Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's that time of year again...

Miss Crip Chick (Stacey) explains how you can join the campaign against the MDA telethon:

What can we do? Protest. Write a Letter to the Editor. Tell people about the charity, medical, and social model of disability. Blog. Kara and I, along with the Disability Activist Collective (website coming soon) are organizing a campaign against the telethon and the charity model of disability. We need bloggers (not only disability bloggers but all! feminist, queer, woc, environmentalist, activists, great time to build alliances) who will agree to write about this! The campaign will work much like a blog carnival and will be heavily publicized in listservs and other sources of media. We encourage you to participate! To participate, please [leave] a comment or email us a We will be announcing the campaign on Thursday via media and will tell them to check the website postings on Monday. The campaign will be posted on Kara’s site.

Conference: When the Soldiers Return

The conference When the Soldiers Return will be held in Australia at the University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus, 28-30 November 2007. This conference will bring together scholars investigating the legacy of war, its effects on the broader society and culture, and the central role returned soldiers play in these processes.

Check out just some of the papers on the program that deal with disability (and there are surely others, but these titles stuck out for me):

Sandy McFarlane and Keith Horsley, "Florence Nightingale: A Sufferer of a Post-Deployment Syndrome"

Margaret Goldswain, "The War-Damaged Soldier in Australia after the Great War"

Melanie Oppenheimer, "'Fated to a life of suffering': Graythwaite, the Australian Red Cross, and Returned Soldiers, 1916-1939"

Keith Horsley and Sandy McFarlane, "Post-Deployment Syndromes Following Wars in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries"

Kristy Muir, "'There were no ticker tape parades for us': Homecomings of Veterans with Mental Health Problems"

Jim Porteous, "Rehabilitation of Injured or Ill Australian Defence Force Members"

Jen Hawksley, "Histories from the Asylum: 'The Unknown Patient'"

Kerry Neale, "'Without the Faces of Men': The Return of Facially Disfigured Australian Veterans from the Great War"

Marina Larsson, "'The Part We Do Not See': Disabled Australian Soldiers and Family Caregiving after World War I"

Stephen Clarke, "The Long Shadow of War: The New Zealand Experience of 'Burnt-Out Diggers' during the 1920s and 1930s"

Curious to learn more about any of these projects? The program (linked above) includes abstracts for all of them.

Illustration above: a stamp that promotes Esperanto as a way to end war, with a simple illustration in green of a uniformed man on crutches; from the 1920s, I think? (Lost the cite. Bad historian.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Casts, in the Park

child seated, legs in casts
My kid's legs, in casts, taken last week in the park. His sister wrote his name on them.

Two weeks down, two more weeks till the pins come out...

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

August 28: Janet Frame (1924-2004)

'For your own good' is a persuasive argument
that will eventually make a man agree
to his own destruction.

--Janet Frame
New Zealand poet, novelist, and memoirist Janet Frame was born 28 August 1924, in Dunedin. She spent much of her twenties in mental hospitals, beginning with a voluntary commitment in 1947, ending with her final release in 1954. (A diagnosis of schizophrenia was made, but was later rejected by a panel of psychiatrists in London.) She underwent hundreds of electric shock treatments --"each the equivalent, in degree of fear, to an execution," she said -- during her hospitalizations. Her mother had signed the paperwork for a lobotomy, but the surgery was canceled after Frame's 1951 book, The Lagoon and Other Stories, won a national award. She wrote a novel based on her family and her hospitalizations, Owls Do Cry, published in 1957. Another novel by Frame, Faces in the Water (1961), features a heroine who is institutionalized and almost lobotomized. Her novel Scented Gardens for the Blind (1980) has as its main character a girl who never speaks.

Some cites on Frame and disability, to mark her birthday (plenty more cites here):

Simone Oettli-van Delden, Surfaces of Strangeness: Janet Frame and the Rhetoric of Madness (Victoria University Press 2003).

