Another area of philosophical study that is often overlooked in disability studies, specifically critical disability studies. These theories deal with marginalized folk due to their disabilities, which come in a variety of manners and are particular to each individual. However, it’s crucial to consider disability in terms of other areas of violence as well, such as racism and gender, an aspect we will explore a little later.

To begin, Fiona Kumari Campbell defines ableism as “a network of ‘beliefs processes and practices that produces a particular kind of Self and body (the corporeal standard) that is projected as the perfect, species-typical and therefore essential and fully human. Disability then is cast as a diminished state of being human’”. Thus, critical disability studies will attempt to grapple with the nature of ableism and how it comes to materialize itself in institutions and everyday interactions alike.

What is critical disability studies? As Helen Meekosha and Russell Shuttleworth describe, critical disability studies is “a socio-political lens that explores the dominant principles and creed of power, privilege and cultural construction of the advantaged and disadvantaged in relation to disability. More specifically, it provides an examination of the social, political, cultural and economic factors that characterize disability as a function of the personal and collective response to difference.” Therefore, we see critical disability studies as a manner to analyze the way in which disability affects differential bodies in a variety of manners that isn’t solely attributed to ableism. For example, Black disabled and Latinx disabled people experience ableism in different ways based on the nature of race as well.

Under critical disability studies, thinkers are tasked with inventing new modes of social justice work, including working in solidarity for the purposes of liberation with people devalued as disabled, even if they don’t necessarily identify in that manner. Overall, critical disability theory is committed to praxis and inquiry that involve “in-depth analysis of the structural and as-yet incompletely understood psychic underpinnings of oppression” (Madeline Burghardt 2011).