Saturday, January 31, 2009

Antennae for everyone

Antennae for everyone
Originally uploaded by pennylrichardsca

Another post for Kay at the Gimp Parade--unlike some theme-y bathroom signage, the wheelchair user in this sign is included in the antenna fun. (Found at Disney California Adventure, in the "Bug's Land" area.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Two Summer Seminars of Note

Disability Studies programs in West Virginia, United States and Lancaster, UK are offering exciting summer seminars that explore issues of importance to the field. Take note, and join in the ensuing conversations! Interestingly, both of them feature Professor Robert McRuer, who also kicked off the Geo-Politics of Disability Speaker Series at Temple University!

Global Bodies: Representing Disability and Gender
Seminar chaired Robert McRuer, George Washington University
Dates: May 21-24, 2009
Location: West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

"Literary, Cultural, and Disability Studies: A Tripartite Approach to Poststructuralism"
Seminar chaired by Professor Carol Thomas and organised by Hannah Morgan and Dr. David Bolt at Lancaster University.
Date and Time: June 8, 2009 from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm
Location: Lancaster, UK

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foundation for a Better[?] Life

Do readers of this blog have opinions or, better yet, inside knowledge about the "Foundation for Better Life" advertising campaign? Their advertisements are very prominent here on the Temple University campus and perhaps the university campus near you. I've begun to wonder what does it means the academic pursuit of disability studies at Temple University when the foundation's posters are more prominent than the fliers for our disability studies events. On a recent trip to New York to attend the American Historical Association conference, I encountered even more prominent billboards paid for by the same foundation featuring Helen Keller and espousing a "just do it," overcoming disability mentality.

It is noteworthy how frequently this foundation's "inspirational" campaign feature prominent people with disabilities, particularly those who have achieved a celebrity status, such as Christopher Reeve, Paralympic sprinter Marlon Shirley and the surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark attack and has remained dedicated to the sport. Disability becomes an opportunity to encourage the viewer, whether 'normal' or 'disabled' to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

Wheelchair Dancer has written on the "Devotion" campaign featuring father and son marathon runners Dick and Rick Hoyt, which she believes implies that "it is an act of extreme devotion [for father Dick] to push [Rick] through the marathons." It is instructive to read the viewer comments that the Foundation has received in response to this and other advertisements, including unanswered questions.

I would be interested to know how many of you have seen these posters in these commities and on your campuses, and if so, what were the themes? What were your initial thoughts - what do you see as the purpose of this campaign? Give the breadth of the campaign, I am trying to figure out why I have only seen the ones featuring celebrities with disabilties. I am also wondering if there has been any attempt by disability activities to communicate with this foundation or to contest their tactics. Your contributions and suggestions are welcome here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Accessible" swingset

"Accessible" swingset
Originally uploaded by pennylrichardsca

This is the new swingset in my neighborhood. See the nice new blue accessible swings? Very nice, but... See how there's no wheelable way to GET to the two blue accessible swings? Sigh. So close.

Friday, January 16, 2009

2009 Inauguration Coverage on PBS to be Described and Captioned Live

January 16, 2009
Press Contact: Mary Watkins. 617 300-3700

Media Access Group at WGBH To Provide Closed Captioning And Live Description for PBS's Inaugural Coverage

Described version of coverage will also stream live on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) web site.

Boston, MA — The Media Access Group at WGBH, a non-profit service of the WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts, will provide both closed captioning and live description of Barack Obama's presidential inauguration for the PBS presentation of Inauguration 2009, a NewsHour special hosted by Jim Lehrer. The PBS coverage of the inauguration airs live on Tuesday, January 20 from 11AM to 1:30PM EST. While live captioning is an established feature of many television broadcasts, live description, the creation at time of air of a narration track imparting information about visual elements that people who are blind or visually impaired would miss, is a rare service. Dunkin' Donuts is generously sponsoring the description service for this broadcast. In 1993, PBS's coverage of the Clinton inauguration was the first live television program that was made fully accessible to the nation's 36 million deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and visually impaired viewers.

While details from the inaugural planning committee are still forthcoming, PBS plans to include coverage of Barack Obama's arrival at the White House, excerpts of the church service and Barack Obama's speech to the nation from the Capitol steps.