Ana Maria Sanchez Mosquera, "Un/writing the Body: Janet Frame's An Angel at my Table," Commonwealth Novel in English 9-10(Spring-Fall 2000-2001): 218-241.

C. MacLellan, "Conformity and Deviance in the Fiction of Janet Frame," Journal of New Zealand Literature 6(1988): 190-201.

Susan Schwartz, "Dancing in the Asylum: The Uncanny Truth of the Madwoman in Janet Frame's Autobiographical Fiction," Ariel 27(4)(October 1996): 113-127.

Tanya Blowers, "Madness, Philosophy, and Literature: A Reading of Janet Frame's Faces in the Water," Journal of New Zealand Literature 14(1996): 74-89.

Venla Oikkonen, "Mad Embodiments: Female Corporeality and Insanity in Janet Frame's Faces in the Water and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar," Helsinki English Studies 3(2004): online here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

CFP: Nineteenth-Century UK, Gender and Disability

Another cool call for papers:
SUBMISSION DATE: March 1, 2008

Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies
is a peer-reviewed, online journal committed to publishing insightful and innovative scholarship on gender studies and nineteenth-century British literature, art and culture. The journal is a collaborative effort that brings together advanced graduate students and scholars from a variety of universities to create a unique voice in the field. We endorse a broad definition of gender studies and welcome submissions that consider gender and sexuality in conjunction with race, class, place and nationality.

NCGS is preparing to launch a special guest-edited issue in Summer 2008 that would read nineteenth-century texts within a disability studies/queer studies/gender studies framework. The issue will engage and answer these and other questions: how do issues of the disabled body and the gendered body parallel each other, or collapse into one another? What are the implications of disability in the construction and practice of femininity in nineteenth-century culture? What are the implications of disability in the construction and practice of masculinity in nineteenth-century culture? How do images and metaphors of physical difference work, with gender, into the forms of nineteenth-century literature and culture? What are the connections between gender, ability/disability, and work in the nineteenth century? What are the theoretical implications of prosthetics in writing/understanding nineteenth-century culture? What are the implications of bodily performance in general in the nineteenth century? Is gender transformation also one of the potentialities we might find in Victorian lit/cultural artifacts on disability? What is the significance, in the investigation of nineteenth-century texts, of queering disability and disability studies? How are both same-gender and heterosexual relationships catalyzed by disability in nineteenth-century plot structures? How are identities of able-bodiedness and heterosexuality connected? How do certain texts in the nineteenth century attempt to transform systems of embodiment?

Please submit essays by March 1 to either

Mark Mossman, Associate Professor
English Department
Western Illinois University
Macomb, IL 61455

Martha Stoddard-Holmes, Associate Professor
Department of Literature and Writing Studies
California State University-San Marcos
San Marcos, CA 92096

Only electronic submissions will be considered.

August 26: Rick Hansen (b. 1957)

Rick HansenCanadian Paralympian Rick Hansen (pictured at left, on his "Man in Motion" world tour) is turning 50 today--he was born on this date in 1957, in Port Alberni, British Columbia. He was an athletic kid who excelled in several sports. When he was fifteen, he was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. So he turned to wheelchair sports, and was more competitive than ever: he became a national champion player in wheelchair volleyball and wheelchair basketball, and a world-class wheelchair marathoner. Hansen won a gold medal at the 1980 Summer Paralympics.

Hansen's 1985-87 "Man in Motion" tour took him wheeling through more than thirty countries, over 26 months, 40K kilometers, to raise money for spinal cord research and other causes. The wheelchair he used on that tour is now in the museum of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. There are video and audio clips of the news coverage of Hansen's world tour here.

Hansen is now president and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, which raises money for research and support programs related to spinal cord injuries. He's married, and the father of three daughters. There are three Canadian public schools named for Hansen, and one township in Ontario--right next to Roosevelt Township, it is (it was named Stalin until 1986, so I'd guess they were going to change it anyway?).

