This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

The purpose of the certificate is to prepare undergraduate students for a complex, global world comprising an increasingly diverse society that includes people with disabilities. The focus is on engaging students in interdisciplinary experiences to help them understand contemporary disability issues, research and practices within a social, political, cultural and historical context.

Students who complete the Certificate in Disability Studies will be well-equipped to meet the skills and competencies that many employers seek. As people with disabilities enter the workforce in increasing numbers, nondisabled employees who leave college having gained first-hand knowledge of and experience with disabled individuals will be in an excellent position to understand their needs and to interact with them in a broad range of employment settings. The program will emphasize both oral and written communication to boost students’ practice in those vital skills before they enter the workplace.

Learning outcomes

Upon program completion:

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of disability in historical, political and cultural contexts.
  2. Students will provide definitions and models of disability, including medical and social models.
  3. Students will demonstrate knowledge of critical issues and research being debated in the field of disability studies.
  4. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the relationship among disability culture, disability communities and rights-based struggles, including broad-based human rights.
  5. Students will design and conduct a disability-specific project relevant to their major field of study based on engagement within the community.

The Certificate in Disability Studies runs concurrently with a student's major and is not a stand-alone program. Thus, the program is designed to be completed in three consecutive semesters with students taking one course per semester in conjunction with their major course work.

Interested students should submit an application to the VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities, which administers the certificate program. Students who have successfully completed 30 credit hours with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and a declared major may apply for the certificate. International students must have the minimum TOEFL score that is required by their major. Applicants will need to submit a one-page essay to that describes their interest in the program and discusses how they expect to apply the material to their program of study. Upon acceptance to the certificate program, a Change of Major form will be signed by the student and submitted to Records and Registration by the Partnership for People with Disabilities.

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Curriculum requirements

The nine-credit curriculum will prepare students from a broad range of disciplines to understand issues faced by people with disabilities and their relationship to society. Students will enroll in two lecture-based courses and one course taught in a seminar format. The culminating seminar will allow each student to apply the content within the program in a unique manner to his or her major field of study.

Course Title Hours
IDDS 200Disability History and Culture3
IDDS 201Disability, Diversity and Human Rights3
IDDS 300Applications of Disability Studies3
Total Hours9

The minimum total of credit hours required for this certificate is nine.

The sample plan of study shows classes taken in conjunction with major course work.

Year one
Fall semesterHours
IDDS 200 Disability History and Culture 3
 Term Hours: 3
Spring semester
IDDS 201 Disability, Diversity and Human Rights 3
 Term Hours: 3
Year two
Fall semester
IDDS 300 Applications of Disability Studies 3
 Term Hours: 3
 Total Hours: 9