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Disability-related Courses

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Intro to Disability Studies: Disability and Technology. Roanne Kantor. Tu/Th 1:30 PM - 3:20 PM. For almost as long as humans have been using tools, we have been using technology to accommodate disability. For this reason, we often imagine technology as the utopian horizon to disabled life: cutting edge prosthetics, more inclusive spaces, less pain, and a longer life. But there is a dark side, too, a history in which technological advancements have created impairments and been used to justify the social exclusion of people with disabilities. IN this class, we engage these questions through the literary writing of Octavia Butler, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ricardo Piglia, and many others, as well as critical texts that expand our understanding of the issues at stake.

Below are disability-related courses and/or courses with disability-related content taught at Stanford. Please consult the course catalog for additional information on availability and course requirements.

  • Introduction to Disability Studies and Disability Rights

    One in every five Americans has some kind of disability according to the Census Bureau, making this group the largest minority in America. Disability Studies is a relatively new interdisciplinary academic field that examines disability as a social, cultural and political phenomenon. Disability is an elusive, complex and fluid concept that encompasses a range of bodily, cognitive and sensory differences and abilities. It is produced as much by environmental and social factors as it is by bodily functions and pathology. This is an introductory course to the field of disability studies and it aims to investigate the complex concept of disability through a variety of prisms and disciplines including social psychology, the humanities, legal studies and media studies. This course also focuses on the multiple connections between the study of disability and other identities including class, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, and also includes a comparative look at how disability is treated across cultures. Some of the topics covered in the class are disability and the family, the history of the disability rights movement, the development of disability identity and its intersectionality, anti-discrimination law, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, bioethical dilemmas pertaining to disability and more.

  • Beyond Health Care: the effects of social policies on health

    Available evidence at the national and cross-country level linking social welfare interventions and health outcomes. If and how non-health programs and policies could have an impact on positive health outcomes. Evaluation of social programs and policies that buffer the negative health impact of economic instability and unemployment among adult workers and their children. Examination of safety nets, including public health insurance, income maintenance programs, and disability insurance.

  • Body Politics

    This weekly course facilitates conversations on issues of the body across a wide spectrum of contemporary experiences, controversies, and contexts. Informed by gender studies, critical race theory, and feminist theory, we will explore current events related to radicalized violence, size liberation, reproductive rights, HIV criminalization, rape culture, disability, transgender rights, and health and fitness.

  • Brain Training: Hype or Help?

    Focuses on primary literature to evaluate evidence supporting claims that concerted practice can lead to improvements in capacities such as working memory, speed of processing and IQ. Looks across lifespan from childhood and remediation of learning disabilities to elderly individuals and the potential for brain training to delay onset of dementia. Examines new research into brain training as treatment for psychiatric disorders, as well as neuroscience behind learning and memory. Considers ethical implications of these programs. Students participate in brain training and track and analyze progress.

  • Caring for Individuals with Disabilities

    Over 57 million individuals in the US (20%) have a disability and face significant healthcare disparities, stigmas, and difficulty accessing care. This interactive seminar course has been designed to better prepare MD and PA students to care for individuals with disabilities throughout their careers. Throughout the course, individuals with disabilities, caregivers and physicians will discuss a variety of topics including: disability framework, medical model vs. social model of disability, healthcare disparities, language and disability, communication, ethics, government and non-governmental services, laws and policies, and coordinating complex care. Students will be matched with a patient partner whom they meet outside of class at a mutually convenient time to learn about the patient and caregiver journey, and to further explore the impact of topics discussed in the course at the individual level. Upon finishing this course, students will have a fundamental knowledge of common disabilities, understand patient-centered care for people with disabilities, and foster skills necessary to improve the lives of their patients.