Bit of 80s trivia: you know the title song for the 1985 film "St. Elmo's Fire"? It's about Rick Hansen. Lyrics include: "Gonna be your man in motion/All I need is a pair of wheels." (See, that never made sense for the movie, but it makes sense now, doesn't it? Mystery solved.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Patronizing typography?

Type well used is invisible as type, just as the perfect talking voice is the unnoticed vehicle of the transmission of words and ideas.--Beatrice Warde (1900-1969)
Warde's declaration above is from her 1930 lecture, "The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should be Invisible," and it's saying something that every undergraduate in graphic design is taught: the best font is the one you don't notice.

Well, I noticed. Or rather, my seven-year-old did. When a brochure came in the mail from our regional center, she assumed it was for her, because it was a booklet with bright colors and graphics, and big letters in a child-friendly typeface. Here's a sample:

Excerpt from brochure, showing scrawly typeface
[Image description: On a yellow ruled background that resembles a sheet of paper from a legal pad, there is purple scrawly text, that reads "Yes No Maybe (I would like to hear more about this)" and in the same font, in black, superimposed on a purple trapezoid, "Other Things That Are Important to Your Family."]

But we soon realized, it was for me--the parent of a regional center client--a questionnaire to complete before a routine meeting next week. Why the childish design? Our regional center's client base is diverse, sure, but every parent they serve is an adult, right? Whether you're a parent with a developmental disability, or a parent with limited literacy or English proficiency, you're still an adult. I understand why the questionnaire should use basic, clear language, but I don't see why this childish font would be used for any adult audience, at least any adult audience you wanted to treat with respect.

UPDATE (7/13/11): Four years later, they're still using the same brochure--got another one in the mail just now. Sigh.

Disability Blog Carnival #21 is up NOW!

David has collected a wide array of top ten lists from all over the disability blogging universe -- and don't miss how he's organized them in conjunction with some fine t-shirt designs from Nth Degree. (Image at right is an Nth Degree t-shirt design, called "Ramp Your Mind," a drawing of a man wearing a fedora that's open like a lid, with ramp like scaffolds leading into it, and people with disabilities entering his head; with the words "Ramp your mind at the DISABILITY BLOG CARNIVAL" superimposed in white.)

Next edition is due up on September 13, at Reimer Reason, where the host has set "Resilience" as the topic--take that any direction you see fit, submit your posts or the recent posts of others at the site, or in comments here or there, or by email, we'll find them somehow!

And, in other news--we've now got hosts booked through January 2008 (yeah!).... so I'm not recruiting for a few months. What a happy "problem" to have, so many enthusiastic and creative volunteer hosts! Watch for the call sometime in November, when I'll start taking names for editions in February 2008 and later....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

CFP: Disability History: Theory and Practice

[Straight from H-Disability; links added by me]
Disability History: Theory and Practice

San Francisco State University's Institute on Disability, the Disability History Association, and the Disability History Group of the United Kingdom invite submissions for papers to be given at a conference at San Francisco State University, 31 July-3 August 2008.

During the past two decades, research, teaching, and scholarly publication on the history of disability as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon has drawn increasing attention. The goal of this conference is to assess the state of the field. It will examine the theory and practice of disability history. And it will explore theoretical and substantive, methodological and practical strategies to promote the continued development and intellectual coherence of this field.

We invite proposals for papers on any aspect or stream of disability history. For example:

· Cultural representations.

· The histories of blind people; people with cognitive/developmental disabilities; deaf and hard-of-hearing people; people with physical or emotional disabilities.

· Any historical era.

· Any culture, society, or geographical locale.

· Ideologies and the history of ideas.

· Institutions, professions, and programs that historically have affected people with disabilities.

· Public laws and policies: civil/human rights, eugenic, rehabilitative, international.

· Social and political movements.

