfare models rely on a functional definition to qualify for services that can segregate those who are eligible, which further marginalizes the members of society who qualify for this service (Hugemark & Roman, 2002; Waddington & Diller, 2000). And lastly, they recognized that social welfare models require people to disclose their inabilities or limitations in order to gain access to special services (Shakespeare, 1996; Waddington & Diller, 2000). This disclosure in turn reinforces the stereotypes about the incompetence of people who require special support (Hugemark & Roman, 2002; Linton, 1998; Longmore, 2003).

It is not an easy task to change a history of attitudes, behaviors, laws, and social policy that allow for discrimination and marginalization of a segment in our society. The struggle for equal rights now involves multiple racial groups such as Latinos and Asians (Teaching Tolerance, 2009) as well as the issues of rights based upon gender, disability, and sexual orientation (Hugemark & Roman, 2002; Malhotra, 2001; NPS, n.d.; Shakespeare, 1996). Members involved in a social cause need to keep an eye on the prize and persist in pressing for change as personal, social, and economic costs of exclusion and marginalization are too high to be ignored (End Exclusion, 2007; Hugemark & Roman, 2002; Linton, 1998; Shakespeare, 1996).
Disability Rights Movement
There is a Third Kingdom the land of the crippled. This place is no democracy; it is a dictatorship. The usual rights of citizenship do not apply here. A great wall surrounds this place, and most of what goes on within the wall is unknown to those outside it”

(Gallagher, 1990. p.1).
The focus of the Disability Rights movement has been to change the way the world is constructed so that everyone can participate in life’s activities to the greatest extent possible with maximum independence (Longmore, 2003; Malhotra, 2001; Weisman, 1999; Winter, 2003). This movement has similar goals as the Civil Rights movement–to be treated with respect and dignity, have economic and social equality, experience usable and inclusive environments, and have the opportunity for full participation (UPAIS, 1976) in educational, employment, and community activities (Malhotra, 2001;Winter, 2003).

Throughout modern times in North America and parts of Western Europe, disability-specific groups have formed to champion specific interests with a focus to solve specific disability issues, not global issues. Examples include (Fleischer & Zames, 2001; Malhotra, 2001; Pullingart, 2002; Resource Center for Independent Living, 2004):
1921 - American Foundation for the Blind

1938 - March of Dimes as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis

1939 - League of the Physically Handicapped

1940 - National Federation of the Blind

1948 - National Spinal Cord Injury Association

1950 - National Association for Retarded Citizens

1974 - People First Canada group began in

British Columbia

1975 - Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) founded in Britain
In the 1970s, disabled activists and scholars from Great Britain, such as Ken Davis, Paul Hunt, and Vic Finkelstein (UPIAS, 1976) and the United States, such as Judy Huemann, Ed Roberts, Fred Fay, and Justin Dart (Fleischer & Zames, 2001; Pelka, 1997) started to question and voice opposition to society’s response to various aspects of disability. In 1974, some of these activists, understanding the importance and the power of cross-disability communication and cooperation, came together in Washington, D.C. to propose a cross-disability coalition (Pelka, 1997). The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) was formed and initially brought 19 disability groups together for a common purpose of promoting disability inclusion (Pelka, 1997). The ACCD was led by the late Frank Bowe, a deaf activist and educator who, as its first Director, worked diligently to support the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Fleischer & Zames, 2001) and called for civil disobedience to bring pressure on the Carter administration to approve the regulations (Pelka, 1997). In 1977, at the local level, activists such as Irv Zola, Marsh Saxton, David Pfieiffer as well as former AHSSPPE member Andrea Schein (Pelka, 1997) and other local activists, formed Boston Self-Help, a grassroots peer counseling and cross-disability organization.

International activity was also prevalent. In Canada, the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (COPOH) was founded in 1976 by people with disabilities and in 1994 they changed their name to the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) (Pullingart, 2002). The CCD remains focused on civil rights issues with the motto, “A voice of our own” (Canadian Council on Disabilities [CCD], 2009). A 1982 amendment to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms made Canada one of the few nations in which non-discrimination on the basis of disability became a constitutional right (Waddington & Diller, 2000). At the statutory level, the Canadian Human Rights Act has prohibited disability discrimination since 1985 (Barnartt, 2008; Rogow, 2002). A Disability Discrimination Act was passed in Australia in 1992, and in Great Britain in 1995 (Waddington & Diller, 2000); both pieces of legislation focus on systemic discrimination, bringing social justice to the forefront, and removing the emphasis on social welfare approaches.

