Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

Andrew Tubbs: Scholar, Musician, Disability Advocate, and Comedian
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Andrew Tubbs: Scholar, Musician, Disability Advocate, and Comedian

Andrew Tubbs would like to see more researchers recognize the influence that disability has on their work—no matter the field of study.

“It’s beneficial for researchers to understand that disability inherently intersects with their work,” Tubbs says. “Being able to come at issues, research questions, and problems from a disability perspective helps nuance arguments.”

The University of Iowa graduate student’s own research looks at the intersection of disability studies and music in film. The Des Moines, Iowa, native will earn his master’s degree in musicology from the University of Iowa in May.

“I tell people musicology is exactly like biology,” Tubbs says. “Just take off the ‘bio’ and add ‘music.’ It’s the study of music, why it matters, and how it affects people in cultures. I look at how the disabled body is represented musically on stage and on screen, and how that fits into contemporary notions of disability.”

Tubbs’ research interests are deeply personal. He has long loved studying and making music, primarily as a vocalist and percussionist. He earned his B.A. in music from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

He also has a thrombocytopenia-absent radius (TAR), a rare genetic disorder characterized by low levels of platelets in the blood and the absence of the radius bone in the arms. But the fatigue, abnormal bleeding, and shortened arms caused by TAR have not slowed Tubbs down.

“It’s stereotypical but true: It’s finding out how to live in your body and becoming ever more secure in a disabled identity,” Tubbs says.

Tubbs wants more people to understand the perspective of people with disabilities in their community, and points to accessibility on campus as an example.

“I tell people that when it comes to accessibility, you don’t know what to look for until you’ve already seen it,” Tubbs says. “You may think a space is accommodating when in reality it isn’t. For example, many automatic doors on campus are not great. The only way an individual can get in through the automatic doors is if they have the ability to apply pressure with their hand to a specific point, as opposed to maybe using their chair to open the door. So even though that’s ‘accessible,’ it’s still limiting to a number of individuals.”

What an incredible individual Andrew is.

Image credit: Photo by Author

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