IHD's Disability Studies Minor: Changing Perceptions, Encouraging Advocacy (AZ UCEDD)

April 5, 2019

Disability Studies Minor Leaders, Katherine Mahosky and Matthew Wangerman at the 2017 Diversity Banquet with recipients of the Leadership Award Kaitlyn Roy (right) and Desiree Bruno (left).
Disability Studies Minor Leaders, Katherine Mahosky and Matthew Wangerman at the 2017 Diversity Banquet with recipients of the Leadership Award Kaitlyn Roy (right) and Desiree Bruno (left).

The Institute for Human Development's Disability Studies Minor challenges its students to rethink their attitudes toward people with disabilities. Its goal is to encourage students to realize that people with disabilities represent a minority group, one that has historically been marginalized, but that is, in fact, the single largest minority group in our increasingly diverse society.

Since 2010, the program has attracted a wide cross-section of students from across a multitude of academic fields, and has sought to make a profound difference in their thinking. One goal of the program is to turn them into future advocates and thought leaders in the arena of disability rights.

Many of the programs graduates describe their experiences in the program as deeply meaningful. One such student is Kaitlyn Roy, who graduated with the minor in 2017. Recently she wrote to Thomas Uno, Associate Director of IHD, "The Disability Studies program at NAU has helped me become an advocate for change in the disability rights movement and see all people as an individual, regardless of their abilities." Kaitlyn goes on to state "Participating in the Disability Studies minor helped me to develop a stronger understanding of what it means to have a disability in a world that has historically been unaccepting of, and inaccessible to, people with disabilities. The Disability Studies Minor connected me with like-minded students, faculty and community member who share my interest in reshaping the negative stigma around disability. I graduated with the minor...and have since joined the disability studies community at my new university, the University of Oregon...The biggest takeaway from the Disability Studies Minor is that it is not the diagnosis that disables a person, it is society that's the disabler."

In addition to the Disability Studies Minor, IHD is home to a wide range of interdisciplinary programs whose efforts collectively support its mission of facilitating on-going improvements in access, attitude and inclusion for people with disabilities. The Institute, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is one of the nation's premier centers focused on advancing vision that foresees a nation in which all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, participate fully in all life experiences. IHD is a dynamic, multi-faceted environment staffed with faculty and professionals representing a range of human service disciplines and offering a broad spectrum of resources and programs for both students and members of the community -- all aimed at advancing its vision of an inclusive society. Some of IHD's programs provide direct services to the community; other IHD programs, however, focus on a number of research initiatives, training and academic programs, and/or information dissemination about disability-related topics.

For more information about the Disability Studies Minor, contact Katherine Mahosky, Ed.D, CCC-SLP at Katherine.Mahosky@nau.edu, or Matthew Wangeman, MCP at Matthew.Wangeman@nau.edu.