Our Lab’s Perspective…

Much of our world views disability from a ‘medical model’ view- where disability is seen as an undesirable deficit within an individual body/mind, and the focus is on ‘fixing’, or approximating as close to ‘normal’ as possible. We take a different approach, which combines perspectives from a ‘social model’ and ‘political-relational model’ view. These views acknowledge that body/minds are naturally diverse, and disability is created by society because of the discrimination, physical barriers, and attitudes toward individuals with body/mind differences, or impairments. Disability is also a cultural experience, and can be an important part of an individual’s or group’s identity. The focus, then, is simultaneously about celebrating disability as diversity, recognizing and addressing important body/mind needs such as pain and positioning, accessibility, or the need for technology, but also equally importantly addressing social and physical barriers that prevent the full participation of people with disabilities in our world. This must be done by listening and responding to the needs of disabled people/people with disabilities as experts in their own lives and needs, and engaging in true allyship as defined by the disability community. (Note: Both ‘disabled person’ and ‘person with a disability’ are used by various members of the disability community, depending on their preference for identity-first or person-first language).

In our lab, we identify as both disabled people/people with disabilities, as well as allies to disability communities. We seek to co-develop research questions, ideas, projects, and advocacy opportunities directly in partnership with people with disabilities. We also recognize that access is a team sport, and are actively and continuously striving to create an accessible and welcoming lab space, materials, and culture.

For more information about Disability Studies, Disability Models, Accessibility, and Disability Culture, check out the following resources:

The University of Washington Disability Studies Program

The Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) Center Universal Design for Education overview

Political Relational Model of Disability as written by Alison Kafer: Feminist, Queer, Crip

Disability Activist Emily Ladau’s website and blog: Words I Wheel By

Work In Progress Resource List (on privilege and intersectionality, why scent-free?, why disability simulations are problematic, key documentaries and media, and a ‘DS Must Reads’ list) developed by Heather Feldner, Kathryn Lent for our coursework introducing disability studies to second-year DPT students