While this call is open-ended as to subject matter, we seek in particular historical case studies that can open up discussion of broader issues. We invite papers that use presenters' current research to consider how they approach the history of disability. What theoretical concepts inform their interpretations? What analytical and methodological tools have they found most useful? How does their work benefit from or contribute to other fields of historical inquiry, such as social history, political history, the histories of class, economic systems, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and so forth. If the work focuses on a specific stream of disability history, such as the history of blind people or the history of public policies regarding disabled veterans, what are its connections to and implications for other streams of disability history? How does their work draw upon the more general field of disability studies and what are its implications for disability studies?

Commentors will be asked to address these sorts of questions and to facilitate discussion of them in both breakout and plenary sessions.

We welcome proposals from scholars of every rank and status from academically based senior faculty to graduate students, as well as public historians, archivists, and other scholars.

Proposals for papers should include a title and be no longer than 300 words. Depending on the number of papers accepted, presenters will have 15-20 minutes. A curriculum vitae of no more than three US letter-sized pages must accompany the proposal.

Proposals may be submitted electronically via e-mail or fax or sent in hard copy through the postal system. Mailed proposals must include five copies of both the paper proposal and the curriculum vitae. We encourage electronic submissions to expedite decision-making and planning for both the conference organizers and would-be presenters.

The deadline for proposals submitted electronically via e-mail or fax is November 1, 2007. Proposers will be notified by December 1, 2007. Please send proposals electronically to:

Paul K. Longmore
Professor of History and
Director, Institute on Disability
San Francisco State University or
fax: 415-338-7539

San Francisco State offers a range of lodging plans that will accommodate both individuals and families. Some of them are economical and affordable for graduate students.

If you have questions, please e-mail Professor Longmore at

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ten Disabled Characters

For the next edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, host David has requested "top ten lists." I haven't slept for a few days (postoperative ornery kid), so forget careful selecting and ranking, and research is also, sadly, on hold. But I've got my bookshelves... so here are ten disabled characters in recentish novels on my fiction shelves (mostly). In no particular order:

1. Julia McNicholl Hansen in Vikram Seth's An Equal Music (Vintage International 1999) is a chamber musician, a pianist, with adult-onset, progressive hearing loss. By the time we meet her, she's taken lipreading classes and adjusted her performance habits to accommodate the difference; but she hasn't yet told any of her colleagues, afraid for what their reaction will be. So far, she's been able to rely on her experience of the non-audible ways musical quartets interact. The novel's narrator, her old lover and colleague Michael, is thunderstruck when he learns of Julia's impairment. He says "I would have expected more protest, more despair, more rage," and protests "You're taking it too lightly." To which Julia replies, "Well, Michael, it's for me to take. You would have managed somehow if this had happened to you. You might not think so, but you would have." (168-169)

2. Dick Musch in Molly Gloss's Wild Life (First Mariner Books 2001) is a very minor character--he has just one scene--but the history he reflects is important, and under-researched. The narrator, Charlotte, encounters Dick, "a boy with a wooden leg," living in a logging camp in the Pacific Northwest, around 1900:
I leant back and rested my elbows on the bench beside him and commented upon his wooden leg in a mild and roundabout way. 'I believe I've seen half a dozen crippled men in coming four blocks through town,' I said, which didn't seem to offend or surprise him.

'Donkey boilers blow up,' he said easily. 'People fall from flumes, band saws break, a tree walks, a leg gets caught in the bight of the donkey cable. I guess there is about a hundred ways to get killed or hurt in the woods and the mills.' (p. 85)
3. Francis-Xavier Martin in John Bailey's The Lost German Slave Girl (Grove Press 2003) was a real person--because this isn't a novel, but a narrative history of an unusual legal case in antebellum Louisiana. Martin (1762-1846) was an eminent jurist and historian. He presided over the Louisiana Supreme Court for many years, at least a decade of them after becoming blind in his seventies. "Most men would have seen this as a reason for retiring, but not so Martin. When he was no longer capable of writing opinions, he dictated them to an amanuensis; or when none was available, he placed guides at the edge of each page so that he would know when to move his hand down to commence writing a fresh line." (p. 200) If a novelist created a blind judge to hear an appeal about whether or not a slave woman was really white, that would seem too perfect... but sometimes history works like that.

