EDUCATION > Disability Studies at Temple University

Disability Studies Graduate Certificate

Disability Studies Certificate Program Overview

Who We Are

Established in 1973, the Institute on Disabilities is a Center within Temple University's College of Education. The Institute is also one of sixty-seven University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service (UCEDD). Our Graduate Certificate in Disability Studies delivers a comprehensive curriculum that combines rigorous scholarship with experiential learning opportunities.

- 12-credit program
- Online courses
- Freestanding certificate or with master's/doctoral work
- Students can complete the certificate in 2 years
- Applications accepted year-round
- Current Temple Graduate Students may enroll in individual courses at any time


Disability Studies Mission

To create a space for inquiry within Temple University that brings together faculty and students in the social sciences, health sciences, education, and humanities to consider disability issues within broad-based social, cultural, and historical contexts.

To challenge the notion that the social positions of individuals with disabilities result solely from physical, cognitive, or psychological impairment.

To promote a more accurate and complex understanding of people with disabilities and the evolution of disability civil rights movements.

To invite students to reflect on how an appreciation of disability relates to the professional, social and personal aspects of their lives.

What is Disability Studies?

A disability studies perspective investigates disability as a social, cultural and historical category of analysis. These approaches are distinct from medical and therapeutic conceptions of disability where the focus of study is treatment and rehabilitation. Instead, disability studies scholars approach people with disabilities as a minority group with a unique cultural and historical tradition, while recognizing that "disability" can simultaneously be understood as a socially constructed category of difference.

Over the past four decades, a vibrant Disability Rights Movement has emerged within the United States and across many other parts of the world. As in the case of Women's Studies, Native American Studies and African American Studies, this international social movement has nurtured a vibrant academic component.

In 1986, scholars in the social sciences established the Society for Disability Studies (SDS) as a forum for disability-related research. Soon after, SDS began publishing Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ), the first academic journal to focus on issues of disability and chronic illness from a social and rights-based perspective. From their infancy, DSQ and SDS have promoted disability studies as a cutting edge academic discipline, which draws scholars who work from a broad range of philosophical orientations, utilizing a variety of quantitative, qualitative and interpretive methodologies.

As an academic field, disability studies has experienced rapid growth since its initial founding in Medical Sociology in the late 1970s. As of 2008, fourteen MA programs and seven PhD programs existed internationally. Additionally, more than 30 universities and colleges in North America have established graduate and/or undergraduate programs.

Cushing, P. & Smith, T. (2009). A multinational review of English-language disability studies degrees and courses. Disability Studies Quarterly 29, 3. Retrieved October 11, 2012, from

Disability Inquiry at Temple University

The Graduate Certificate in Disability Studies at Temple University offers students an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Through their engagement with faculty in the social sciences, health science, and humanities, students learn to see disability from a variety of critical perspectives. In addition, the synchronicity between the Graduate Certificate in Disability Studies and Temple University's core social justice mission provides a basis for collaboration on a wide variety of programs happening across the University.

Looking beyond the Temple community, the Institute is also able to provide students with opportunities for broader community engagement through our close partnerships with statewide self-advocacy groups, Centers for Independent Living, Pennsylvania's Developmental Disabilities Council, The Disability Rights Pennsylvania, state government, specialized and generic service providers, the criminal justice system, and universities throughout Pennsylvania.

Disability Studies Asks Sociological, Cultural, Historical, and Philosophical Questions

How have cultural representations of disability changed over time?

How has disability emerged as a positive category of self-identification amid external definitions imposed in medical, psychological and educational contexts?

What impact have major political and legislative changes had on the lives of people with disabilities?

In what ways is disability analogous to gender, race, class, or sexual orientation? In what ways is disability unique?

What is the relationship between an individual's embodied experience of "impairment" and the social construction of "disability?"

How do experiences of disability translate into ways of knowing?

How can disability studies scholars challenge and extend the existing theory and methodology pursued by other minority studies?

What happens when essentialized conceptions of able-bodied/disabled are disrupted?

Program requirements and how to apply

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service