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Unit information: Introduction to Disability Studies in 2016/17

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Unit name Introduction to Disability Studies
Unit code SPOL20018
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Dowling
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


Introduction to Disability Studies will be of particular interest to those wishing to follow up in more depth the issues faced by disabled children, young people and adults in 21st century society. The unit is driven by a critique of society and its institutions. Disability Studies is a broad, interdisciplinary stream of research and conceptual development, which moves beyond ‘deficit’ ways of viewing disability. The unit will consider the theoretical underpinnings of disability studies, including the social model, and will discuss the differing views and debates about these issues.

The unit is planned and co-produced with people who have direct experience of disability, and will include a focus on disabled children and adults as active citizens. It particularly addresses questions that arise in relation to inclusion, societal attitudes and relationships, barriers to participation, and the practical steps that can be taken to address barriers in ‘systemic’ ways.

The unit aims are:

To develop critical thinking about educational policy, childhood services and adult social care, in relation to difference and diversity.

To identify the implications of research conducted within the ‘disability studies’ tradition

To examine policy and experience from the point of view of disabled people themselves

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

Identify and critique the models and theories that have driven disability studies

Analyse the outcomes of particular social policies from the perspective of disabled people’s lives

Evaluate research carried out within Disability Studies, in relation to its impact and potential.

Teaching details

Interactive lectures, small group teaching methods (e.g. small group discussions).

Assessment Details

Formative assessment will be included in the unit, in the form of interactive group exercises leading to team presentations, accompanied by a 500 word abstract from each student.

Summative assessment consisting of a 3000 word essay, chosen from a list of titles reflecting the learning outcomes and content of the unit. Students will be expected to demonstrate in the essay an understanding of the theories and models underpinning disability studies, and to critically evaluate current policy in the light of research evidence about those ideas. Essays will be assessed against the published marking criteria for Level 5 (Programme Handbook).

Reading and References

Connors, C. & Stalker, K. (2003) The views and experiences of disabled children and their siblings: A positive outlook. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Davis, L. (ed) (2010) The Disability Studies Reader (3rd ed). Routledge.

Goodley, D. (2011) Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction. London: Sage

Lowes, L. and Hulatt, I. (2005) Involving Service Users in Health and Social Care Research. London: Routledge.

Oliver, M. and Barnes, C. (2012) The new politics of disablement. (2nd ed), Palgrave Macmillan

Swain, J., French, S.. Barnes, C. and Thomas, C. (eds.)(2004) Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments (2nd ed.) . London: Sage.