UT, Ability Center to celebrate relationship, commit to strengthening Disability Studies Program

September 23, 2011 | Events, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham

When The University of Toledo and Ability Center of Greater Toledo worked together to create the Disability Studies Program 10 years ago, it was the first program of its type in Ohio.

In the decade since, the partnership between the organizations has benefited disability studies research and education in northwest Ohio and has helped to expand the discipline of disability studies.

UT and the Ability Center will reaffirm their relationship and announce future plans to strengthen disability studies at a reception at 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, in the Driscoll Alumni Center Schmakel Room on Main Campus.

“We are reaffirming our collaborative relationship and working to build the Disability Studies Program into an internationally recognized model for teaching and studying disability culture,” said Dr. Jim Ferris, the Ability Center of Greater Toledo Endowed Chair in Disability Studies. “We are working to develop the first disability studies undergraduate major in the U.S.”

“The groundbreaking partnership with the Ability Center is crucial to our efforts to improve how society thinks about and responds to the range of human circumstances that we call ‘disability,’” added Ferris, who also is an associate professor of communication and director of the Disability Studies Program. “The ultimate goal of disability studies is not just to make the world better for people with disabilities, but for all of us. We all have capabilities as well as limitations, creativity as well as vulnerability. And we all deserve the opportunity to participate in our communities and in society as a whole.”

A strategic framework has been established to move the partnership forward in the next five years. There are plans to add more faculty to the Disability Studies Program in the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences, create an undergraduate major in disability studies, and move toward establishing a School of Disability and the Human Condition.

The Ability Center gave $1.9 million in November 2001 to establish the endowed chair in disability studies. The minor in disability studies was approved the next year and the concentration in the Law and Social Thought Program was approved in 2003.

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