4. Alice Beazley in Jennifer Vanderbes's Easter Island (Bantam Dell 2003) is the sister of Elsa, a main character in this historical novel, but her developmental disability is central to the plot, so she's no side character--we learn much of her interests, and skills, and feelings. Elsa apologizes for Alice a lot, and worries that Alice is a burden on a 1910s research expedition to Easter Island; Elsa's husband insists that Alice is no burden, for reasons of his own. In an early scene, Elsa remembers being scolded by her unusually enlightened father decades earlier, when there was talk of sending the young Alice to an asylum:
'Understand this,' he said. 'Alice does not need to be fixed. She needs to be cared for. And you will not now or ever refer to any of Alice's behavior as a problem or defect. Do I need to repeat myself?' (p. 40)
5. Auro in Nicholas Christopher's A Trip to the Stars (Simon & Schuster 2000) is first introduced as a nervous boy with echolalia--he cannot easily initiate his own words and sentences, but can speak back the words that others say. This echoing makes conversations frustrating, but in music his ability to repeat what he hears is useful, so he sticks to the drums, and becomes a successful jazz drummer by book's end. (By young adulthood, Auro has also begun carrying a notepad for smoother communication.) Auro's cousin describes him, "though his speech disability made it sound as if he had a constricted thought process, that was anything but the case." (p. 143)

6. Zaren Eboli, also in Nicholas Christopher's A Trip to the Stars (Simon & Schuster 2000), is Auro's mentor and bandmate, a jazz pianist with eight fingers (no pinkies), who's also an expert on spiders (eight fingers, eight legs, see?). A particular kind of spider bite that creates longterm neurological effects (hypersensitive hearing and heightened memory, for example) is part of the novel's complicated plot. There's also a Vegas billiards champion in the book, who has a hydraulic billiards table that adjusts to his wheelchair's height. So this book is full of disability themes.

7. Frederick Law Olmsted in Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City (Vintage 2003) is also a real person, and this is another narrative history rather than a novel. Larson tells of renowned landscape architect Olmsted's involvement with the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, but also of his dementia, which became apparent soon after the fair: "It has today, for the first time, become evident to me that my memory for recent occurrences is no longer to be trusted," he wrote to his son in May 1895. He said "anything but that" to the idea of being institutionalized, but in the end he was, anyway--at the McLean Asylum in Massachusetts, the grounds of which Olmsted himself had designed. (p. 379)

8. Crake (Glenn) in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (Doubleday 2003) is the villain of the piece--he wipes out the whole human race, more or less, with a virus he's personally engineered and distributed. He's also a character who identifies as having Asperger's--in fact one of the chapters is titled "Asperger's U.," and concerns the main character's visit to Crake at school, which Atwood describes using the usual stereotypes:
Watson-Crick was known to the students there as Asperger's U. because of the high percentage of brilliant weirdos that strolled and hopped and lurched through its corridors. Demi-autistic, genetically speaking; single-track tunnel-vision minds, a marked degree of social ineptitude--these were not your sharp dressers--and luckily for everyone there, a high tolerance for mildly deviant public behaviour. (193-194)
Hmm, David, why top TEN, anyway? Okay, okay, more:

9. Grace Dietrich in "Two Rivers," a novella in Andrea Barrett's Servants of the Map (WW Norton & Co., 2002) first appears in the story as a deaf child living near the Ohio River in the 1820s, who uses her own gestural language or home sign, familiar to her family. "Grace lost her hearing when she was two," her sister Miriam explains to a visitor, "Most of our signs she invented, though we also use some she's picked up from her friends." (p. 148) With her sister and brother-in-law, Grace helps start an Academy for the Deaf in Ohio; the Dietrich sisters are also part of the brother-in-law's expeditions for fossils, with Grace drawing the detailed maps of their excavation sites.

