Coursework in Disability and Diversity Studies


A basic assumption of our program is that disability is a natural part of life. And that, moreover, our communities are enriched by both the presence of disability and thoughtful responses to it that ensure everybody is treated fairly. We also recognize that such treatment has not always been the case, and the program considers barriers—past and present—including the presence of stigma and discrimination that may limit full participation and access.

To best prepare you as a leader to understand and appreciate disability in culture and work towards addressing inequities, CDS offers undergraduate and graduate coursework in Disability and Diversity Studies as well as a 15-credit (online) Interdisciplinary Certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies. To best meet the needs of students and professionals, all of our courses are offered completely online. Most of the courses are delivered asynchronously, where students complete their work independently, regardless of their own time zone. Participants meet shared deadlines and milestones, communicating with classmates through learning management systems.  Some classes are also synchronous in which students may meet online together live with an instructor. 

Regardless of the format, all our courses approach disability from a diversity perspective. This means that disability is viewed as a natural part of a diverse society made up of many kinds of people with many kinds of human characteristics. Our courses provide students with knowledge, skills, and insights to understand and navigate contemporary disability issues.

Note for Out-of-State and International Students: All our courses are offered both as traditional courses and as Outreach Extension courses. Out-of-State and International students should check out our FAQs below for registration options.

Interdisciplinary Certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies

The Interdisciplinary Certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies is a 15 credit graduate level (master’s, doctoral, and post-doctoral) program sponsored by the Center on Disability Studies (CDS) in the College of Education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM). Using an interdisciplinary approach to disability and diversity issues, the program attracts students across disciplines including, but not limited to, education, social work, psychology, computer science, sociology, public health, law, nursing, and political science. Students participate in diverse learning experiences with the goals of acquiring skills in joint planning, decision-making, and goal setting and of understanding contemporary disability issues, research, and effective practices from a social, political, cultural and historical context. Click here to view the Application Information and Deadlines from the UHM Graduate Division.


  • Students are required to take a minimum of 15 graduate credits (typically 5 classes) to receive the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies. 
  • Students must apply for the Certificate via the UH Graduate Division before completing their coursework to receive the Certificate. 
  • Students are advised to apply for the Certificate as soon as possible so that they receive proper advice for the program. 
  • Required courses are listed below. For course descriptions, please see the Course Information page. All courses are offered through distance education. 
  • Non-residents (international and out of state students) may apply through Outreach College and pay in-state tuition rates. Contact if you have questions. 

Student Learning Outcomes

Central learning goals of the Graduate Certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies include:

  1. Develop an understanding of disability in a social and cultural context.
  2. Understand some major frameworks for analyzing disability.
  3. Understand how concepts of disability and the treatment of disabled people have varied over time in and various national, local, and global contexts.
  4. Demonstrate ability to evaluate representations of people with disabilities in various cultural products and expressions, including literature, art, film, and other cultural texts.
  5. Evidence ability to consider ways in which such representations of disability may dialog with the actual lived experiences of people with disabilities.
  6. Develop an understanding of the ways in which disability may intersect with other markers of identity, such as gender, race, age, class, and ethnicity.
  7. Demonstrate increased awareness of first-hand accounts and personal narratives by disabled people.
  8. Evidence development of an understanding of ways in which the lens for considering disability used in Disability Studies may have broad use across disciplines.
  9. Identify social and physical barriers faced by people with disabilities. 
  10. Demonstrate development of an understanding of the ways rights, laws, and policies have been developed to help reduce barriers for disabilities (and an awareness of the organizations and advocates responsible for helping develop them). 

Course Sequence

Core Courses (9 credits)

  • DIS 683: Disability & Diversity Issues (3 credits) [It is recommended that this course be taken first.]
  • DIS 681: Multicultural Issues and Disability (3 credits)
  • DIS 684: Interdisciplinary Team Development (3 credits)

Advanced Seminar or Special Topics (3 credits)

  • DIS 682 Special Topics in Disability & Diversity Studies (3 credits)
  • DIS 687 Advanced Seminar on Disability Issues (3 credits)

Fieldwork or Independent Study (3 - 6 credits)

  • DIS 688: Fieldwork/Research (3 credits)
  • DIS 699: Independent Study (3 credits)

Note: One other 3 credit course offered by other departments may serve as an elective but must have a concentration on disability and/or diversity and must be approved by the Program Coordinator.

View All DIS Courses.