  • Civil Rights Law

    This course analyzes the major civil rights laws that Congress has enacted since the 1960s, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act, the Public Accommodations ACt, the AGe Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The course provides an in-depth study of the statutory language of each of these laws, examines how courts have interpreted the statutes, and explores the policy arguments in favor and against such laws. The course also reviews the history context surrounding the enactment of these statutes, including an examination of the civil rights movement as a political and social force.

  • Cognition in Interaction Design

    Interactive systems from the standpoint of human cognition. Topics include skill acquisition, complex learning, reasoning, language, perception, methods in usability testing, special computational techniques such as intelligent and adaptive interfaces, and design for people with cognitive disabilities. Students conduct analyses of real world problems of their own choosing and redesign/analyze a project of an interactive system. Limited enrollment seminar taught in two sections of approximately ten students each. Admission to the course is by application to the instructor, with preference given to Symbolic Systems students of advanced standing. Recommended: a course in cognitive psychology or cognitive anthropology.

  • Contemporary Topics in Feminist & Queer Theories

    Introduction to the points of overlap and departure in the development of feminist and queer theories. Interdisciplinary perspectives on gender and sexuality in relation to current discussions of race, class, ethnicity, citizenship, and ability. Topics include the production of femininity and masculinity, human-animal divisions, transgender subjectivities, diasporic sexualities, disability and sexuality, same-sex marriage. Course materials include theoretical texts as well as film, visual art, and literature. Preference to Feminist Studies majors.

  • Current Topics in Exoskeleton and Prosthesis Research

    This discussion-based course introduces graduate students to current topics in prosthetic limb and exoskeleton research. We will review and discuss landmark studies and recent advances using the published literature. Topics include: clinical presentations of persons with disabilities; commercially available devices and their limitations; the design of advanced assistive devices; algorithmic techniques for patient-specific device optimization; state of the art in hardware, sensing and control of assistive devices; and assessment of device efficacy using biomechanical and psychophysical measurements. Students will analyze and discuss the literature and give presentations on research papers.

  • Dare to Care: Compassionate Design

    In Compassionate Design, students from any prospective major are invited to explore the engineering design process by examining the needs of persons with disabilities. Through invited guests, students will have the opportunity to directly engage people with different types of disabilities as a foundation to design products that address problems of motion and mobility, vision, speech and hearing. For example, in class, students will interview people who are deaf, blind, have cerebral palsy, or other disabling conditions. You can read more about this course here.

  • Defining Discrimination

    Federal, state and local laws prohibit discrimination based on many grounds such as race, sex, religion, national origin and disability. But the operative term, "discrimination," is typically quite vaguely defined in statutory language. As a consequence, courts and legal analysts have developed a number of theories of discrimination. These theories can be inconsistent with each other and with popular definitions of discrimination; for instance, some laws forbidding "discrimination" forbid differential treatment, some permit it under limited circumstances and some require it. Discrimination may or not require a specific mental state ("discriminatory intent") or specific consequences ("discriminatory effect" or "disparate impact"). Arguably, "discrimination" is, in practice, as much a question of values and norms as it is a matter of fact. This class will explore the concept of discrimination in case law, philosophy and legal theory.

  • Designing for Accessibility

    Designing for accessibility is a valuable and important skill in the UX community. As businesses are becoming more aware of the needs and scope of people with some form of disability, the benefits of universal design, where designing for accessibility ends up benefitting everyone, are becoming more apparent. This class introduces fundamental Human Computer Interaction (HCI) concepts and skills in designing for accessibility. Student projects will identify an accessibility need, prototype a design solution, and conduct a user study with a person with a disability.

  • Developmental Disabilities: From Biology to Policy

    This course will offer an introduction to different disabilities and how they affect the lives of individuals who have them as well as their network of family and friends. Knowledgeable individuals from Stanford and the surrounding community who have firsthand experience working with individuals with disabilities will be addressing these topics. Speakers will include interdisciplinary perspectives on disability ranging from individuals and parents to experts in law and education.

