Disability Studies

The study of disability from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences arises from the fact that no one is completely normal, and all of us, if we live past 50, will experience some degree of physical and mental disability. Yet, despite the fact that disability is a natural part of the human experience, societies past and present have treated it as something shameful and abnormal.

Disability studies at Pacific University is an interdisciplinary minor that works to understand why physical and cognitive differences have been treated as they have in the past and are in the present, how they should be treated in the modern world, and why.

For students interested in health care, disability studies complements their science courses by focusing on the social, cultural and political issues in their future careers. It concentrates on the populations of people that many professions are established to serve.

For those majoring in social sciences or humanities, disability studies provides an analysis of the most fundamental concepts of our culture: body and mind, normality and difference, freedom and rights, beauty and wholeness. How these ideas affect our perceptions and impact our laws, institutions and day-to-day lives is also a component of disability studies.

Program Highlights


  • Interdisciplinary content draws faculty from a wide variety of departments, from English to physical therapy to philosophy to sociology and more
  • Opportunity for students to work in a practicum as counselors in a two-week residential outdoor camp for those with significant disabilities

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