Introduction to Disability Studies

For several hours in the next few weeks you are to inspect a site for their access or lack thereof. You should focus your observations on 1-2 sites (physical or virtual) that you go to in your everyday life. Some examples- your gym, your classroom, buildings in UT, restaurant, film theater, lab, online websites or gaming (look at several websites such as YouTube, Blackboard, facebook and check for captions and other features).


You are to check for access features in terms of their existence but also their usability and quality (i.e. the fact something exists does not make it user friendly, nice to look at or welcoming).


You are to look for the following dimensions throughout this exercise:


-          Who can use this sitewell? Pay attention to things like gender, body size, height, particular abilities or disabilities including learning, cognitive, social, sensory/vision/hearing etc. (don’t focus only on wheelchair access for example)


-          Pay attention to issues like

o   stimulation or the risk of overstimulation/clutterness;

o   signage (how did you get here? How would you find your way? How would you find a bathroom? An accessible entrance? Any entrance?)

o   captions (are they available? Are they useful?)

o   affect (how do you feel in this space? Why? How do you think others who are different from you might feel?)

o   allergens/signs or information about potential allergens (ex: gf noted on restaurant menu, warnings about strong smells in a nail salon, etc)

o   language used

o    intensity of lights or sounds

o   Do you see any signs of purposeful access or accommodations? Are there any ramps, signage about access (who to contact for example)? Are there any visibly disabled people in this space? As customers, workers?

o   How is information presented (on the wall, in the class, on a menu)? Is it also available in alternate formats for people who can’t access information by reading? What is the size of the font used?

o   Are the principles of Universal Design incorporated? How so? And if not, how so?


After taking notes on all the above (and also pictures if applicable, with permission if needed!), start analyzing your findings. Your paper should describe where you went and what you found (be specific with examples) and then analyze it by using readings and class materials. You are required to use at least 1 source from class to compliment your analysis presented in the paper.


In your paper answer the following:


-          Who do you think this site built or designed for?

-          Did the site make you feel welcome? Is it user friendly? For whom? What assumptions are made about the potential user/visitor of this site?


-          What would full access or inclusion entail in relation to this product or environment? What would make people (yourself included) feel fully welcome in the space or by using this product?

-          Can you think of alternative designs to rectify the situation?


-          Why do you think this was designed in this way?


-          What are the consequences of such designs, in relation to inclusion/exclusion? What are the potential social and cultural effects of such designs?


-          Do you think it is a form of ableism? Do you agree with class readings that there is segregation by design or “design apartheid” towards people with disabilities?


The paper isdue in class on the date designated on the syllabus.



The paper should be 750-1000 words.


Papers should begin with a clear introductory paragraph summarizing the aims and ambitions of your paper. From this introduction I should be able to decipher the site(s) your paper will focus on and which readings/materials from the class you will use to analyze this site.

You should divide the paper into several sections (marked off by subtitles if needed), which should flow together and demonstrate progression of your analysis. The paper should have a clear concluding paragraph where you summarize your main argument.

Bibliography and sources

A bibliography with full citations for all resources you cite in the paper (including course readings) should be included at the end of the paper. Format for bibliographic entry should be consistent, by using the University of Chicago Manual of Style format, ASA, APA, MLA. Web resources should be fully cited as well. For example:

    • Ferri, Beth A. and David J. Connor.  (2006). Reading Resistance: Discourses of Exclusion in Desegregation and Inclusion Debates.  New York: Peter Lang.

Citations should be used in the body of the paper when you cite texts, especially quotes for which page numbers are required. For example:

    •  “ xxx quote” (Ferri& Connor, 2006: 112-114)


Papers will be evaluated on the quality of your research; your ability to make meaningful connections between your argument and course materials; the number and type of readings you incorporated into the paper; the use of disability studies thinking in applying the material to your paper; overall understanding of issues discussed in class, as they pertain to the paper; the overall organization, writing style, coherence, and flow of your argument; and your ability to follow the guidelines listed above.

Written assignments are graded as follows (with in between grades as needed):


Clear Introduction with thesis statement: 10 pts

Clear understanding and definition of ableism: 10 pts

1 Class Readings Adequately Addressed:  10 pts

(Note: this means more than just quoting something out of context. You need to summarize the text and then tell us how you use that text)

Depth of your site research: 30 pts

Grammar (10) and Organization (10): 20 pts

Bibliography and Citations: 10 pts

Second Site Addressed OR Second Course Reading/Film/Website Addressed: 10 pts


Field of study: 
No answers yet