LSJ/CHID 332 Disability and Society
Spring 2009


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Course Description

This is a survey of Disability Studies (DS), an interdisciplinary field that investigates, critiques, and enhances Western society's understandings of disability and their social justice consequences. It will introduce you to a critical framework for recognizing entrenched attitudes, barriers, and representations that have stigmatized and discriminated against people with disabilities. In this course we will interrogate how society generates and reinforces perceptions of disability as personal deficit and misfortune, and how the disability experience has been reinterpreted as a form of human variation and minority group status by the disability rights movement (DRM) and by scholars in a range of disciplines. The social model perspective developed in this class analyzes how the concepts of disabled and normal are determined by social, political, economic, architectural, cultural, and historical factors. We will explore disability legislation and public policy; perspectives on the roles of medicine and technology; the history of disability including eugenics and institutionalization; intersections with studies of race, gender, class, and the body; ethical and political arguments regarding quality of life, inclusion, and independence; and stereotypical and progressive portrayals of disability in various media. Credits for this course count towards the UW Disability Studies Minor and the Diversity Minor. See and

Essay #1, 10%, due Sun. April 19, 11pm
Essay #2, 15%, due Sun. May 3, 11pm
Media project, 15%, due Sun. May 17, 11pm
Architectural accessibility project, 10%, due Sun. May 31, 11pm
Essay #3, 15%, due Tues. June 9, 11pm
Online reading responses & discussion, 25%
Participation in class discussions and activities, 10%

All written work will be submitted electronically via the Catalyst dropbox for this course.
All required readings can be found on this website as pdfs, Word docs, or html files. The required textbook, Joseph Shapiro's No Pity, is for sale in the University Bookstore. This website will also have extra readings and links about disability-related topics.


Disabilities: Students with disabilities need not disclose. The instructors can work in conjunction with Disability Resources for Students (448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924/V, 206-543-8925/TTY, to provide accommodations of any sort due to disability. We want the class climate to be as inclusive as possible so please feel free to approach us about any concerns.

Communication: All requirements and policies of this course are outlined in this syllabus. Any changes to the syllabus, announcements, and handouts will be posted on the course website, and it is your responsibility to check the website for updates. The best way to contact the instructors is by email. We can also meet you on campus by appointment. Feel free to contact either of us if you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of the course.

Submitting and returning work: It is your responsibility to keep careful track of assignments and due dates. Be sure to check the website regularly for any changes to the schedule. All work for this course will be submitted to electronic drop boxes and portfolios in Catalyst. Essays and projects received late will receive grade penalties of 5% per day. You must be present on the assigned day for your oral presentation. No extra credit or paper re-writes will be permitted. Keep copies of all submitted work for your protection. Work will be returned with comments as quickly as possible. You are encouraged to consult with either instructor about your ideas and questions regarding the assignments.

Documentation of sources and academic integrity: When writing an essay, all direct quotations, paraphrases, information, interpretations, and opinions taken from another person’s work must be identified. Every essay submitted for this course must have a bibliography listing all sources consulted and copious citations (either footnotes or in-text) to indicate where facts or ideas have been borrowed. All work submitted for course credit must be an original effort. Plagiarism means presenting the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own, for example by turning in someone else’s work or failing to document material you have quoted or borrowed. Any evidence of cheating or plagiarism, whether intentional or accidental, will result in a grade of zero for that assignment. Additional sanctions may also be imposed by the University administration under the provisions of the Student Conduct Code. You are responsible for understanding all aspects of University regulations regarding academic integrity.

Learning goals
Apply the basic concepts used in the Disability Studies approach, such as impairment vs. disability, ableism, and stigma; and distinguish the social model of disability from the moral, medical, and personal tragedy models that define disability strictly as an individual problem.

Overview the political, social, and economic forces that have shaped Western society's dominant understandings of disability and normality, and how these ideas and practices are critiqued by disability scholars and advocates whose agenda is to promote diversity and social justice.

Study the disability rights movement, public policy, and legislation in the United States, especially focusing on debates involving issues of civil and human rights, accessibility, integration, identity, culture, and diversity.

Address the intersections of disability with race, gender, sexuality, class, and other critical perspectives on the body.

Consider arguments about incorporating lived experiences, impairments, and narratives into the social model.

Explore the disability community's positions on such issues as pre-natal genetic testing, assisted suicide, institutionalization, independent living, self-advocacy, assistive technologies, medicalization and cures, charity telethons, cochlear implants, Deaf-deaf, psychiatric consumers/survivors, neurodiversity, ADA enforcement and court rulings.

Research specific examples of how the Americans with Disabilities Act has been implemented in public accommodations, and examples of representations of disability in various kinds of media and what these suggest about the social construction of disability.

How would you answer: What is disability? How has your answer changed this quarter?


In-class participation (value 10%): Class time will be divided between lectures and discussions. There will be a number of guest speakers and in-class videos. Students who enroll in this course must be prepared to engage with multiple and varied texts, as well as various styles of presenting material. The reading load is heavy, and you are expected to come to class having completed all the day's reading and ready to contribute to discussion. Your participation grade will be determined by the quality and consistency of your contributions to class discussions, small-group activities, and in-class writing. Missing classes will prevent your involvement in activities and adversely affect your grade. You are expected to show that you have analyzed the readings and that you are forming reasoned ideas and opinions about the themes of the course. Participation includes listening carefully and responding constructively to instructors and classmates. Discussion should be lively and we will try to get everyone involved. Some of the topics covered raise sensitive ethical or policy questions and may create tension. We will work to create a learning environment in which all opinions will be welcomed and responded to respectfully. Please keep in mind that this course is being taught from an anti-oppressive point of view, and our principal goal is to teach the academic Disability Studies approach.

Online postings (value 25%): You are required to make regular contributions to the online discussion board for this course, consisting of your responses to the readings and to comments made by fellow students and the instructors. The minimal number of postings is 4 per week for a passing grade. There will be concrete deadlines for posting before each class period (Tues. and Thurs. by 11am) and twice more by the end of the week (Sunday by 11pm). The discussion board is on Catalyst GoPost; please bookmark You are encouraged to contribute to the online discussion on an ongoing basis, to continue exchanging ideas about any issues that arise during class, and to develop your interpretations in dialogue with other participants. Substantial postings beyond the minimal 4 per week will improve your grade. Keep in mind that your work will be judged according to quality, not just quantity. The postings should be carefully thought out and composed. Each comment you make must deal with the course texts(s) in depth and refer to specific passages. We will let you know if a comment is not substantial enough to count towards your grade. As in the classroom, please be respectful of other participants and their opinions, and be aware of your language choices.

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Last modified: 4/01/2009 2:50 PM