Disability Culture

DRC Disability Culture Advisory Committee

In fall of 2012, the Disability Resource Center (DRC) became one of the six Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change (CCUSC) under the Office of Diversity at UIC. The other Centers are the African American Cultural Center, Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, Gender and Sexuality Center, the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center, and the Women’s Leadership and Resource Center. The collective purpose of the Centers is to expand understanding of the value of cultural diversity and connect diverse assets to find creative solutions for common challenges.

The DRC created a Disability Culture Advisory Committee (DCAC) in Spring of 2013 to help promote the construction and planning of disability-centric curriculum and culture on campus. The Committee will offer social, cultural and educational programming to advance understanding of and engagement with the breadth of issues connected to the experiences and identities of disabled people. We recognize and will consider in our program development that identity is multi-dimensional, involving the intersections of disability, race, class, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation, and geographic location, among other influences.

Carol Gill, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Disability and Human Development at UIC, describes the core values of disability culture as including:
“an acceptance of human differences, an acceptance of human vulnerability and interdependence, a tolerance for lack of resolution of the unpredictable in life and a humor to laugh at the oppressor or situation, however dire.” (independentliving.org)
Further, Gill explains that:
“The elements of [disability] culture include, certainly, our longstanding social oppression, but also our emerging art and humor, our piecing together of our history, our evolving language and symbols, our remarkably unified world view, beliefs and values, and our strategies for surviving and thriving.” (independentliving.org)
Together, the DRC and DCAC seek to promote disability culture throughout the UIC campus. Disability culture builds upon the social/minority model of disability, which, in contrast to the medical/individual model, posits that people with impairments are disabled by inaccessible social, cultural, political, and economic environments. Further, this model views the exclusion that disabled people face as being similar to that of other minority groups, that is-resulting from discriminatory policies and attitudes, rather than the natural outgrowth of one’s ability status.
Disability culture refers to the community that is intentionally created when diverse disabled people come together to affirm the community’s varied experiences that nevertheless often result in shared values. Subverting traditional tropes of disability and cultivating pride in the unique perspectives associated with having a physical, sensory or mental difference are foremost among the goals of disability culture.


Roxana Stupp
Director, DRC

Carrie Sandahl
Associate Professor, Dept. of Disability and Human Development

Aly Patsavas
Graduate Student, Dept. of Disability and Human Development

Sandy Sufian
Associate Professor, Dept. of Disability and Human Development, Dept. of Medical Education

Cheryl Zachariah
Graduate Student, Dept. of Disability and Human Development

Charu Thakral
Associate Director, Office of Diversity

Sandi Hall
Co-Director, LAS Academic Advising Center

Liz Thomson
Graduate Student, Dept. of Disability and Human Development

Mansha Mirza
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Occupational Therapy

Carol Gill
Associate Professor, Dept. of Disability and Human Development

Terri Thrower
Graduate Student, Dept. of Disability and Human Development

Ancel Montenelli
Technical Assistant Specialist, ADA Great Lakes Center

Lennard Davis
Professor, Dept. of Disability and Human Development and Dept. of English

Kathy Priessner
Clinical Associate Professor, Dept. of Occupational Therapy

Federico Waitoller
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Special Education

Robert Johnston
Associate Professor, Dept. of History

Francesca Gaiba
Associate Director for Research, Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy

Therese Quinn
Associate Professor, Dept. of Art History