Disability Studies


This IGG is comprised of faculty, graduate students and staff engaged in interdisciplinary Disability Studies (DS). DS is intrinsically among the most interdisciplinary scholarly enterprises.  Interest in an interdisciplinary home for Disability Studies at the U of M goes back at least 30 years.  Despite having no formal degree program in DS, the U of M has produced at least 88 dissertations/theses, positioning us as 8th in numbers of dissertations published (UMI/ProQuest database, 2015), just behind Toronto, Wisconsin-Madison, Syracuse, Capella, George Washington, York (Canada), and Michigan State.

The U of M’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Group in Disability Studies (IGGDS) is a collaborative academic effort supporting individual and collaborative research and artistic creativity, working to develop a graduate-level minor in Applied Disability Studies on the Twin Cities campus. IGGDS is now working to establish this minor within the Center for Bioethics of the Allied Health Center.  The focus on Applied Disability Studies unites critical inquiry and advocacy, utilizing scholarly approaches from across the disciplines with the goal of developing  foundations for DS, fostering and disseminating research and integrating research findings in professional pedagogy and praxis in fields as diverse as medicine, social work and architecture.

The goal of the IGGDS is to formalize and credential the study of DS at the U of M, furthering this multifaceted field; advancing the praxis of interdisciplinarity; and  negotiating intellectual and logistical hurdles; with the goal of developing knowledge and expertise in such areas as:

  • Competency in understanding the bio-psychosocial implications of disability and contributing to the field’s research questions and analyses.
  • The ability to examine and critique enabling and disabling ideological assumptions that shape social institutions, professions, policies, and systems of representation; theoretically connecting ideological assumptions about disability to those regarding gender, race, age, class, nationality, and sexual orientation in the interest of improving professional praxis across the disciplines.
  • A deep understanding of disability history, rights, policies, and contemporary issues, especially in terms of the way people with disabilities, through their own agency, advocacy, and voices, have shaped conceptions of disability in specific historical and contemporary contexts.
  • Professional-level skills in working with people with disabilities, and their individual and family concerns, with particular attention to aspects of design writ large.
  • An awareness of the applicability of disability studies knowledge to a wide range of professions, and increased understanding of specific careers related to working with people with disabilities.

Heretofore, IGGDS has gained international visibility through its annual symposium, which offers scholars the opportunity to present research-in-progress, discussed at length by a supportive community. In 2015, a course in Disability Ethics was first offered through the Center for Bioethics, with the intent that it would serve as the foundations course for the interdisciplinary minor.


The primary contact for this group is Alex Lubet (School of Music; lubet001@umn.edu). Additional members of the leadership team are Christopher Johnstone (Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development; john4810@umn.edu), and Nancy Herther (University Libraries; herther@umn.edu).


View the membership list

News and Events

The Minnesota Symposium on Applied Disability Studies (Friday, June 10, 8:00-4:30)

The University of Minnesota Interdisciplinary Graduate Group in Disability Studies invites all interested individuals to its fifth annual Minnesota Symposium on Applied Disability Studies, June 10, 2016.  The central theme of this year's conference is Aging and Disability. The symposium is at the MacPhail Center for Music at 501 South Second Street in Minneapolis. Doors open at 8 a.m. with the first session at 8:30 a.m. Symposium schedule and details are here.