  • Disability, Gender, and Identity: Women's Personal Experiences

    This course explores visible and invisible disabilities, focusing on issues of gender and identity in the personal experiences of women. The course emphasizes psychological as well as physical health, the diversity of disability experiences, self-labeling, care-taking, stigma and passing, and social and political aspects. Disabilities covered include blindness, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, emotional and learning disabilities, and conditions requiring wheelchairs and other forms of assistance. The readings draw from the disability studies literature and emphasize women's personal narratives in sociological perspective.

  • Disability Law

    This is a survey course of disability rights law, with an emphasis on federal and state statutes and case law. Areas of concentration include employment, government services, public accommodations, education, housing, mental health treatment and involuntary commitment, and personal autonomy. We will review such statutes as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act (Sec. 504), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Fair Housing Act Amendments. The course examines disability from a civil and human rights perspective.

  • Disability Literature

    This course explores literary and filmic narratives about disability in the Global South. Authors including Edwidge Danticat, Bapsi Sidhwa, and Ricardo Padilla highlight the unique aesthetic potential of what Michael Davidson calls the defamiliar body and Ato Quayson describes as aesthetic nervousness. While engaging universal issues of disability stigma, they also emphasize the specific geopolitics of disability how people in the Global South face greater rates of impairment based on unequal exposure to embodied risk. The course particularly welcomes students with interests in fields of medicine, policy, or public health.

  • Diverse Perspectives on Disabilities

    This class investigates definitions and the complexities of life with a disability through discussion and panel based learning. Through student and parent panels, speakers, professors, and professionals in the field of disability, this class looks at the different perspectives and ways that disability interacts with the world. In addition to learning about the scientific, social and legal backgrounds students can also participate in a community volunteering project for an additional unit through Kids with Dreams or another community or student organization.

  • Folk, Outsider, Self-Taught

    This seminar will consider the subject of self-taught artists, who form a shadow history of American art. We will examine their work and reception by fine artists and institutions in the United States, looking specifically at how they aligned with, departed from, or helped define received art historical narratives. Special attention will be paid to issues of collecting and display, the shifting terms used to designate "self-taught," and theoretical and ethical concerns raised by the study of self-taught artists. Key themes will include theories of the archive, race, spirituality and enchantment, and disability. How might study of self-taught artists transform our understanding of canonical art historical movements? How does self-taught art challenge what it means to write about, research, and encounter objects in the world?

  • Healing, Illness, Stories

    This course focuses on multiple genres of narratives about illness and recovery: memoirs, graphic novels, poetry, fiction, essay, and documentary film. It asks what the power, if any, of narrative is in healing. Drawing upon the fields of literature and the practice of medicine, students will begin to grapple with the power of stories in illuminating the experience of illness and disability and in offering the possibilities for (self) transformation.

  • History of Civil Rights Law

    This course will focus on the statutory legal rules (primarily federal) governing discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, disability, and other protected classifications. With a rotation of instructors including and beyond Ford and Anderson, the course will include modules regarding: employment discrimination (including sexual harassment), fair housing law, voting rights, and disability law. Note: The course will be designed to minimize overlap with Ford's Employment Discrimination course, and thus students are welcome to take both.

  • Intermediate Writing: Being ____ at Stanford

    In this course, we will use two central methods autoethnography, which studies ourselves as participants in cultures; and institutional research, into the archives of Stanford to theorize ourselves as part of Stanford's past, present, and future. Paying special attention to our reading and writing practices, we will use autoethnographic writing prompts to better understand our own identities and experiences, and archival and ethnographic research to investigate specific institutions, events, or practices at Stanford. Ultimately, students will produce a major final project (20-25 pages, 6-10 audiovisual minutes, an installation) that integrates their autoethnographic findings (about you) with their institutional findings (about Stanford). This course is an opportunity to better understand yourself, your university, and the politics of language. Read more about this course here.

