Disability in American Life
An Encyclopedia of Concepts, Policies, and Controversies [2 volumes]
by Tamar Heller, Sarah Parker Harris, Carol J. Gill, and Robert Gould, Editors
December 2018, 921pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3422-6
$208, £160, 181€, A285
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3423-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

One out of five Americans is living with a disability.

Disability—as with other marginalized topics in social policy—is at risk for exclusion from social debate. This multivolume reference work provides an overview of challenges and opportunities for people with disabilities and their families at all stages of life.

Once primarily thought of as a medical issue, disability is now more widely recognized as a critical issue of identity, personhood, and social justice. By discussing challenges confronting people with disabilities and their families and by collecting numerous accounts of disability experiences, this volume firmly situates disability within broader social movements, policy, and areas of marginalization, providing a critical examination into the lived experiences of people with disabilities and how disability can affect identity.

A foundational introduction to disability for a wide audience—from those intimately connected with a person with a disability to those interested in the science behind disability—this collection covers all aspects of disability critical to understanding disability in the United States. Topics covered include characteristics of disability; disability concepts, models, and theories; important historical developments and milestones for people with disabilities; prominent individuals, organizations, and agencies; notable policies and services; and intersections of disability policy with other policy.


  • Takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying disability in America
  • Traces the evolution of U.S. attitudes and policies towards disability through primary documents featuring context-setting headnotes
  • Provides easy reference via a glossary of terms related to disability studies, including those in the areas of law, health, arts, and culture
  • Includes contributions from major scholars across disciplines involved in the study of disability
Tamar Heller is distinguished professor and head of the Department of Disability and Human Development (DHD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she directs the University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and Health. Her research focuses on self-directed and family supports, managed care, and health promotion interventions for individuals with disabilities. She has written over 200 publications, including five books, and is one of the world's foremost scholars on bridging aging and disability.

Sarah Parker Harris is associate professor and the director of graduate and undergraduate studies at the Department of Disability and Human Development (DHD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Dr. Parker Harris has published and presented widely in areas of disability policy and law, entrepreneurship and disability, welfare-to-work, and international human rights. She is coauthor of Disability through the Life Course.

Carol J. Gill is professor emeritus at the Department of Disability and Human Development (DHD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She has served as principal investigator of multi-year research projects funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI) program of the National Institutes of Health. Carol is a leading scholar on disability identity.

Robert Gould, PhD, is Director of Research for the Great Lakes ADA Center (in DHD, UIC) and is co-investigator of the ADA National Network Knowledge Translation Center. His scholarship and interests include domestic and international social policy and evaluation, employment and vocational rehabilitation, knowledge translation, and rights and social justice for people with disabilities.


"The entries are comprehensive, relevant, and definitive, as each is written by an authoritative source on the subject and in a style accessible to not only disability professionals, college students, and faculty but also high school students and lay readers...Summing Up: Recommended. All readers."—Choice, July 1, 2019

"Filling a need for historical and cultural information on an understudied subject, this title highlights the economic and political power of people with disabilities and should be an essential resource."—Library Journal, June 1, 2019
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.