The fight for social justice for many disabled people is not merely a political one, but also a lived philosophy that reflects years of struggle and personal growth (Crow, 1996; Linton, 1998; Shakespeare, 1996). With this growth, struggle, and knowledge comes a clear understanding that what is shared by disabled people is far greater than physical difference; they share oppression, not just impairment (Crow, 1996; Longmore, 2003; UPIAS, 1975). As Miller (2001) states: “…of course social justice has always been, and must always be, a critical idea, one that challenges us to reform our institutions and practices in the name of greater fairness” (p. x). The Disability Rights movement is challenging society to change its treatment of disabled people in the interest of fairness and equal rights.

Johnson (2006) contends that the systems and structures established by society are the main source of discrimination where privilege is exercised to maintain traditional systems and social patterns in order to keep the status quo. While individuals may exhibit some form of exclusion through their actions (racism, sexism, ableism, etc.), these individuals are part of systems or structures that support their actions, making discrimination a systemic issue (Hugemark & Roman, 2002). “As with gender, race, sexuality and class: to understand how disability operates is to understand what it is to be fully human” (Garland-Thomson, 2006, p. 271).

Longmore (2003) suggests that the “implementation of the medical model in health care, social services, education, private charity and public policies has institutionalized prejudice and discrimination” (n.p.). This perspective is supported by Shakespeare (1996) who states that we “are socialized into thinking of disability in a medical model way. We can view this as internalized oppression” (p.106). Thus, disability is viewed in a negative way, maintaining discriminatory practices. These oppressive views and approaches to disability gave rise to the Disability Rights movement.

Civil Disobedience to Reduce Discrimination
If the change in paradigm that the disabled seek is to come about, it will only be through active and vocal protest by the disabled themselves, and their insistence that there is more to disability than malfunctioning body parts, and more to being disabled than meets the eye.”

(Eisenberg, Griggins, & Duval, 1982, p. xix)
The Civil Rights movement has had an effect not only on securing certain rights, but also in the manner in which those rights have been secured (Madaus, 2000). When traditional legal channels were exhausted, disabled persons learned to employ other techniques of social protest, such as demonstrations and sit-ins, learning from the Civil Rights movement (Barnartt, 2008; DeJong, 1983; Fleischer & Zames, 2001; Shakespeare, 1996). Linton (1998) suggests that because disabled people are “bound by common social and political experience,” they could use this common identity “to function as a basis for political activism” (p. 12) in order to increase their ability to participate in society.

Despite changes in legislation, disabled people continued to experience discrimination and exclusion. They began expressing their frustration and anger, leading to protests and civil disobedience in order to demand their civil rights (Fleischer & Zames, 2001; Malhotra, 2001) and bring attention to discriminatory practices (Barnartt, 2008; Shakespeare, 1996). Sample protests include (Barnartt, 2008; Fleischer & Zames, 2001; Malhotra, 2001; Resource Center for Independent Living, 2004):
1939 - The League of the Physically Handicapped protested at The Home Relief Bureau of New York City which was supposed to forward their job requests to the WPA, but was stamping all their applications ‘PH’ for physically handicapped, as a signal to the WPA not to give these people jobs.

1978 - Atlantis Community, founded by Wade Blank, staged a sit-in demonstration to protest the complete inaccessibility of Denver’s mass transit system. Up until this time, the city refused to purchase wheelchair lift-equipped buses. Atlantis later became American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT).

1986 - With pressure from the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Air Carrier Access Act was passed. Before its passage, airlines could refuse to serve people simply because they were disabled, and charged them more for airfare than non-disabled travelers.

1990s - ADAPT fought for reallocation of one quarter of the federal and state Medicaid dollars from institutional programs to consumer controlled community-based programs. Since then, ADAPT has decided the name will no longer be an acronym so it is now simply ADAPT; this organization is still fighting for community services and supports for people with disabilities of all ages, trying to reduce discriminatory practices.
The militant actions of the Disability Rights movement also spread to postsecondary institutions (Fleischer & Zames, 2001) when “new civil rights action began to take root, as exemplified by the work of students at the University of California at Berkeley” (Madaus, 2000, p. 7). This group of students fought for greater independence on campus and ultimately realized increased access through improved transportation options, classroom accessibility, and renovation of curb cuts (Fleischer & Zames, 2001; Madaus, 2000). Their activism paid off, paving the way for disabled students to realize that higher education was within reach.