  • Justice

    Focus is on the ideal of a just society, and the place of liberty and equality in it, in light of contemporary theories of justice and political controversies. Topics include financing schools and elections, regulating markets, discriminating against people with disabilities, and enforcing sexual morality.

  • Live Better Longer: Enhancing Healthspan for Longer Lifespan

    Explore ideas and practices that extend healthspan, the number of years we live free of disease or disability. Translate scientific research around current healthspan theories and understand social behaviors and available technologies that support rather than degrade human health. Apply course material to enhance one's own ability to adapt and self-manage in the face of adversity for improved performance and health.

  • Monster Movies: Frankenstein & Film

    When Mary Shelley bid [her] hideous progeny go forth and prosper in the 1831 introduction to the revised edition of her novel, she could scarcely have imagined how successful her tale would be in reproducing itself. It is estimated that over 200 film adaptations of Frankenstein have been produced, spanning from Thomas Edison's 1910 single-reel silent film to digitally-enhanced CGI spectacles like Van Helsing (2004) and I, Frankenstein (2014). The films seldom fail to say something about the social settings in which they were produced, and quite often they comment reflexively on the medium of film itself. The monsters depicted can thus be interrogated in terms of the social-semiotic processes by which certain subjectivities and bodies are constituted as the normative ideals of humanity while others are excluded as aberrations. On the other hand, the films offer a register of the historically contingent relations between humans and their technologies not least among them, the relation of the spectator to the cinematic medium and apparatus. nIn this lecture-based course, we shall therefore investigate monstrosity on a number of levels: from the social level at which people are defined on the basis of gender, race, class, or disability in relation to privileged forms of embodiment and subjectivity, all the way up to the technological level at which human beings are arguably being reconfigured at present into cyborgs or human-technological hybrids. We will approach these and other questions by way of a selection of Frankenstein films, which we will view, read about, and discuss in detail. It will be important, though, that we not lose sight of the filmic nature of our texts; one objective of the course should therefore be a better understanding of the formal properties of the medium of film how things are depicted, not just what is thematized.

  • Narrating Queer Trauma

    Psychiatrist Dori Laub has argued that the process of narrating trauma is essential to the healing process. Not only is telling the story important, but it is also crucial to have someone else bear witness to the narrative. But how do people even begin to narrate stories of violence and pain, and how do we become good listeners? How are these stories told and heard in the specific context of queer world making? This course will explore narratives of trauma in queer lives through literature, film, media, and performance in conjunction with trauma theory and psychoanalysis. We will pay specific attention to questions of community, healing, violence, and affect at the intersections of queerness and race, sex, disability, class, gender, and nationality.

  • Perspectives in Assistive Technology

    Perspectives in Assistive Technology is a Winter Quarter Stanford course - preparing for its fourteenth year - that explores the design, development, and use of assistive technology that benefits people with disabilities and older adults. It consists of semi-weekly classroom discussions; lectures by notable professionals, clinicians, and assistive technology users; tours of local medical, clinical, and engineering facilities; student project presentations and demonstrations; an Assistive Technology Faire; and a film screening.

  • Philosophy of Disability

    This course is an introduction to the ethical and political issues concerning disability. It aims to provide students with a set of tools to think critically about the connections between our ideas about disability, interpersonal relationships and political institutions. The first part of the course explores different conceptions of disability, and their relationships to ideas such as impairment, disorder, disease, dependence, disadvantage. The second part of the course considers how these conceptions interact with or shape the fundamental ideas around which our interpersonal relationships and common institutions are built. What standards of care and non-interference are reasonable? What does it mean to be independent, free, equal or have political representation? How might these ideas be re-configured if we conceptualize disability differently?

