A promotion poster titled 'Breaking Boundaries' developed for the Disability Studies Minor program with LGBTQ and disability rights activist, Annie Elainey, wearing a shirt that reads "The future is accessible." Poster provided by CSUN Disability Studies.
A promotion poster titled ‘Breaking Boundaries’ developed for the Disability Studies Minor program with LGBTQ and disability rights activist, Annie Elainey, wearing a shirt that reads “The future is accessible.” Poster provided by CSUN Disability Studies.

California State University, Northridge has launched the first disability studies minor in the CSU system, with the first students being admitted to the program in fall 2024.

 “CSUN has the largest population of self-identifying disabled students in the system,” said Jeffrey Reeder, dean in CSUN’s College of Humanities, where the program will be housed. “Additionally, our university is known for a strong tradition of advocacy and scholarly inquiry research into identity, standing as fourth in the nation in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in fields of ethnic studies, cultural studies, identity studies and gender studies.” 

The newly developed minor in disability studies is an 18-unit program made up of three core classes and three electives drawn from more than 20 departments across the university. Many of the courses available to the students will also count for general education credit.  

“Part of the work of the minor and, perhaps this is the earliest work that we must do, is to educate our students, faculty, and administration on the sociocultural history and multiplicity of meanings bound up in the disability identity,” said CSUN English professor Leilani Hall, director of the new program. “Disability Studies examines the social, cultural, historical, and political structures that inform disability. From a humanities perspective, of course, this means that we are interested in the lived experience of individuals with disabilities — studying disability as a social construct rather than a confining medical diagnosis.  

“Furthermore, because disability is an identity which one may acquire at any point in life — whether at birth or later by disease, accident, or advanced age — it is the largest minority in the world, an identity which intersects with any other identity marker, such as race, gender, sexuality, or class,” she continued. “This is what makes disability studies so very necessary to the academy. We need to prepare graduates who are excited to build a more inclusive world.” 

Reeder said the program, as a minor, serves as a “well-suited” supplementary program to a variety of major programs the university has to offer.  

“I expect it to touch every and all aspects of campus,” he said. “We would love for a student to come to CSUN for whatever they’re interested in – for example, the construction management degree program – and then if they have an interest in making the most of their degree and having a big impact on the world in the future – to also minor in disability studies. Then taking their knowledge and applying it to their work in a way that could be meaningful.” 

Hall said that she hopes students who minor in disability studies will leave the university with the knowledge and tools to effect change in the workplace and their communities.  

“I’m talking about the benefits of an interdisciplinary minor that is built on personal interests and personal career choices,” she said. “But I’m also talking about the very real benefit of changing how we understand and treat those with a disability in the workplace and community. This is the kind of change that needs to happen everywhere. Inclusion is for everyone. “ 

Hall acknowledged the work of several CSUN professors who contributed to the development of the program, including retired special education professor Beth Lasky; philosophy professor Johnathan Flowers; English professor Charles Hatfield, who teaches a course on disability in literature and culture; special education professor Ellen Stohl and communication studies professor Kelly Opdycke, who both teach “Introduction to Disability Studies.” 

To learn more about the minor and the CSUN program visit, https://www.csun.edu/humanities/disability-studies.


Media Contact: kaley.block.788@my.csun.edu or Carmen Ramos Chandler carmen.chandler@csun.edu (818) 677-2130

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