Hosted by Jim Lehrer of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the PBS presentation will feature political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks, as well as a panel to provide historical context:
  • Ellen Fitzpatrick, presidential historian and professor at the University of New Hampshire
  • Peniel Joseph, professor of history and African-American studies at Brandeis University
  • Richard Brookhiser, senior editor at National Review and author of a series of biographies of America's founders, including Alexander Hamilton and George Washington
"WGBH is proud to take part in making this historic event fully accessible to all PBS viewers once again," says Media Access Group director Larry Goldberg. "And we're extremely grateful to PBS, the team at MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and to corporate sponsor of the live description Dunkin' Donuts for the opportunity to bring not only the audio of the inaugural coverage to deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans, but also the visual highlights of the occasion to those who are blind or visually impaired."

Dunkin' Donuts, for many years a corporate caption sponsor of local news broadcasts in the Boston area, is sponsoring description for the first time. Shannon Maxwell, field marketing manager for Dunkin' Donuts says, "Dunkin' Donuts individual franchise owners are proud to play a part of making this major event accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences. We are thrilled that our contribution will make the images of the day come alive via description."

Closed captions display spoken dialogue as text on the television screen. The live captions will be typed by specially trained stenocaptioners — working from WGBH’s Boston-based headquarters — and broadcast simultaneously with the live program. The descriptive narration — provided by an expert team of describers — will be audible during pauses in program dialogue and will identify speakers, describe settings and convey other visual information about the event. Captions can be accessed on televisions equipped with built-in decoders (most televisions are equipped), while viewers can hear descriptions by switching to the Second Audio Program (SAP) channel on their stereo TVs. The described coverage will also be streamed live on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) web site.

The Media Access Group at WGBH incorporates The Caption Center, the world's first captioning agency, founded in 1972; Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®), which has made television, film and video more accessible to blind and visually impaired audiences since 1990; and the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), a research and development entity that builds on the success of WGBH's access service departments to make existing and emerging technologies more accessible to these under-served audiences. Members of the Media Access Group's collective staff represent the leading resources and experts in their fields.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

News from York University's Critical Disability Studies Graduate Students' Association (x-SDS)

York University's Critical Disability Studies Graduate Students' Association (CDSGSA) is currently calling for papers from graduate students and alumnus for the following 2 annual events/activities. Deadlines are fast approaching !!!

For details about both activities, please go to the Association's website:
  1. Annual Graduate Student Conference to be held on May 9, 2009 (Papers submission deadline: February 1, 2009)
  2. Annual Graduate Student Journal entitled "Critical Disability Discourse Journal" to be published in Fall 2009 (Papers submission deadline: April 1, 2009)

Re/Formations: Disability, Women, and Sculpture: Exhibit Opening 1/15 (x-SDS)

From January 16 through February 27, the Van Every/ Smith Galleries at Davidson College will present RE/FORMATIONS: Disability, Women, and Sculpture.

Untitled (blue high heeled women's pumps, with bent wooden heels). Part of the RE/FORMATIONS installation, Molt, with Scurs*, 2008

Five female artists will exhibit sculpture that examines disability not as mental or physical insufficiency, but as a cultural identity. The artists included are Nancy Fried, Rebecca Horn, Judith Scott, Harriet Sanderson, and Laura Splan. Re/Formations, the first exhibit of its kind, was born of the desire to explore the intersection of disability and female identity as expressed through the medium of sculpture. These identities, while not identical, hold so much in common. Women and the disabled have been relegated to secondary status in society, cast as those excessive and unruly bodies against which the normate defines itself. The exhibit contains both sculptures and installations that are by turns contemplative and confrontational, and explore a number of questions: what is the new disability art? How can art make material the disability experience? If an artist’s mobility or intentionality do not match what we think of as “typical,” what possibilities does that open up for invigorating how we understand art itself?

There will be a panel discussion on “Women, Disability, and Art” on January 15th at 7 p.m. in the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room of The Alvarez College Union featuring Dr. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Dr. Ann Millet-Gallant, Laura Splan, Harriet Sanderson, Jessica Cooley, and moderated by myself.