  • Public Economics II

    This course will explore the rationale for and economic effects of social insurance programs including but not limited to social security, unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and public health insurance. The course will also include four lectures on behavioral public economics. The focus of these lectures will be on developing a framework for conducting welfare analysis in settings with behavioral consumers, and then on applying that framework to issues in public economics, starting with optimal commodity taxation (including sin taxes), followed by policies affecting personal saving, as well as the taxation of earnings (including implications for social insurance). Additional topics covered in the course will include other important areas of government expenditure and regulation such as education, defense procurement, economic stimulus, and environmental regulation.

  • Personal Narratives in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

    This course explores the contribution of personal narratives to knowledge in the field of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Each week, students do extensive readings of exemplary personal narratives that have contributed in substance and method to the field and that have opened up new areas of inquiry. These narratives deal especially with issues of individual and group identity; gender, sexuality, racial and ethnic diversity; and disability. Students select a topic of special interest to them to focus their readings and guide individual research during the quarter. The approach of the course is feminist, ethnographic, and welcoming of a variety of approaches to personal narrative. Instructor consent required; students apply at the first class meeting.

  • Re(positioning) Disability: Historical, Cultural, and Social Lenses

    This course is designed to introduce undergraduate students of any major to important theoretical and practical concepts regarding special education, disability, and diversity. This course primarily addresses the social construction of disability and its intersection with race and class through the critical examination of history, law, social media, film, and other texts. Students will engage in reflection about their own as well as broader U.S. discourses moving towards deeper understanding of necessary societal and educational changes to address inequities. Successful completion of this course fulfills one requirement for the School of Education minor in Education.

  • Sexual Diversity and Function Across Medical Disciplines

    Focus is on the development of personal and professional skills to address medical and health issues related to human sexuality across a broad and diverse range of ages, gender, sexual orientation, sexual practices, and sexual function. Guest lectures will cover sexual issues from multiple medical disciplines and health perspectives of children (pediatric), adolescents, and young, middle-aged and older (geriatric) adults (geriatric). Consideration of sociocultural (predominantly U.S) norms is explored, including religious values and taboos, and sexual practices ranging from stereotypically normal to asexuality, celibacy, polyamory, and kink, etc. Emphasis is given to medical issues, e.g. the impact of specific medications, hormonal therapies, medical procedures, disabilities such as spinal cord injury, and treatments on sexual function and other issues that one might encounter in a general or specialty medical setting.

  • Special Topics in Adolescent Mental Health

    Includes the study of aspects of common disorders seen in adolescent populations, such as prevalence, developmental course, gender differences, theoretical explanations, and therapeutic interventions. Topics will include mood/anxiety disorders, eating disorders, learning disabilities and ADHD, sexual risk behaviors, developmental disorders, substance abuse, and self-harm. Goals of this course include getting students to think critically about the unique mental health needs of adolescents, collaborating on devising ways to improve the way our society meets those needs, and strengthening writing and communication skills applicable to this area of inquiry. Prerequisite: Human Biology Core or Biology Foundations or equivalent or consent of instructor.

  • Stress Less, Sleep Better

    Effectively manage stress and practice positive sleep strategies to enhance clarity, focus, and energy. Presents tools for assessing perceived stress and sleep quality, findings in the science of stress management, current research in sleep studies, and cognitive-behavioral theories and interventions (CBT-i) demonstrated to reduce stress and certain insomnias, while enhancing sleep quality.

  • Stroke Seminar

    Standing at the intersection of many fields of medicine, including neurology, internal medicine, cerebrovascular surgery, diagnostic and interventional radiology, and emergency medicine, stroke is a critical topic for all practitioners of medicine and is the third leading cause of death and disability, This seminar draws upon Stanford's leaders in stroke research to present and discuss the causes, presentation, treatment, and imaging characteristics of the disease.

  • Topics in Neurodiversity: Introduction and Advocacy

    This course provides students with the foundation, knowledge, and essential skills for understanding, engaging with, and advocating for the neurodiverse population. Through a combination of academic learning and community engagement students will deepen their understanding about the experiences of and long-term outcomes for neurodiverse individuals in myriad realms including education, employment, law, medicine, social and more. Students will be guided in developing a person-centered, strengths-based and inquiry oriented approach to facilitate direct engagement with neurodiverse individuals and to inform neurodiversity advocacy activities.

