MARTA RUSSELL (December 20, 1951 – December 15, 2013) was an American writer and disability rights activist. Her book, Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract published in 1998 by Common Courage Press analyzes the relationship between disability, social Darwinism, and economic austerity under capitalism. Her political views, which she described as “left, not liberal,” informed her writing on topics such as healthcare, the prison-industrial complex, physician-assisted suicide, poverty, ableism, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Disabled since birth, Marta’s identity as a writer and journalist emerged as her disability progressed and she had to navigate the disability policy netherworld to survive. She became involved with disability rights groups such as ADAPT. A photographer as well as a producer of audio and visual content, Russell was recognized in 1994 with an award from the City of Los Angeles Commission on Disabilities for her contributions to disability society in the media. Russell was co-producer/correspondent for the KCET Life & Times documentary entitled, “Disabled & the Cost of Saying ‘I Do”, which was honored with a prestigious Golden Mike Award for Journalism (1995) from the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California.


In addition to writing for New Mobility and the Monthly Review, Russell contributed articles to numerous scholarly and policy journals such as the Journal of Disability Policy Studies and the Socialist Register as well as print and online newspapers such as The Los Angeles Daily News.


In 2016, Routledge Press published an anthology dedication entitled, “Disability Politics in a Global Economy: Essays in Honour of Marta Russell“. The book was edited by Ravi Malhotra and numerous authors contributed. In 2018, a paperback edition of the book was released.

A Second Edition of “Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract” was released in Amazon Kindle digital format in 2016. The new edition features a foreword by Ravi Malhotra.

Haymarket Books announced a forthcoming book of Marta’s writings entitled, “Capitalism & Disability: Essays by Marta Russell“. The book will be published in 2019 and was edited by Keith Rosenthal.

Disability Politics in a Global Economy: Essays in Honour of Marta Russell

Edited by Ravi Malhotra. Published in 2016 by Routledge Press.

While the visibility of disability studies has increased in recent years, few have thoroughly examined the marginalization of people with disabilities through the lens of political economy. This was the great contribution of Marta Russell (1951-2013), an activist and prominent scholar in the United States and best known for her analyses of the issues faced by people with disabilities.

This book examines the legacy of Marta Russell, bringing together distinguished scholars and activists such as Anne Finger, Nirmala Erevelles and Mark Weber, to explicate current issues relevant to the empowerment of people with disabilities. Drawing from various fields including Law, Political Economy, Education and History, the book takes a truly interdisciplinary approach, offering a body of work that develops a dextrous understanding of the marginalization of people with disabilities.

The book will be of great use and interest to specialists and students in the fields of Political Economy, Law and Society, Labour Studies, Disability Studies, Women’s Studies, and Political Science.

View the book here

Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of Social Contract – 2016 Kindle Edition

Includes a new Foreword by Ravi Malhotra, Editor of Disability Politics in a Global Economy: Essays in Honour of Marta Russell.

A WARNING FROM AN UPPITY CRIP. Marta Russell exposes the neoliberal drive to shrink social services with the Reinventing Government mantra. “We are dangerously close to a Jerry Lewis democracy where middlemen beggars and corporate CEOs getting huge paychecks may replace entitlements with charity,” reveals Russell in her devastating analysis of the “reform” of the social safety net.

“The kind of analysis that virtually no one has done–to the peril of everyone in this nation.” — Mary Johnson

“Vividly written… goes to the heart of many matters, starting with the profound desire of ‘normal’ people, many of them supposedly broad-minded types squarely within the liberal tradition, to reach for the sterilizing knife, or the medicine cabinet of Doctor Kevorkian when confronted with an affront to their sense of the ‘normal.'” — Alexander Cockburn

“What Ralph Nader did for the consumer movement in his book Unsafe at Any Speed, Marta Russell has accomplished in her riveting BEYOND RAMPS. No one, left, right, or center, who reads this book about the role of the ‘disabled’ and the ‘terminally ill’ and the way they are treated will come away unchanged. Russell has centered our attitude in a historical stream of thought, which will at first make people stunned and ashamed, and then cause us hopefully to change the way we behave.” —Marcus Raskin

View the book here

“Disabled & The Cost of Saying I Do” Documentary

Watch the 1994 documentary that aired on KCET Life & Times.

Marta was the Producer and Correspondent for this feature about disability and marriage disincentives in Social Security policy which is still relevant today.

The piece was honored with a prestigious Golden Mike Award for Journalism from the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California in 1995.

Articles by Marta











Articles about Marta