Disability is a universal part of the human experience. Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary field that applies multiple approaches to considering disability and the lived experiences of people with disabilities. The Disability Studies minor at Pacific University integrates courses in social sciences, arts and humanities, and education. Disability is not a defect within a person. Disability studies therefore addresses the human experience that manifests as a relationship between a person, their environment, and society. Therefore, the Disability Studies curriculum focuses on the health, social, cultural, and political factors that influence our understanding of disability. Disability Studies at Pacific aims to pursue intersectional understandings of disability, considering the ways that race, gender, socio-economic status, and other identities intersect with and influence the experience of disability. Disability Studies includes the analysis of fundamental concepts of culture, body and mind, physical and mental health and function, normalcy and variation, autonomy and rights, beauty, care, identity, and power. It integrates critical consideration of the many ways our policies and institutions impact people with disabilities. While some courses address disability as the primary topic of the course, others consider disability within contexts of diversity, intersectionality, and societal systems. Multiple elective courses address the intersection of ableism with other structures of inequality and oppression (e.g., racism, heterosexism).
This program aims to deliver a Disability Studies curriculum that is empowering, justice-oriented, and future-thinking. Courses include principles of diversity, inclusivity, and empathic understanding that can be applied to interpersonal relationships, community living, and diverse fields of work. Disability studies at Pacific avoids deficit-based models of disability, embracing assets and person-centered perspectives. Further, the program studies avenues for pursuing social change to promote well-being, justice, equity, inclusion, self-determination, protecting vulnerable cultures, and full participation of people with disabilities in society.