Procedure to Apply

Minimum Requirements

  • Possession of B.A. 
  • 2.0 GPA

Those who wish to apply must meet minimum requirements.  (In cases of extenuating circumstances, applicants may contact the program coordinator directly.)

Application Process

a) your interest in the program;
b) future personal/professional/academic aspirations with respect to the program, i.e., how you feel it will benefit you and how it aligns with your goals/commitments.

Completion of Certificate

To obtain final Certificate:

  • Apply for Certificate as you reach completion
  • Your Certificate of Completion checklist will be verified and then sent to Graduate Division for final Verification
  • Upon verification, you will receive physical Certificate, and successful completion will be reflected in your transcript

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I take courses in Disability and Diversity Studies at the University of Hawai‘i?

Disability is an everyday part of the human experience. Whether you are a student, professional, person with a disability or family member of someone with a disability, disability is bound to impact your life or your profession. Our courses are designed to approach disability from a diversity perspective. This means that disability is viewed as a natural part of a diverse society made up of many kinds of people with many kinds of human characteristics. Our courses will provide students with the knowledge, skills, and insights necessary to understand and navigate, respond to and appreciate, disability issues in modern society.

Is the Certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies a Master’s program?

No, but it can be useful towards one. 
Our Program is a 15 credit sequence of 5 courses resulting in a graduate level Certificate. Our program is a great stepping stone or supplement to other graduate programs. Many Master’s and Doctoral students use our courses as cognates for other programs. Graduate and Undergraduate Disability Studies courses can also be taken as electives without enrollment in the Certificate Program. Applicants are encouraged to check with prospective graduate programs to see how the Certificate may be useful and may apply to their program.

Do I have to come to Hawai‘i to take your courses?

No, you are certainly welcome, but all our courses are currently entirely online. International and out-of-state students are advised to enroll in our courses via the UH Outreach College. This requires an additional application but will mean you will be eligible for in-state tuition for our online courses.

What is the cost of your courses?

Costs are comparable to similar programs and are the same for students at any institution, regardless of whether they are at University of Hawai‘i or another institution.  Undergraduate and Graduate course fees are the same as those for other courses at the University of Hawai‘i.

Out-of-state and International students are advised to register for classes through the UH Outreach College. Please check the websites of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Outreach College for current application and course fees. Applicants to the Certificate Program must pay an application fee ($100 as of 9/2023) established by the Graduate Division. Tuition schedule may be found here.

Do you offer scholarships?

The College of Education and the University of Hawai‘i do have some scholarships at STAR. View the resource for other opportunities: Scholarships, Grants, Fellowships. We do not directly offer scholarships via the Disability Studies program. 

What is the deadline for applying for the Certificate Program?

We accept applications for the program year-round, although deadlines may apply for admission for the following semester. If you wish to apply for the Certificate, you must apply through the Graduate Division.

I have applied for the Certificate Program. Can I take courses before I am admitted to the Program?

Yes. Regardless of when you are admitted to the Certificate Program, you can still take courses right away that will count towards your Certificate.


Image of Kiriko Takahashi

Kiriko Takahashi, PhD

Kiriko Takahashi is an Associate Specialist at the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She has a Master’s degree in Learning Disabilities from Northwestern University, and a Doctoral degree in Exceptionalities from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her research interests include assistive technology, culturally-based education, and mathematics.

Holly Manaseri Headshot

Holly Manaseri, PhD

Holly Manaseri is the Outreach Coordinator and Associate Specialist at the Center on Disability Studies where she also teaches courses in the graduate Disability Studies program. Holly is a former teacher, school administrator, and professor of both teacher preparation and school leadership preparation where her work has focused on creating inclusive and caring classrooms. Holly is also a passionate family advocate as a parent of a now adult son with a disability.

Raphael Raphael Headshot

Raphael Raphael, PhD

Raphael Raphael is a film and media scholar whose work frequently looks at making connections between film and disability studies. His most recent book, Transnational Horror Cinema: Bodies of Excess and the Global Grotesque (2017), with Sophia Siddique, looks at the intersections of the horror genre, disability and trauma across borders. He currently serves as Associate Editor of Creative Works and Multimedia for the Review of Disability Studies. 

Lauren Lum Ho

Lauren Lum Ho

Lauren Lum Ho is an Assistant Specialist at the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work as well as in Learning Design & Technology from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Education. Her research interests include accessible technology, online learning, and instructional design and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Memphis in the Instructional Design and Technology program.