Different methodological tendencies within the field of disability research are described, and the reductionism implicit in the historically dominant models is critiqued. The advantages of critical realism over rival metatheoretical positions, including empiricism, social constructionism, neo-Kantianism and hermeneutics, is shown, demonstrating in particular what is called the “double-inclusiveness” of critical realism. A non-reductionist schema for explanation in disability research is established, and the article argues that the phenomenon of disability has the character of a “necessarily laminated system”. The fruitfulness of this approach is then illustrated with an example drawn from the field, and the case for critical realism as an ex ante explicit metatheory and methodology for disability research is further developed. The conclusion reconsiders the nature of metatheory and its role in research.