Autism & Representation

What Is Disability Studies?
Until recent years, research on disability was usually consigned to the clinical
or practical fields, which employ a “deficit” or “medical” model that
represents disability as an individual problem or impairment to be cured or
at least mitigated (Linton, Claiming 85). These disciplines pay little attention
to the social and political contexts—constructed discourses of normality,
for example—through which disabilities are molded and measured. Not
only was the “voice of the disabled subject” (Linton 87) usually missing
from this scholarship, but often the disability itself existed only as a symptom
or ghost, in that the object of research was to abolish or at least render
insignificant the disability being portrayed. In contrast, disability studies,
as defined by James Wilson and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson, “sets aside the
. . . medical model of disability as an accidental disease, trauma, deficit, or
defect, . . . extending the insights of feminist, postmodern, and postcolonial
theory and social and rhetorical studies to . . . analyze disability as a sociopolitical

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