The University of Otago's first disabilities studies
paper is being offered at the university's latest annual summer
Dr Gill Rutherford, a senior lecturer in education and
disability studies at the university College of Education,
said some other Otago papers might include some
disability-related content, but this was the first to focus
specifically on disability studies.
Eighteen students had opted for the introductory paper and it
was ''exciting'' to see them working together with a wide
range of experience and academic backgrounds, including law,
social work, physical education, arts, science and politics.
Disability studies was a ''relatively recent academic
discipline'' that had been initiated and led by disabled
activists, advocates, and researchers internationally, she
said in an interview.
Summer school director Dr Elaine Webster and other Otago
staff had been ''very supportive'' of the development of the
paper and its inclusion in the school.
It was a ''great opportunity'' to bring students together to
develop ''different ways of knowing disability'' by focusing
on ''the experiences, rights and leadership of disabled
people''. Traditionally, disability had been understood
largely in medical/clinical terms but disability studies
interpreted disability within a ''social justice framework''.
It had been ''great'' to get this paper going, and she hoped
to build on this to enable students to eventually pursue
their interest in disability studies throughout their degrees
and in postgraduate study.
There had also been many requests for online delivery of the
paper, and she hoped this could be developed in future.
A long-term aim was to ''work towards the development of some
kind of a multidisciplinary centre for Disability Studies
research and teaching'', at Otago University, she said.
Dr Tom Shakespeare, a Geneva-based disability rights
advocate, is contributing to the paper through teleconference
presentations from Switzerland.