10. Henry Day in Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child (Anchor Books 2006) is a hobgoblin who has taken over the life of a human boy in mid-20th-century America. Okay, being a hobgoblin is not exactly a disability under the ADA, but the "changeling myth" is an enduring story in disability studies (but see Goodey and Stainton 2001* on whether or not this story has firm historical basis). As a hobgoblin, Henry can imitate human form, but it's a constant effort; and likewise, he has to fake the memories and personality of the boy he's replaced. So there are commonalities with the experience of hidden disability and passing in Henry's story.

(*CF Goodey and Tim Stainton, "Intellectual Disability and the Myth of the Changeling Myth," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 37(3)(July 2001): 233-240.)

Two final notes: (1) Inclusion in this list does not constitute an endorsement of the book or the characterization in question--in fact some of them are pretty problematic--but I figure it's still worth knowing they're out there; and (2) The reason these are mostly from 1999-2003 is that I buy a lot of my books secondhand.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Back to School at Terminator Elementary...

When my daughter was a year old, we were in a playgroup with about ten mothers and their babies. This being Los Angeles County, three of the ten women had "Schwarzenegger stories," tales of working on film sets with Arnold Schwarzenegger. (I laughed. Then he became governor. Then he got reelected governor.)

Now, there will be a whole new genre of "Schwarzenegger stories" among the young families of Los Angeles, because the CHIME Elementary School in Woodland Hills, a charter school that's an internationally-recognized model program of inclusive education, is renaming itself after the Governator, as the "CHIME Institute's Arnold Schwarzenegger Elementary School."

“I am honored to have a high-quality institution like CHIME Charter Elementary named in my honor. The CHIME Institute shares my commitment to educating all children,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.

Wow. And the new school mascot will be... ? The mind boggles.

[Image above: The Governor as Conan the Barbarian, dressed in leather/fur/metal underpants and studded headband, and that's about it.]

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

August 15: John Metcalf, aka "Blind Jack" (1717-1810)

Colorful, long-lived Englishman and civil engineer John Metcalf was born on this date in 1717, in Knaresborough, north of Leeds. When he was six, young John survived smallpox, but lost his sight to the disease. His family, thinking he'd have limited career choices, arranged for him to be taught the fiddle, and he learned to play well. He also knew a lot about horses, cards, and hunting, and was a good swimmer and diver. He married and was the father of four. He was briefly in the army in 1745 (not in combat, but moving guns and assisting a recruiting sergeant).

As a young man, he walked to London ahead of his travel companion, and in his twenties he carted fish and other goods from the coast to Leeds and Manchester, or between York and Knaresborough. His business became a stagecoach line, and he drove the coach himself. So he knew the roads very well when, in 1765, he won the contract to build three miles of new road between Minskip and Feamsby. He would, eventually, build about 180 miles of roads, noted for their good drainage and foundations.

Metcalf retired in 1792, but in 1794 he walked from Spofforth to York to dictate his life's story to a publisher. He died in 1810, at the age of 92.

[Image above: a drawing of Metcalf, made late in his life by J. R. Smith, 1801; for use in the published editions of Metcalf's autobiography. He's shown as a robust figure, holding a cane and wearing a hat and coat, with white hair curling down over his ears and collar]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

August 11: Andre Dubus (1936-1999)

American writer Andre Dubus was born on this date in 1936, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was almost fifty years old, an ex-Marine, father of six, a prolific short-story writer and a respected writing instructor when he stopped to help an injured woman and her brother on the road. The three were hit by an oncoming car, killing the brother. Dubus saved the woman by pushing her to safety, but his own legs were crushed by the car instead. One amputation and years of surgery and therapy followed, and for the rest of his life Dubus used a wheelchair.