  • Topics in Neurodiversity: Design Thinking Approaches

    Topics in Neurodiversity: Design Thinking Approaches provides essential background about neurodiversity, the design thinking process and the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to guide students in developing projects that maximize the potential of neurodiversity. Through case studies, field trips, guest speakers, and community engagement, students will explore approaches to maximizing inclusivity in realms such as education, employment, community and beyond. Students will use their knowledge to design and develop (or revising and enhance) processes, systems, experiences and/or products to maximize inclusivity and the potential of neurodiverse individuals. Based on student's interests and areas of focus, projects may include digital tool development such as app concept and design, redesign of standard processes such as job interviews/ candidate evaluations, design and development of physical products or spaces such as sensory-sensitive dorm rooms, "stim tools" and more..

  • Transgender Cultural Studies

    In the United States, we seem to be in a transgender moment, or we've reached what Time magazine has called the ┬┐transgender tipping point. In this course, we will explore what this cultural moment means for the representation of transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people. We will look historically and globally at differences in representation in order to better understand our current cultural moment. We will explore multiple genres, formats, and authorial points of view to critically think through how and by whom trans stories are told. How do interlocking systems of oppression continue to dictate and drive trans representation and narrative; how do trans authors and artists push back against these systems to (re)construct their own narrative and image? Through a critical engagement with film, memoir, graphic narrative, poetry, and fiction created by and/or about trans* people, this course will engage students with an intersectional approach to trans identity and representation in concert with racial identity, sexuality, disability, socio-economic status, age, gender, and citizenship.

  • Tell Me Why That's (Non-)Human Nature': New Materialism and Black Life

    This course considers various entanglements of blackness and wrestles with the following questions: What is humanism? Why and how is race routinely excluded from discussions of ecological crises? From the vantage of black feminism and Black Studies, is new materialism actually new? What are the racial and racist dynamics of quantum physics? How do these discourses help us consider aspects of visual culture and literature anew? This body of work will regularly touch on affect theory, post-humanism, queer theory, science-fiction, animality/animal studies, and disability studies, among other discourses. This course will enable students to consider the material stakes of blackness as they challenge the categories of human, environment, and embodiment.

  • Writing & Rhetoric 1: The Cyborg Body: The Rhetoric of Disability

    Rhetorical and contextual analysis of readings; research; and argument. Focus is on development of a substantive research-based argument using multiple sources. Individual conferences with instructor. Analysis of disability, using the analogy of the cyborg, in an era when the human body has become plastic, digitized and surgically manipulated.

  • Writing & Rhetoric 1: The New Normal: The Rhetoric of Disability

    In this class we will move beyond definitions of disability as "abnormality" or "deviance" to explore how advances in science, technology, medicine, and culture have transformed our understanding of what constitutes a "normal' human body. We will ask how arguments about disability incorporate concepts such as neurodiversity, chronic illness, and other invisible conditions. At the same time, we will study how contemporary perspectives on disability interact with issues such as technology, metaphors of the prosthesis, cultural constructions of the body, and even what it means to be human.

  • Women and Medicine in US History: Women as Patients, Healers and Doctors

    This course explores ideas about women's bodies in sickness and health, as well as women's encounters with lay and professional healers in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present. We begin with healthy women and explore ideas about women's life cycle in the past, including women's sexuality, the history of birth control, abortion, childbirth, and aging. We then turn to the history of women healers including midwives, lay physicians, professional physicians and nurses. Finally, we examine women's illnesses and their treatment as well as the lives of women with disabilities in the past. We will examine differences in women's experience with medicine on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexuality and class. We will relate this history to issues in contemporary medicine, and consider the efforts of women to gain control of their bodies and health care throughout US history.