April 27, 2004

Disability Studies

Senior and disabled travelers are among the first to come to mind as beneficiaries of universal design. These two large market segments have differing needs, differing self-understandings - sometimes even when they overlap.

Research on seniors as consumers is more plentiful than similar information on consumers with disabilities. But the gap will continue to close as universal design thinking continues to influence the travel industry drawing more of this demographic into the market.

The academic fields researching both groups -- gerontology or Aging Studies and Disabillity Studies -- have a part to play in guiding the industry. What is the scope of the newer field, Disability Studies?

From a 1996 article by Diane N. Bryen and Sieglinde Shapiro:

Disability Studies is different from the more traditional course work on disabilities offered to future disability service providers, such as rehabilitation counselors or special education teachers.

  • First, the paradigm for viewing disabilities is quite different. It considers disability as a natural part of the human condition rather than a defect or impairment that needs fixing.
  • Second, the focus of "intervention" is paradigmatically different -- "fixing" systems so that they are accessible to and usable by people with disabilities rather than fixing people so that they can better fit into existing systems.
  • Third, stakeholders or audiences are different. They include engineers, business people, journalists, lawyers and policy makers not just teachers, doctors and social workers.
  • Fourth, teachers and researchers continue to be the "experts." However, "experts" are expanded to include people with disabilities themselves rather than solely professionals who may know about the various medical and educational conditions that have historically defined disabilities.
  • Finally, the outcomes of Disabilities Studies are different. They include an understanding of history, politics, economics and civil rights, not just an understanding of diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
  • Source:

    Posted by rollingrains at April 27, 2004 03:02 AM | TrackBack