Untitled (JS 33), 2004 Mixed Media (fiber and found objects including a child-sized chair and tire rim with spokes) 17x21x29”

The exhibition opening and dessert reception will follow the panel discussion from 8 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at the Van Every/Smith Galleries in the Katherine and Tom Belk Visual Arts Center. The galleries are open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends from noon to 4 p.m. For information, call 704-894-2575. Please note that the exhibit is fully accessible and audio described.

Please note that there are two other exhibits complementing Re/Formations; an exhibit of works from the Davidson College collection with disability themes, and an exhibit in the Union of works from Charlotte’s LifeSpan, Inc., a local arts organization that works with disabled artists.

This exhibit has been co-curated by Jessica Cooley ‘05, Assistant Curator of the Van Every/Smith Galleries, and Ann M. Fox, Associate Professor of English. After Davidson College, it will travel to the National Institute of Art & Disabilities in Richmond, CA.

RE/FORMATIONS: Disability, Women, and Sculpture is made possible through the generous support of:

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
The Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation, Inc
Wachovia Corporation
Davidson College Friends of the Arts
Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC
Davidson College Dean of Students Office
Davidson College English Department
Davidson College German Department
Davidson College Gender Studies Concentration
Davidson College Medical Humanities Program
Davidson College Public Lectures Committee
LifeSpan Incorporated
The Arts & Science Council and the Grassroots Program of the North Carolina Arts Council (a state agency)
The National Endowment for the Arts
The North Carolina Arts Council with funding from the state of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

Patrick Byrne ( c.1794 - 1863)

Patrick Byrne, about 1794 - 1863. Irish Harpist
Originally uploaded by National Galleries of Scotland

[Image above (click through for a better version): vintage photo of an older man, wearing blanket-like draped robes and a laurel wreath on his head, seated at a harp]

The National Galleries of Scotland began uploading images to the Flickr Commons project this week--and in the first batch of 107 photos, this image of blind Irish harpist Patrick Byrne (17??-1863). There was a long tradition of blind harpists in Ireland before Byrne--including Arthur O'Neill (1737-1816), Echlin O'Cahan (b. 1720), Thady Elliott (b. 1725), Owen Keenan (b. 1725, aka "The Blind Romeo of Killymoon"), Denis O'Hempsy (1695-1807--yes, I typed that right, he was believed to be 112 at his death), and Rory "Dall" O'Cahan (b. 1646, the Dall in his name indicates his blindness). And of course, Carolan (1670-1738) (thanks to Kathie S. for the reminder there!).

Last year marked the 200th anniversary of the 1808 founding of the Irish Harp Society in Belfast, one of the first schools in the world for blind musicians. In its first years, the school taught music in Irish, because the technical terms the teachers used were Irish words. So the school was considered both a vocational training program and a cultural preservation effort.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Disability history is getting really popular with the kids...

"I wanted to be Helen Keller, but she got tooken by the very first kid!"
--my daughter Nell, after school today.
The third-graders at her school do a "Living Museum" every year, where they each dress in a costume and prepare a little talk about their historical figure. Then they each wear a "Press Here" paper button on their chests and stand along the walls of the cafeteria; the younger kids can come through and push the buttons to get the biographies recited. It's very cute. There's a standard list of names, the kids have to pick from it, one of each figure per room... and apparently HK was the first draft pick in Nell's room. I should find out when Louis Braille and Beethoven were picked up....

(Nell will be Mozart instead. That's fine, I can make some kind of a powdered wig in the next five weeks...)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The "Voices of our Region" project

Found the press release for the "Voices of our Region" project interesting--an oral history project documenting disability history in southwestern Pennsylvania, timed to be part of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary celebrations. Cool.

