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Disability Studies

Why is Disability Studies research challenging?

The interdisciplinary nature of disability studies

  • Disability Studies is interdisciplinary.
  • You will need to learn to distinguish between medical, scientific, historical, and sociological treatments of disability, and find sources that fit in with your research framework. This can take some experience.

Terminology may be offensive and inaccurate

  • Current and historical research may use outdated terminology.
  • Research, especially books, may be cataloged using outdated and/or biased terminology.
  • Some terminology may be considered politically incorrect, hurtful or even triggering.
  • Although you want to avoid outdated terminology in your own research, you might need to use them as search terms if you want to be comprehensive, especially when searching historical materials and primary sources.

Historical Lack of Cataloging

  • Until relatively recently, disability studies material may not have been identified with relevant subject headings and tags.
  • Historically, some subject headings and tags did not exist.

Keywords for search

Some keywords to try

  • abledness, ableism,ableist, able-bodied, able-bodiedness
  • access, accessible, accessibility
  • ageism, ageist, aging
  • Deaf, deafness, deaf studies (some Deaf people consider themselves to be a linguistic/cultural minority, not disabled)
  • dis/ability, disability, disabilities, "disability studies", "disability rights", disabled
  • disease, dis-ease
  • enable, enabling
  • inclusion, inclusiveness, inclusivity
  • normalcy, normals, normative
  • sick, sickness
  • universal design

Rhetorical constructions in disability studies
If you're looking for specific readings or theorizations of a topic, try combining your keyword with frequently paired terms like:

  • advocate, advocacy
  • biology, biological, bioethics
  • body, bodies
  • critical
  • difference
  • "disability studies"
  • discrimination
  • "identity politics"
  • medical, medicalization
  • microaggression
  • narrative, narratives
  • politics, political
  • representation, representations
  • rhetoric, rhetorical, "visual rhetoric"
  • signify, signifying
  • visible, visibility, invisible, invisibility, visual