Media and disability

Explore the topic of media and disability in it's multiple configurations, accounting for social, material, theoretical, aesthetical, experiential, historical, political and institutional perspectives.

Even before disability gained a prominent role in scholarship thanks to the contribution of disability studies, disability and media have been in a strong relationship, at least since McLuhan’s theorization of media as prosthesis. This thesis has been recently revised and problematized from several perspectives. On one side, scholars have highlighted how disability has been employed in media studies “as a metaphor in the service of another’s cause” (Alper, 2017, p. 2). On the other side, scholars have noticed how media are the very sites where disability is defined and constructed: media operations embed images of the user which assume certain abilities, while also measuring performances and contributing to produce epistemologies on which systems of assessment, sometimes employed to reinforce exclusion dynamics, are grounded. Media such as assistive technologies produce also regimes of visibility: “Not only do media produce disability through their textual representations of disability, they produce disability through their very operations, their institutional existences, and their policy and juridical dimensions.” (Mills and Sterne, 2017, p. 236). 

The classic distinction is between a medical model of disability, which defines disability “as an individual defect lodged in the person, a defect that must be cured or eliminated if the person is to achieve full capacity as a human being” (Siebers, 2008, p. 3) and the social model of disability, inspired by disability studies, which defines disability “not as an individual defect but as the product of social injustice, one that requires not the cure or elimination of the defective person but significant changes in the social and built environment” (ibidem). This emphasis on “the social and built environment” is at the basis of the dialogue between disability studies and disciplines such as media studies and organization studies in recent years. If disability is constructed through normative assumptions underpinning socially constructed categories of difference, those assumptions are not located only in ideas and discourses, but also built into material artifacts, technologies and organizational structures. 

The issue of media and disability is not just a concern of media studies. How argued by Ellcessor, Kirkpatrick and Hagood (2017): “we need perspectives and methodological tools to analyze how disability shapes media texts, technologies, and industries—and how our media, in turn, shape what it means to be ‘disabled’ or ‘able-bodied’ in contemporary society.”

The topic of media and disability is not limited to assistive technologies: media, in fact, are sites where knowledge about disability is produced, represented and enacted, while assistance, accessibility, inclusion are not a matter of technological fix but are themselves concepts to be redefined within the material, social, political and economic context in which media are designed and operate.


You can find more information and details on the Call for Papers here


Guide for submission and deadlines

Authors are invited to submit by January 31st, 2023

  • title and abstract of maximum 1000 words (.doc, .docx, .odt, .txt, .rtf). Abstracts must be submitted in English.
  • Contact details (full name, e-mail, post address and affiliation)


Acceptance of abstract by 28th of February 2023. If the abstract is accepted, the Authors should submit the FULL article by June 30th, 2023. The maximum length of a paper is 60.000 digits (spaces included), including references, tables and figures. The articles will be double-blind peer-reviewed.


Guest Editors

Neta Alexander, Colgate University of New York; David Friedrich, University of Western Australia; Mara Mills, New York University; Domenico Napolitano, Scuola Superiore Meridionale of Naples



Alper, M. (2017), Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Ellcessor, E., Hagood, M., Kirkpatrick, B. (2017), “Introduction: Toward a Disability Media Studies”, in Ellcessor, E., Kirkpatrick, B. (eds.), Disability Media Studies, New York, New York University Press.

Mills, M., Sterne, J. (2017), “Afterword II: Dismediation – Three Proposals, Six Tactics”, in Ellcessor, E., Kirkpatrick, B. (eds.), Disability Media Studies, New York, New York University Press, pp. 365-378.

Siebers, T. (2008), Disability Theory, University of Michigan Press.

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