Disability Studies: A Reader is the first book in Hebrew in the field of disability studies. This field is an innovative and fascinating academic discipline that proposes viewing disability as a social concept, an identity, a category of critical analysis, and a basis for political action. The approach is transformative; that is, it seeks to change society and culture. The research encompasses a broad and varied field and deals with social, cultural, political, legal, and economic processes that shape the concept of disability. The innovativeness lies in the transition from a medical approach, or a personal-tragedy approach, to a social-critical approach. Whereas the former sees disability as an act of fate, a pathology, a deviance, a dependence, and a burden, and views people with disabilities as the objects of charity and pity, the approach in this reader examines disability as the product of social power relations and of cultural constructs, proposing an alternative view based on recognition, human variability, mutual dependence, pride, and equal rights.
The reader is the outcome of the work of a research group at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute between 2009 and 2012. The group’s aim was to promote the critical academic discourse in Israel on disabilities and to create an interdisciplinary foundation for theoretical and research-oriented thought on the subject. To this end, the reader includes fifteen key articles in the field, translated into Hebrew, written in various periods and from a variety of perspectives. The articles are accompanied by comments and responses by Israelis, most of them members of the research group, many of them individuals with disabilities. The voices of people with disabilities are almost not heard in Israeli academe; the book offers the reader an opportunity to encounter them in the first person. This reader is an important step in the development of the theoretical academic field of research in disability studies in Israel.