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Disability Studies

In 2021, Rutgers-Newark founded the first disability studies program at Rutgers University.  We are a community for and by people who are system-impacted and those who identify or are targeted as disabled.  


We are the first program of its kind at Rutgers University and one of only a few in the nation.  We recognize disability as important lens for understanding and a means to create spaces and communities that serve all people equitably, including those who identify or are targeted as disabled, system-impacted, d/Deaf, neurodivergent, hearing, cognitively, or physically impaired, substance-exposed, recipients and survivors of psychiatric services, or chronically-ill.  

  • Disability studies understands dis/ability and impairment as an essential component of the human experience, troubling outcome of power, and important feature of coalition building.  

    There are two required courses for the minor:

    1. Disability Studies (21:988:306/21:300:306; 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. Pick one: Inclusive and Social Justice Pedagogies (21:300:230; 3 credits)* OR Educational Planning for Dually Exceptional Students (21:300:298; 3 credits)*

    This course introduces students to a critical, interdisciplinary analysis of inclusive (special) education in American schooling K-16, broadly conceived.  Students will review topical issues in schools including special education classification, suspension and expulsion policies, bilingual/bicultural education, restorative justice, post-secondary transition, and participatory (universal) design for learning.  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 aspirational, 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)*
    • Youth Advocacy, Race, and Resistance in the Media (21:300:240; 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)
    • Universal Design for Learning (Currently under review)
    • Inequality (21:920:324; 3 credits)
    • Human Diversity (21:910:345; 3 credits)*
    • Language and Culture (21:300:491; 3 credits)
    • Bilingual/Bicultural Education (21:300:490; 3 credits)
    • Education and Social Change Among the Black Diaspora (21:300:358/21:014:364; 3 credits)*
    • Radical Teaching: Voices of Youth Truth (21:300:190; 3 credits)
    • History of African American Education (21:300:180/21:014:180; 3 credits)*


    *Counts toward General Education— 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.


    Major/Minor Declaration Form

    Affiliated Faculty include:

    • Dr. Takashi Amano, Social Work
    • Dr. LaChan Hannon, Urban Education
    • Dr. Alison Howell, Political Science
    • Dr. Kyle Riismandel, American Studies
    • Dr. Lauren Shallish, Urban Education
    • Dr. Jack Tchen, Faculty & Director of the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience
    • Dr. Diane Wong, Political Science
  • People with disabilities represent the largest minoritized group and system-impacted individuals comprise nearly 70 million people in the U.S.  Knowledge of disability, accessibility, decarceration, and inclusion is essential for any career path or graduate program 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 socio-cultural and communicative traditions associated with disabled, neurodivergent, and D/deaf identities.  This is essential for supporting the education and well-being of all 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 statutes, 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.

    A graduate studies certificate in Disability Studies will be available in 2024.

  • A minor in disability studies will significantly support your academic and career aspirations.  Many of our courses count toward the required General Education curriculum.  We also accept a significant number of transfer courses from partnering community colleges.  To explore the course and career options please contact