Exploring the “disability angle”

Arlene Kanter, a Syracuse University College of Law professor, examines in a new paper the emerging field of disability legal studies and its revolutionary role in viewing disability as primarily a social construct.

“(Disability Studies) rejects the view that disability is solely a medical problem or a personal tragedy,” Kanter states. “Instead, Disability Studies place the responsibility on reexamining and repositioning the place of disability within society not on the individual, but on society itself.”

Reflecting on the invisibility of disabilities in discussions of diversity and legal scholarship, Kanter encourages law professors to look for the ‘disability angle’ in courses at all stages of the law school experience.  By studying disability issues, Kanter argues all law students would gain a new understanding of power, privilege and participation in society, as well as how the law can both perpetrate hierarchies and break down social barriers.  She argue that this multidisciplinary approach to disability studies would expand views on how laws can perpetuate biases that restrict rights relating to an individual’s property, living arrangements and body.

“Disability Studies infuses into the legal academy a perspective of those who are routinely made invisible and marginalized, just as feminist legal studies, and critical race theory did before it for other groups,” Kanter states. “Disability Studies help us to see disability as part of the human experience and to understand the law, and society, in general, views difference as a deviation from an ‘unstated norm.”