The Disability Rights movement not only worked to gain respect and full participation in society, but also struggled to find acceptance for disabled people in other social movements (Amundson, 2009; Crow; 1996; Shakespeare, 1996; Triano, 2003). Unfortunately, other social movements excluded disabled individuals as a part of the composition of their individual and collective social justice models (Johnson, 2006; Malhotra, 2001; Shakespeare, 1996). According to Garland-Thomson (2006), “feminist theories all too often do not recognize disabilities in their litanies of identities that reflect the category of women” (p. 257). These movements fought for their own rights and joined others in their fight, but are noticeably absent in their support of the struggle for social justice by disabled people (Amundson 2009; Shakespeare, 1996).

Their exclusion and failure to see the parallels in the battle for acceptance continue to re-enforce the negative effects of people’s view of disability. “Positions held by the DR [Disability Rights] movement are summarily rejected by many within the academy, even though similar positions are unquestioningly endorsed when stated by advocates of women’s rights and ‘racial’ or ethnic civil rights” (Amundson, 2009, p. 169).

A Different View of Disability
Pride is somewhere in your soul

Pride is the peace within that finally makes you whole

Celebrate your difference with pride

Pride in yourself is bound to set you free

Pride in who you are just a person like me

Pride and self respect and gentle dignity

No one can take away your pride.”

(Crescendo, 1993, n.p.)
Activists began to realize that their oppression and marginalization was not only “rooted in the prejudices or misconceptions, but, also, in the good intentions, in the minds of persons without a disability as they are manifest in their interactions with persons with disabilities” (Winter, 2003, p. 3). As a way to address these prejudices and misconceptions, a group of activists from Britain known as the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) introduced a social justice definition of disability in 1975. The UPIAS believed that disability was caused by social institutions, societal beliefs, and attachment to the Medical Model of Disability, sometimes called the Individual Model of Disability (Shakespeare, 1996), which defines disability around functionality and normalcy (UPIAS, 1976). This model infers that disability results from the individual’s physical or mental limitations, is a personal problem or tragedy, and is unconnected to the social response or the environment (Crow, 1996; Oliver, 1996; Shakespeare, 1996; Winter, 2003). The disabled person is expected to seek assistance in getting cured, fixed, or accommodated as it is their individual problem to solve in order to be included and participate in society (Crow, 1996; Linton, 1998; Longmore, 2003).

The UPIAS endeavored to change this view of disability by stating that impairment was a medical condition or illness and that disability was something imposed on top of impairment by the way society isolated and excluded full participation in many situations. Their political charter declared that it wasn’t the impairment, but society’s attitude towards the impairment that caused the disability.

Thus, we define impairment as lacking part of or all of a limb, or having a defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body; and disability as the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organization which takes no or little account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities. Physical disability is therefore a particular form of social oppression (UPAIS, 1976, p.14).

This was a pivotal moment in the Disability Rights movement (Crow, 1996; Shakespeare, 1996; Winter, 2003). Several disability scholars built on this new view of disability which later became known as the Social Model of Disability. Gill’s (1994) Interactional or Socio-political Model of Disability seems to summarize all the variations and builds on the following premises: disability is a difference; disability in and of itself is neutral; disability derives from the interaction between the individual and society; the remedy to this problem is to change the interaction between the individual and society; the agent of change can be the disabled person, an advocate, or anyone who affects the interaction between the individual and society (Block, Kroeger, & Loewen, 2002). Disability stems from the failure of society to adjust to meet the needs of disabled people.

This model does not deny illness or the need for medical intervention; rather, it offers a lens that brings a clearer understanding of barriers created by society’s attitude toward disabled people and how these barriers affect them. It views “negative self-identity as a result of the experience of oppressive social relations, and focuses attention on the possibilities for changing society, empowering disabled people, and promoting a different self-understanding” (Shakespeare, 1996, p. 5) and extends hope for dignity and participation in society. It offers a fresh change from the medical model that considers “negative self-identity to be an outcome of physical impairment, and focus on the need for adjustment, mourning, and coming to terms with loss” (Shakespeare, 1996, p. 5). Table 1 depicts the distinction these activists made between disability and impairment.
Table 1

Term Comparison


Medical Model

Social Model


A physical or mental condition, deficit, or limitation that requires treatment or fixing

Lacking part or all of limb, organ or mechanism of the body


The condition of being unable to perform a task due to an impairment which is an individual burden, personal tragedy or individual problem

The disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by design of environments which exclude disabled persons from participation in mainstream social activities


The individual must adjust or become more normal to fit into society and the established environments

Society must adapt the design of environments. Individual differences are considered normal and accepted through the design of inclusive and flexible environments

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