But the website for the project is really cool--they're putting up transcripts of the oral histories, and photographs of the interviewees, and video clips, and audio files, and... well, I could spend a long time there, and if you're interested in public history and everyday lives and human stories, you might want to join me. Some excerpts....
Now, I often wished that my parents could sign. But my dad he couldn’t do that very well. It was tough understanding with his speech. What? What? Well same with my mom. I wish that we could have had good meaningful conversations but it was just limited. How are you? How was work? But never asked deeper questions, deeper communication. But I still loved both of them, of course. But I really wish that they knew sign language. We didn’t really have the best communication, but I know my mom she loved me so much. She was so proud of me. She’d always talk about that. But just conversations with me, ahh, that was kind of shaky.(Chris Noschese)

I wrote about seven graduate schools with social work. I did tell them I was blind, wondered what their experience had been with blind people in the past, and requested information about scholarships. Some schools never replied. The University of Chicago sent me a classic letter that basically said to the effect that “The degree of your success will depend on the degree of your visual handicap. We have not had favorable experience with blind people in the past.” That was back in 63. (Joyce Driben)

The county had started a fledgling rehab there with makeshift equipment and I spent a year and a half there and it was a rather depressing place. First of all it was segregated. It was a county operated facility that was totally racially segregated. I was a teenager. However the year and a half went by. You learn to survive and live in an environment that wasn’t very healthy. I don’t think there was any discrimination in the quality of care. I think it was just bad that’s all. (William Coleman)

Monday, January 12, 2009

What I should be writing about....

...but I'm not, because my connection is so unpredictable--a blog entry with links would take hours to assemble, during most parts of the day. I'm going to try a quick one here, at night, when the connection seems to work better. I'd like to be covering...
  • The petition against a humanitarian "Oscar" for Jerry Lewis (but Andrea Shettle's got it covered, and Shelley Tremain too)
  • Accessibility (or lack thereof) at the Inauguration next week (Ruth Harrigan has a round-up)
  • Peter Dinklage on last week's episode of 30 Rock (which was terrific--Beth Haller has the story, with a photo)
  • Blogger Kristina Chew's departure from Autism Vox, and arrival at
  • The book I'm reading, April Witch by Majgull Axelsson (a Swedish novel, title character is disabled, living in a longterm nursing facility, lots of first-person observations on independent living, hospital life, being the object of pity, disgust, disbelief, manipulation, etc.)
  • The book I read before this one, Riven Rock by T. C. Boyle (historical novel based on the real lives of Stanley McCormick and Katharine Dexter McCormick; Stanley's bouts of "derangement" were managed by various treatments, and by isolation on an estate in Montecito, California, supported by his family's wealth and monitored by his wife Katharine for decades)
  • New playground in my neighborhood that's almost kinda-sorta accessible (photo to follow), and adventures in commenting at a nearby town's planning council meeting, where the question was "accessible playground or roller hockey?" (They decided, not wanting to disappoint any of the commenters, to have both, against some daunting limitations of space, but at least it's still under discussion.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Disability Blog Carnival #52 (January 2009) is up now!

Cherylberyl posted the newest edition of the Disability Blog Carnival this week (here and here). As she noted, there weren't many actual submissions over the holidays, but she went and gathered a collection of links anyway, and it's well worth checking out.

The next edition is scheduled for 12 February at the blog River of Jordan, hosted by twxee. Topic TBA (soon!).

You'll notice that we've moved to a once-a-month Disability Blog Carnival. Twice a month was great, but once a month is the frequency of many other carnivals, and maybe that's for good reason. As Cherylberyl found, submissions have decreased--not just at our carnival, but at many blog carnivals, from various reports. Please continue to submit posts as usual, through the form (warning, CAPTCHA!), by email, by comment, or by putting the phrase "disability blog carnival" in your post.

And we need hosts for the April and further carnivals. Let me know if you're interested!

(My apologies for not posting this news earlier--I've had about three weeks of very spotty internet connection, and I don't know when that will end. It's taken about three frustrating hours to get this post up. This situation also explains the minimal posting I've been able to do here--again, apologies.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

VSA arts: two calls for entry [x-SDS]

VSA arts is planning the next International VSA arts Festival which will be held June 6 - 12, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Two calls for entry have recently been posted to their website that will support the visual arts components of the Festival:

1.) The first, a call for exhibition proposals, offers curators and researchers an opportunity to propose exhibitions that include artists with disabilities. The deadline is February 20, 2009. Proposals will be reviewed for presentation in advance of and during the Festival. The first exhibition will be programmed at the Kennedy Center from May 28 – June 25, 2009. Link to web description and multiple formats

2.) The second call, Revealing Culture, solicits applications by artists with disabilities working in all media for an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s International Gallery. The deadline is April 30, 2009. Artists who are not selected for the Smithsonian exhibition will be considered for alternative spaces during the Festival. Link to web description and multiple formats

Versions of this call including ASCII, PDF, French, Spanish and Arabic are available on the Web. Braille and large print are available on request. Thank you for your assistance locating interested curators and artists!