In his post-accident life, Dubus published two further books of essays, a collection of short stories, and numerous contributions to literary magazines. One of the essay collections, his last, was Meditations from a Moveable Chair (1998, cover at right shows a bearded Dubus in a wheelchair, near a ramp in a swamplike exterior). A comment here earlier this week pointed out that the title story of Dubus's second-to-last collection, Dancing After Hours (1996), features Drew, a wheelchair user and his assistant, and a waitress who has a strong memory about listening to Rahsaan Roland Kirk. (Ruth at Wheelie Catholic made note of Dubus last year, too.)

[Note: Last August 11, we marked the birthday of poet Louise Bogan.]

Incubation and Spectacle

For anyone who's visited a child in a modern neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), this 1904 illustration by May Wilson Preston (1873-1949) will come as a strange image. It was made for a serial in Good Housekeeping called "The Incubator Baby" by Ellis Parker Butler (1869-1937), which was published in book form in 1906:

What are all those people doing there? Shouldn't they be wearing gloves, or even masks? Where are the infernal beeping monitors?

In the early 20th century, incubators for premature babies were considered a fascinating technological novelty--but hospitals needed funds to purchase them, and that required public support for the idea. To raise interest, incubators were displayed to the public, with the babies still inside, many of them under 3 lbs at birth. "Baby hatcheries" were found at state fairs, and amusement parks like Coney Island. Admission was charged (10 cents), ostensibly to pay for the costs of maintaining the display, and for the lesson imparted by the "experts" on site, who answered questions about the babies and the technology. Some visitors returned again and again to follow the progress of particular babies; twins were especially popular. When babies reached a healthy weight, they were returned to their parents (who were not generally involved in the baby's daily care during incubation).

The Brooklyn Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children objected to the Coney Island exhibit early on, but it remained every summer into the 1940s. The Oral History Archive at the Coney Island History Project has audio interviews with several former "incubator babies" who were displayed in their earliest days. (Quality isn't terrific--one is a recording of a phone conversations.)

For further reading:

Hannah Lieberman, "Incubator Baby Shows: A Medical and Social Frontier," The History Teacher 35(1)(November 2001): 81-88. NOTE: Lieberman was a high school student in Minneapolis when she wrote this essay, which won the National History Day 2001 Competition for Senior Division Historical Paper.

A. J. Liebling, "A Patron of the Preemies," New Yorker (June 3, 1939): 20-24.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Disability Blog Carnival #20 is up NOW!

Take your beautiful ticket (at left) and head on over to the latest edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, now up at Andrea's Buzzing About. "On Holiday" is the theme, and Andrea's conjured a gorgeous late summer festival, complete with a bandstand, gluten-free brownies, and butterfly gardens. Drown the frustrations of a gravel path and a cruise gone bad, while you celebrate the accessible sailing and improved airline service out there.

Next carnival edition is #21--and it's being hosted on August 26 by repeat host David Gayes at Growing Up with a Disability. His theme is "Top Ten Lists." So, summon your inner Letterman and submit a suitable post by Monday, August 23, at the page, or in comments here, or at David's blog. We'll find them! (Interested in hosting? We're booking October and November now, email me to volunteer.)

Wordless Wednesday: Signage

Spotted yesterday in Redondo Beach, CA:
[Visual description: A "handicap parking" sign nailed to a post, but the sign is nearly covered in radio station and band stickers, and the residue of old stickers. Taken by me, outside Coffee Cartel, Redondo Beach CA, 7 August 2007]

Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

August 7: Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936-1977)

Jazz instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk (pictured at left, in sepia-toned profile) was born on this date in 1936, in Columbus, Ohio. He played all sorts of woodwind and reed instruments: saxophones, clarinets, flutes, harmonicas, English horn, among others. Oh, and sometimes he played more than one saxophone or flute at a time--and it didn't sound like rush hour traffic (unless he wanted it to, I guess).

