The Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies Program (CRDS) was established in 1979 as the first of a growing number of disability studies programs in Canada, and one of the first in North America. It emerged in response to provincial, national and international changes in views of disability. The definition of disability shifted from being seen as a personal trait to being seen as the consequence of social and physical barriers that prevent people with cognitive, physiological or sensory impairments from participating in society. Thus, the aim of this field of study is social inclusion, and the challenge is the removal of barriers.
Within this context our particular focus is on understanding disability at the intersection of community and human services contexts. Towards that end CRDS was designed to be a small, interdisciplinary and inter-faculty university program, thereby building in an ability to examine issues of interest from a number of different perspectives. Central to this from the beginning has been the perspective of people with disabilities.
CRDS provides education pertinent to a broad range of community-based services that offer short-term assistance and ongoing support for individuals, families and small groups affected by disabling conditions and chronic health concerns to live, learn, work and participate in their communities. Research pursued by CRDS Faculty typically is focused on both practical as well as conceptual issues that arise in these contexts. As such, CRDS responds to the challenges of health, education, advocacy, legal and social reform to empower individuals and communities.
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Community Rehabilitation supports individuals and families affected by disabling conditions and chronic health concerns to live, learn, work, and participate in their communities. Community Rehabilitation includes the design, delivery and management of community-based services that offer short-term assistance and ongoing support. As such, Community Rehabilitation responds to the challenges of health, education, legal and social reform to empower individuals and communities.
Disability Studies is a field of study which challenges the traditional deficit-based "medical model" of disability and espouses a "social model" of disability. The social model argues that disability results from society's failure to adapt to the needs of impaired people.
In 1993 an official definition of disability studies was adopted by the Society for Disability Studies http://www.disstudies.org/, a professional organization of academics from around the world. The definition states that Disability Studies, among other things:
"examines the policies and practices of all societies to understand the social, rather than the physical or psychological determinants of the experience of disability. Disability Studies has been developed to disentangle impairments from the myths, ideology and stigma that influence social interaction and social policy. The scholarship challenges the idea that the economic and social statuses and the assigned roles of people with disabilities are the inevitable outcomes of their condition".