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Disabilities Awareness and Resources

This guide has been created to explore the social and cultural aspects of disability and to promote understanding of the disability perspective.

Introduction: What is Disabilities Studies?

Most people think of disability as a medical issue − the kind of thing studied by doctors, rehabilitation specialists, and healthcare providers. But thinking about disability in purely medical terms misses so much of what is interesting about disability and what is important to the lives of disabled people. Interest in disabilities grew out of the disability rights movement in the late twentieth century. Scholars in the field are committed to exploring the social, political, and cultural aspects of disability and how people live, work and thrive with one. By bringing together researchers from the humanities, social sciences, education, and beyond, we can learn about disability’s complexity and mutability. In doing so, we emphasize the importance of seeing disability, not as a problem or tragedy, but as an integral aspect of human diversity. 

UVA College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Disability Studies

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life -- to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

The ADA is divided into five titles:

  • Employment (Title I) ...
  • Public Services (Title II) ...
  • Public Accommodations (Title III) ...
  • Telecommunications (Title IV) ...
  • Miscellaneous (Title V)

The purpose of the ADA is "to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities ... the Nation's proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals." The ADA also is intended to reduce federal payments for social security income and other federal tax-funded disability programs.

Information and Technical Assistance on the ADA

The disability community’s diversity can be confusing, but it’s not incomprehensible. We just need to dig a bit deeper to understand some of the most important differences in experience and thinking among people with disabilities, Here are four worth exploring ...

1. Types of disability

The most obvious differences are between different types of disability. We can think of them in terms of broad categories, like physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health, and learning disabilities. Or we can focus on specific diagnoses, like spinal cord injury, Cerebral Palsy, and chronic pain ... Down Syndrome and traumatic brain injury ... blindness and deafness of varying degrees ... depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, or dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. Each comes with its own constellation of  accompanying strengths and impairments. Each category and specifc type of disability also comes with different ableist stereotypes and intensities of discrimination. The specific types of disabilities we have powerfully shape how we understand and respond to disability, how we view our place in society, and how we relate to our fellow disabled people. While we all share much in common, the real and perceived differences in perspective and experience can’t be wished away.

2. Personal histories

Another important difference among disabled people is how long each has actually had their disabilities, how they became disabled, and how their thinking about disability has evolved. Some of us are born with our disabilities, or have had them from early childhood. Others acquire our disabilities later in life, from illness, accident, or aging. Unlike almost any other “minority” culture, disabled people are both born and made. Each experience brings with it a different sense of loss and identity, shame and pride, pessimism and hope.

3. Overlapping identities and experiences

Disabled people’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, economic and social class, education, and religion and fundamental values also affect how we experience and process our disabilities. Despite wrangling and definition-slicing over “intersectionality,” “appropriation,” and “privilege,” it’s actually pretty obvious that disability overlaps with other social identities and experiences, and that disabled people who are also, for instance, Black, LGBTQ+, or poor, experience multiple layers of stigma and discrimination that others may not.

4. Paradigms and disciplines

On top of all these practical and personal differences, each disabled person’s understanding of disability is shaped by their fundamental philosophy of disability, and drawn to one or more of a wide variety of disability-related topics areas, modes of thinking, and activity. The most commonly-cited difference in disability thinking is between the "Medical" and "Social" models of disability. Roughly speaking, the Medical Model focuses on disability as a medical experience, a set of impairments to be treated, with the goal being something as close as possible to “normal” functioning. The Social Model views disability as primarily a matter of combating discrimination, ensuring equal access, and making sure disabled people have practical supports to sustain independence and live lives on their own terms. In general, the Medical Model places responsibility for improvement on the disabled individual and their personal efforts, while the Social Model emphasizes collective action and social responsibility to make society better and more accepting of disabled people, both individually and as a group.

Forbes, "4 Ways to Understand the Diversity of the Disability Community" Andrew Pulrang, Contributor


In 2020, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, down from 19.3 percent in 2019.

For persons without a disability, 61.8 percent were employed in 2020, down from 66.3 percent in the prior year.

The unemployment rates for persons with and without a disability both increased from 2019 to 2020, to 12.6 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively. Data on both groups for 2020 reflect the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it.

Highlights from the 2020 data:

  --Half of all persons with a disability were age 65 and over, about three times larger than the share for those with no disability.

  --Across all age groups, persons with disabilities were much less likely to be employed than those with no disabilities.

  --Across all educational attainment groups, unemployment rates for persons with a disability were higher than those for persons without a disability.

  --In 2020, 29 percent of workers with a disability were employed part time, compared with 16 percent for those with no disability.

  --Employed persons with a disability were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability.

Demographic characteristics

Persons with a disability tend to be older than persons with no disability, reflecting the increased incidence of disability with age. In 2020, half of persons with a disability were age 65 and older, compared with 17 percent of those with no disability. Overall, women were somewhat more likely to have a disability than men, partly reflecting the greater life expectancy of women. In 2020, the prevalence of disability continued to be higher for Blacks and Whites than for Hispanics and Asians.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Central Community College is proud to be an educational institution that welcomes and supports all of our student body. By removing some of the barriers to education that students with disabilities often experience, we hope to create a learning environment that encourages and challenges our students.

Students with disabilities who meet the academic and technical standards for participation are eligible to request reasonable accommodations to achieve equal access. Qualified students are accommodated when they disclose their disabilities and request accommodations. The disability support services staff at CCC is committed to providing access for students with disabilities.

All Central Community College activities, organizations, courses and academic and technical programs are open to all students. College facilities, as a whole, are accessible to persons with physical disabilities via ramps, automatic entrances and elevators. Accessible restroom facilities, parking spaces and water fountains are also available.

Who to Contact:

Columbus Campus

CoLynn Paprocki

Grand Island Campus

Kim Ottman

Hastings Campus

Michelle Lubken