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UK to host Symposium on Dis/Ability & Debility in Appalachia

By Jenny Wells-Hosley 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 25, 2024) — Appalachia, often viewed through a lens of disability, will serve as the backdrop for a special event this fall.

Tthe Symposium on Dis/Ability & Debility in Appalachia, scheduled for Sept. 28 at the University of Kentucky, will unite experts from Appalachian studies and disability studies. The symposium aims to foster collaborative conversations and solutions for disabled Appalachians. 

Mack Thompson, a UK master’s student studying applied anthropology, is coordinating the symposium.

"As someone doing disability justice work in Kentucky, I have done disability studies and Appalachian studies research, and seen how clearly related but separate these two fields are,” Thompson said. “Disability research tends to focus on big urban centers, and research on Appalachia tends to centralize on non-disabled populations, even when engaging extensively about other minority groups. 

"And when disability is discussed in the Appalachian context, it is always in a medicalized way focused on disabled suffering and not hearing the voices of those who may actually have disabilities. In this symposium, I am hoping to hear those who aren't heard as often and complicate these conversations on the disability in Appalachia, engaging the nuances of human lives and experiences."

The Symposium on Dis/Ability & Debility in Appalachia seeks to achieve several key outcomes, including:

  • Promotion of interdisciplinary and intersectional conversations on dis/ability and debility in Appalachia.
  • Facilitation of knowledge sharing across units, disciplines and communities both at UK and in the region.
  • Exploration of initiatives and policy changes relating to disability and place.
  • Highlighting marginalized voices.

The symposium will convene in-person at the Healthy Kentucky Research Building on campus with a virtual component. For more information on accessibility at the symposium, visit

Registration for the symposium is now open through 11:59 p.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 9. Abstract submissions for posters, short presentations or artistic presentations must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23.

Interested presenters are encouraged to submit abstracts exploring a wide array of topics, including but not limited to community, care work, accessible infrastructure, health care accessibility, neurodiversity, environmental health, economic inequities and the experiences of marginalized communities in Appalachia. To submit a proposal, both the registration and abstract submission forms must be completed.

A detailed schedule of events for the symposium will be released soon. To learn more, visit the website at

The event is sponsored by the Appalachian Center and Appalachian Studies Program; the Department of Anthropology; the Disability Resource Center; the Human Development Institute; and the Center for Health Equity Transformation.

Other units that are interested in sponsoring or collaborating are encouraged to reach out to the UK Appalachian Center at 859-257-4852 or