The Rock Ethics Institute

Initiatives

Ethics and Disability Studies

The Ethics and Disability Studies Reading Group was one of the Rock Ethics Institute's Ethics Interest Groups. Group members read a variety of interdisciplinary articles in the broad area of disability studies, ranging from history and cultural studies to philosophy, literary theory and criticism, and sociology, and focusing on material about the history of the disability studies movement, the history of the treatment of the disabled, the field of disability ethics, and current issues in the disability rights movement.

*This group is not active this academic year. However, we do have a collection of reading citations for your reference.

Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that considers the social, experiential, and symbolic meaning of bodily and mental disabilities. Work in this area includes the examination of the values and assumptions involved in the various explanatory models of disability such as the medical model of disability. Disability scholars aim to question the illusion of the perfected body/mind, and to argue that a just and inclusive society must provide for the full and equal social participation of all individuals, regardless of their place in the continuum of abilities and disabilities. This aim can only be realized, however if we remove all biases from the ways we conceptualize disability. Hence, one goal of disability studies is to make clear the ways our conceptions of disability lead us to view being disabled as bad. Some suggest that this involves a cultivation of an awareness that all embodied human experience exists on a continuum of multiple abilities and disabilities.

Readings are selected based on the interests of group members. At the group's bimonthly meetings, members discuss the readings, plan for speakers to be invited to Penn State to address the group and the larger community, and consider future development in the areas of ethical activism by thinking about ways in which a disability perspective might be integrated into various disciplines. The group is working on a three-year initiative that includes promoting awareness of and engendering initiatives aimed at restructuring inaccessible environments, and developing curriculums that focus on a greater inclusion of the disabled perspective in Penn State departments.

The Ethics and Disability Studies Reading Group, which one member characterizes as "informal, relaxed, charismatic, and open," currently consists of established disability scholars as well as individuals who are interested in the disability perspective and disability activism, and includes both disabled and abled members. Faculty and graduate students from the Penn State community, as well as interested individuals from the State College community, are welcome to join the group. Anyone who is interested in discovering how culture and society have treated the disabled, who wants to understand the value of an inquiring, non-stigmatizing approach to human physical or mental impairment, and who values stimulating discussion and collaborative inquiry is welcome to join the group.