If you are interested in working with youth and families, a career in human services, or currently studying in the fields of social work, criminal justice, nursing, pre-law, psychology, public health, sociology, womens, gender, and sexuality studies, or political science — a minor in disability studies will significantly support your academic and career aspirations.  We are the first program of its kind at Rutgers University.

Disability studies is a field for and by people with disabilities. Students in the minor understand disability and impairment as an essential component of the human experience, troubling outcome of power, and important feature of coalition building— a position shaped by ongoing intersections with age, race, gender, ethnicity, language, nationality, class, and social power.  We offer students with practical skill-building techniques in participatory design and community organizing along with opportunities to explore how cultural ideals, policies, and perceptions about ability/disability influence the aims of transformative justice, equity, and inclusion.  Many of our courses count toward the required Core Curriculum.

Learn More

You can explore the course and career options below or contact the minor coordinator Dr. Lauren Shallish for a meeting.

Program Details



There are two required courses for the minor:

1. Critical Disability Studies (21:988:306; 3 credits)

In this course students learn about how to approach the study of disability from a critical perspective.  We will learn to understand disability not as a deficit but as identities, communities, and as a basis for seeking justice in an ableist world.  By placing disability in an intersectional perspective we will examine how disability relates to systems of racism, incarceration, settler colonialism, capitalism, gender, sex and sexuality.  The class will give students an understanding of some of the core concepts in the field, including disability, ableism, normate, crip, disability justice, accessibility, amongst others.  The course will highlight not only systems of oppression and exploitation but also resistance, activism and disability cultures.  It will examine disability histories as well as the current cutting edge in disability studies, disability cultures, and disability movements.

2. Inclusive and Social Justice Pedagogies (21:300:230; 3 credits)*

This course introduces students to an interdisciplinary analysis of inclusive (special) education in American schooling K-16, broadly conceived.  Students will review critical issues in schools including special education classification, suspension and expulsion policies, restorative justice, post-secondary participation, and participatory (universal) design.  The course draws from legal theory, philosophy, public policy, and history to create a professional position that is justice-oriented, anti-oppressive, culturally and linguistically sustaining, race-conscious, and disability positive.  Particular attention will be paid to students labeled with an educational disability who are multiply-minoritized. The course is centered around the presumption of competence and cultural and linguistic wealth.

The remaining credits can be completed by selecting any of the following courses for your program of study.  Students must complete 18 total credits to graduate with the minor in consultation with the minor advisor.   

  • Decarcerating Disability and Education (21:300:305; 3 credits)*
  • Educational Planning for Dually Exceptional Students (21:300:298; 3 credits)
  • Social Foundations in Urban Education (21:300:292; 3 credits)
  • History of Newark (21:512:203; 3 credits)
  • Health Disparities: Implications in Urban Communities (21:300:301; 3 credits)
  • Urban Sociology (21:920:321; 3 credits)


*Counts toward Core Curriculum— Other Liberal Arts

All current and interested students must meet with the program coordinator Dr. Lauren Shallish in the Urban Education Department at Rutgers Newark in order to declare the minor and progress in the program. Please note this minor does not lead to teacher certification.

People with disabilities represent the largest minoritized group in the U.S.  Knowledge of disability, accessibility, and inclusion are essential to a number of careers and graduate programs and the advancement of a more equitable and just society.

If you are pursuing a career in medicine, social work, or human services a minor in disability studies provides critical understanding of the cultural and linguistic traditions associated with disabled and D/deaf identities.  This is essential for supporting the education and well-being of children, adults and families.

For students pursuing a career in the humanities, social sciences, journalism, and law the minor provides specialization in disability policy, law, and advocacy.  You will study the sociology of disability, civil rights statues, and educational entitlement laws as they apply to students, families, and public institutions.  The minor provides an understanding the environmental, social, legal, and health-related impacts on the lives of people with disabilities, their families, and community-based services with particular attention paid to the local context of Newark.

The Declaration or Change of Major/Minor Form must be completed and submitted to Dr. Lauren Shallish (Lauren.Shallish@rutgers.edu) in the Urban Education Department.  A meeting must also be arranged to discuss your plan of study and related interests.


Learn more from the Society of Disability Studies:

“Disability studies is a growing academic discipline that examines disability — as both a physical or psychological impairment and a social, cultural, interpersonal, and political phenomenon — and the lived experience of people who identify with it.” 


View of students walking on campus