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On Disability

It's the rallying cry of disabled people conducting research on disabilities: "Nothing About Us, Without Us." It's meaning is simple: the disabled must be part of any discussion about their well-being.

That perspective was also the focal point for "Toward Inclusive Social Research: Disability Studies Perspectives," a gathering of disability experts and policymakers who convened in early December as part of the Columbia University Faculty Seminar on Disability Studies.

Simply establishing an accurate understanding of the dimensions of disability in America is critically important, argued TC Professor Kim Reid, who co-chairs the group with New York University researcher and Columbia alumna Simi Linton. "We have to know how many people are out there," Reid said. "There are more disabled people than minority people in the U.S., but while we're all aware of Latinos, we seldom even think about disabled people."

What is clear, Reid says, is that when it comes to responding to the needs of people with disabilities, America "really isn't doing much better" than in past decades. Statistics indicate that people with disabilities are not being hired in greater numbers. Beyond that, Reid said, "it really is important to have disabled people in the conversation about how these data are collected and how they are used. And they're missing."

Other experts featured at the seminar included Andrew Houtenville, Director of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics at Cornell University;  Janice Ballou, from Mathematica Policy Research; Marjorie F. Goldstein, Principal Investigator at the Insititute for AIDS Research at the National Development and Research Institutes; and moderator Matthew Sapolin, Executive Director of New York City's Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities.

The seminar, now in its third year, usually meets once a month. The next meeting, on March 6th, will focus on bioethics and feature researcher Adrian Ashe. DVDs of all presentations are available in Butler Library.

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