Stephen F. Gilson

M.S.W. University of Denver
Ph.D. University of Nebraska Medical Center
(medical sciences degree, specialization in psychiatry)

Stephen Gilson is Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work and Coordinator and Professor Interdisciplinary Disability Studies Center for Community Inclusion & Disability Studies, University of Maine. He also holds an appointment as Senior Research Fellow. Ono Academic College, Research Institute for Health and Medical Professions. Kiryat Ono, Israel. He is a theorist and policy analyst who is best known for his work in disability, diversity, and health policy through the lens of legitimacy theory. Co-authored with Elizabeth DePoy, Gilson developed Explanatory Legitimacy Theory, which analyzes how population group membership is assigned, is based on political purpose, and is met with formal responses that serve both intentionally and unintentionally to perpetuate segregation, economic status quo, and inter-group tension. Gilson has applied legitimacy theory to the analysis and enactment of health policy related to access to illness prevention information. Along with DePoy, Gilson has implemented his vision of socially just policy based on principles of full participation and access through the creation of a web portal that renders existing illness prevention information accessible to individuals across diversity category boundaries. Co-authored with DePoy, Disjuncture Theory explains disability as an interactive “ill-fit” between bodies (broadly defined) and environments (broadly defined). Gilson’s most research interests and publications have focused on disability as designed and branded, and disability as microcosm for defining the boundaries of humanness. This theory and research has informed the development of technology to augment human functioning. An additional example of this work is his research along with DePoy examining the role of architecture and campus culture in promoting diversity of the student population in undergraduate and graduate education,

In his most recent writing, including Branding and designing disability (in press), Gilson, with co-author DePoy, applies design and branding theories and practices to the analysis of diversity categories, their membership, and their maintenance. In Studying disability (2011) Gilson with co-author DePoy, take on the essentialist nature of current diversity categories with a particular focus on disability, laying bare the value foundation and political and economic purpose of “disability category” assignment and social, professional and community response. His additional works, co-authored with DePoy, include Human behavior theory and applications: A critical thinking approach (2012) and selected essays and papers. This scholarship applies legitimacy theory to understanding theories of human description and explanation and their purposive, political use in diverse “helping professional” worlds.