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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Disability Theory: Home

This guide will provide information about the major models of disability theory.


Disability studies is a field that attempts to define, understand, and research disability and its role in society and for the individual. The SAGE Key Concepts series: Key Concepts in Learning Disabilities, Disability Studies entry, reflects that "defining disability is exceptionally difficult, particularly given its diverse nature, the impact on individuals’ lives, and the degree of acceptance within families, the community and society." Disability can be experience throughout a person's life or can develop later in life. Disability theorists have explored many different models to define and understand disability.

This guide introduces the major models of disability theory from the past and today:

  1. Medical Model/Rehabilitative Model
  2. Social/Independent Living Model

Recommended Books on Disability Studies

Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library

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