DISABLTY 113G Making Disabilities: The Construction of Ideas

DISABLTY 113G | Open Schedule | City Campus | 15 points | Semester Two 2020


This course looks at how social and cultural ideas of disability are expressed in popular culture. You’ll study how concepts of disability and disabling identities are created and maintained in film, television and print media.

We’ll discuss the consequences of these processes and their implications for perpetuating social devaluation, discrimination, and disadvantage.

Note:  BHumServ and BSW students can not use DIABLTY 113G to  meet their General Education requirement. 


Learning outcomes

Develops student awareness of the processes of the construction of disability in culture and media of New Zealand and internationally.

Develops students’ critical and reflective thinking alongside an awareness of their own identity.

Examines the role of media such as film, television and photography in the construction of the disabled identity.

Demonstrates the contribution of ideas and methods from cross-disciplinary research to an understanding of the construction of social responses to disability.

Topics covered

  • Conceptualising disability: An examination of traditional societal responses to disability
  • How is disability portrayed? Representation and the use of imagery, populist to art house
  • How is disability portrayed in popular media in New Zealand? The influence of social/economic/contextual factors
  • Disability and advertising: The charity discourse and the use of the media to raise funds
  • The television documentary and disability as entertainment
  • Disability and film: The genre of human oddity
  • The construction of disability in New Zealand cinema: The construction of normalcy in movies
  • The viewpoint of the disabled person portrayed in film and documentary: Representing the reality of impairment
  • Disability and portraiture: Photography and painting
  • Ableism and embodiment: Desire and fantasy revisited
  • Culture and identity: The construction of disability


Reflective journal (15%)
Essay (35%)
Examination (50%)

Student feedback

"The course has let me rethink my medical understanding of disability"

"Visual and audio examples were helpful for putting theory into a context, which made it much easier to understand."

"The lecturers had personal knowledge of the situations they were lecturing about."

For more Information