Kirk was blind from infancy. He attended the Ohio State School for the Blind, where he played in the school band. He was playing professionally while still in his teens, and recorded his first album before he was old enough to vote, in 1956.

In 1975, Kirk had a stroke with lasting hemiplegia--so he modified some of his instruments to be played with just one hand. In the winter of 1977, Kirk had a second stroke, which was fatal. He was just 41 years old.

Check out Kirk in performance on YouTube, here, here, here, and here, for starters.

Monday, August 06, 2007

New Book: Writing Deafness

How did Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Lydia Sigourney, and James Fenimore Cooper employ deafness themes and deaf characters? Check out Christopher Krentz's new book, Writing Deafness: The Hearing Line in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (UNC Press 2007; cover shown at right). Krentz is an assistant professor of English at the University of Virginia, and also editor of A Mighty Change: An Anthology of Deaf American Writing, 1816-1864 (Gallaudet University Press 2000).

In the News in Southern California

A comment here at DS,TU alerts us that Pedro Guzman has turned up alive in a jail in the Antelope Valley--I'm still looking for some news coverage of this development, but if it's true, it's great news. And I hope the whole strange story can be explained now, somehow.

But while I was looking for that, I noticed that the LA Times had a story yesterday about the disability community and AB 374, the assisted suicide bill recently defeated in California. It features quotes from Paul Longmore, Marilyn Golden of DREDF, Ann Guerra, and Laura Remson Mitchell (against the bill) and Alan Toy and Lloyd Levine (supporting the bill). It's a good piece; thanks to the writer, James Ricci, and all involved for presenting the issues clearly and respectfully.

UPDATE (7 August): Our commenter had the scoop--Pedro Guzman has apparently turned up alive--but it took till late this morning to find confirmation at the LA Times (thanks to Stephen Drake for the tip). Seems Guzman was found trying to return to the US (he is an American citizen) at Calexico. The ACLU is starting a press conference about Guzman's reappearance in a few minutes (1pm California time).

UPDATE (8 August): NBC 7 in San Diego has a new photo of Pedro Guzman after his return to California: "His family said he ate out of garbage cans, bathed in rivers, and was repeatedly turned away by US border agents when he tried to return to California." So, US authorities were seeing him repeatedly during this time--and nobody suspected that he was the Pedro Guzman that was urgently sought? He was an American citizen, lost, confused, and in trouble in Mexico for almost three months.

Austin's Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007) took on "highway beautification" as a project while she was First Lady in the Sixties. Pretty safe choice for a fifty-something Southern lady, in a socially tumultuous decade. Except... her beautification agenda eventually paid off for a civil rights movement anyway. By working for more park land and recreational spaces close to urban areas, Johnson paved the way (almost literally) for wheelchair-accessible recreation areas, too.

Town Lake in Austin, Texas, was one example of this phenomenon. Formerly a "garbage-strewn eyesore," in the words of one former mayor, the Lake (really a reservoir) has since become a "jewel" in the state capital. Hundreds of trees were planted, trails were laid out, and it's now a favorite spot for many Austin residents. After leaving the White House, the Johnsons were Austin residents themselves; and after her stroke in 2001, Lady Bird used a wheelchair. Her daughter Luci said that they loved to go around the lake trail in her last years. "We discovered it was wheelchair accessible--although not quite enough," said Luci.

Now that the lake has been renamed Lady Bird Lake, Luci hopes that the city will honor the spirit of its namesake, improving and increasing the accessible trail's reach. (As Katja recently observed, some people really do want recreational wheelchair access that goes more than a few hundred feet.) If you're in Austin sometime, go see if they've met that goal.

Prefer to stay on the West Coast? The Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park also boasts a one-mile wheelchair-accessible trail.