Final Summary of Research

My research this summer was a highly rewarding experience. I completed the project having learned lots about the intersection between disability studies and political theory – fields that together, I’ve realized, have the potential to reconstruct social and political understanding of the value of the lives of people with disabilities.

My findings, which demonstrated a strong medical model bias in American political discourse about disability, reveals a governmental tendency to devalue or misrepresent the value of suffering, and the lives of people with incurable disabilities.

The finding, in particular, that political framing of disability ascribes most closely to the medical model of disability, particularly with political dialogue about chronic illness, exhibits that people with chronic illnesses have a valuable place in the disability rights movement. With the under-prioritization of research funding for chronic disease, the imposition of a ‘cure’ narrative for incurable illness, and the political neglect for inaccessible social environments, chronic illness could benefit from allying with the broader disability community to fight for social and political change. The social model of disability, in its effort to depict society as the sole disabling influence, removes people with chronic illnesses from political conversations and incorporation into the disability rights movement.

With these findings, I determined is time for a more inclusive disability rights approach – one that acknowledges suffering and unpredictability related to the body, permits a desire for medical intervention, but demands the same social accessibility and politicization of disability discourse.

I’ve compiled my evidence, along with its significance, into a 45 page paper that I hope to use to develop into an honor’s thesis or potentially submit to undergraduate publications. While I experienced the common challenges of conducting independent research (stumbles with my question, finding more nuance than anticipated, etc), I found the entirety of my summer research experience invaluable. I will carry the experience forward in framing my understanding of what I wish to study and how I wish to apply research into my future career.



  1. Your research sounds fascinating and incredibly relevant to the current political climate! As a person who lives with chronic illness, I am very curious about the ways chronic illness fits into the world of disability politics and how people with chronic illness or mental illness position themselves relative to people who are labeled as “disabled.” I would love to learn more about your research and I look forward to hearing more at the showcase!