Stephanie Moore
Director, Visual Arts
VSA arts
818 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006
tel +1.202.628.2800
fax +1.202.429.0868
TTY +1.202.737.0645
an affiliate of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Monday, January 05, 2009

January 6: Percivall Pott (1714-1788)

Text not available
Observations on the Nature and Consequences of Those Injuries to which the Head is Liable from External Violence To which are Added, Some Few General Remarks on Fractures and Dislocation By Percivall Pott

Doctors sometimes write about or from their own personal medical experiences, because, well, doctors have bodies too. Think Oliver Sacks' A Leg to Stand On, or Claudia Osborn's Over My Head, or Jill Bolte Taylor's recent A Stroke of Insight (she's a brain scientist, not a physician, but the idea is similar).

An early member of the club is Percivall Pott, an English surgeon. At age 42, he fell off a horse and sustained a serious broken leg. The standard of care for his kind of injury in the 1750s was amputation--which wasn't much care at all, because the surgery itself was quite likely to bring death by sepsis. Instead, his friend and mentor Edward Nourse ordered his wound cleaned, reduced, dressed, and splinted. Pott wrote during his convalescence. Upon recovery, he wrote up the successful treatment in Some Few Remarks Upon Fractures and Dislocations (1768). The book became a popular reference for surgeons in much of western Europe. "It is possible that but for his accident Pott would not have turned to authorship, and surgical literature would have been the poorer," commented Brown and Thornton (see below). Because bonesetting in Pott's day was considered something requiring only minimal skill, he cautions readers from the outset to beware bonesetting quacks, in terms not too far off from today's advice:
The desire of health and ease, like that of money, seems to put all understandings and all men upon a level; the avaritious are duped by every bubble, the lame and the unhealthy by every quack. Each party resigns his understanding, swallows greedily, and for a time believes implicitly the most groundless, ill-founded, and delusory promises, and nothing but loss and disappointment ever produces conviction. (Pott, 2)
Pott is also credited with being the first scientist to link cancer to environmental causes, when he found an association between exposure to soot and a specific cancer of the groin common to chimney sweeps. (The first signs of the cancer were called "soot-wart" by sweeps.) One of the earliest occupational safety laws in the UK was written in part as a response to Pott's discovery. Pott also wrote on spinal arthritis, head injuries, and hernias.

See also:
John R. Brown and John L. Thornton, "Percival Pott and the Chimney Sweepers' Cancer of the Scrotum," British Journal of Industrial Medicine 14(1)(January 1957): 68-70. Online here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

And speaking of Braille...

Today is Louis Braille's bicentennial--the inventor was born on this date in 1809. (We wrote him up on 4 January 2007--probably should have waited!)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Rose Parade float, Helen Keller, and Braille

So last month, I mentioned a family outing to the Getty. This month, we were "tourists in our own city" by going to the display of Rose Parade floats in Pasadena. For two days after the parade, the floats are parked along two streets and in a parking lot, along with food vendors and "white suits," the Rose Parade volunteers who explain how each float is made. (It's a little like if each painting in a museum had its own docent.)

The route was quite wheelable (we saw quite a number of other visitors using mobility equipment), and there were accessible buses from the park-and-ride sites. And the second float we saw was.... the Lions Club International float, titled "the Miracle Worker," with a giant black-and-white image of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan (made of rice, poppy seeds, and onion seeds, we were told); behind it, a giant pair of glasses, a white cane, and a stack of books titled "Braille," "Helen Keller," "The Miracle Worker" etc. The "white suit" at that float showed us a braille version of the Parade program, and invited the kids to feel the braille pages.

Further along, another "white suit" invited us to go inside the barriers to touch a float and examine it at even closer range. Apparently this is an accommodation offered to disabled visitors--so my son was soon holding a starfish made of lima beans and whiffing irises.

[Photos depict the Lions Club float as described in the text of this post.]