Disability Studies at Hofstra University is an undergraduate program – available as a minor – that explores the complex phenomenon of disability from multiple disciplinary and interdisciplinary angles. Disability Studies may help prepare students for careers in medicine, social work, public service, and teaching, in which they are likely to deal with disabled persons; it also educates students about the way in which disability affects all citizens as it impinges on issues of broad public concern – such as abortion, capital punishment, genetics and eugenics, euthanasia, health care and health insurance, and welfare. Hence, the Disability Studies program seeks to equip students to develop informed positions on these matters.
Why Disability Studies at Hofstra?
Hofstra University has a long tradition of understanding and cultivating a culture that champions the rights of people with disabilities. Dr. Harold E. Yuker, a former provost and dean of faculties from 1973-1982, was a leading authority on attitudes toward the disabled during his illustrious academic career. In 1981 Hofstra was publicly acclaimed as the first private university in the United States to achieve the goal of making all of the University’s programs and activities architecturally barrier-free. What had begun as a resolution adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1963 became part of campus life as each new building was and is designed to accommodate those with physical disabilities. The late Dr. Frank Bowe, who served on the faculty of Hofstra’s School of Education from 1989-2007, served as executive director of the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities from 1976 to 1981. He provided crucial direction during the nationwide sit-in regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1977, the world’s first civil-rights provision for persons with disabilities, which eventually led to the American Disabilities Act, passed in 1990.
Hofstra University’s Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library has been designated by the Long Island Library Resources Council as an “area library” for disability studies. The Disability Studies program was initiated in 2003 Dr. G. Thomas Couser, professor emeritus of English, making Hofstra one of a small number of universities nationwide to have an undergraduate program in this rapidly growing field.