Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Enrico Toti (1882-1916)

Statue of Enrico Toti in Rome; much-larger-than-life muscular male nude, holding a crutch, with his left leg ending mid-thigh.  In a park setting, with blue skies.  Base is inscribed with his name and other text in Italian.

With all the WWI centenary coverage, we were moved to come across this statue at the Villa Borghese gardens, on a recent family vacation in Rome.  Enrico Toti (1882-1916) was a railway worker from Rome; his leg was lost in a workplace accident in 1906.  After that, he became a distance cyclist, riding from Rome to Lapland, and down to Egypt, to great acclaim.  At the onset of WWI, he was considered unfit for military service, but he volunteered as a bicycle courier, and became an unofficial member of the 3rd Bersaglieri Bicycle Battalion.  He died at the Sixth Battle of Isonzo, and is one of the very few civilians awarded Italy's medal for military valor.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

BADD 2014: Wikipedia Against Disablism

Manke Nelis 933-9662
Manke Nelis (1919-1983), a Dutch singer and musician whose right leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident in the 1950s; in this image, he is an older man on a sports field, singing into a microphone, with his arms raised.  His sweatshirt reads "Nelis Goes to Hollywood." Image from Wikimedia Commons (of course).

(Blowing dust from the mike)

Tap tap tap.... hello? testing... hello?

Yeah, it's been a long time since we posted any new content here on DSTU.  But today is Blogging Against Disablism Day, and I have it on good authority (from Goldfish directly) that we're the only blog that participated in all eight previous BADDs, so I'd hate to break that streak.  We're here for BADD. 

Our previous eight appearances:  2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. (For the record, the 2007 and 2008 entries are two of my favorite blog posts I've ever written, on any blog, or any topic.  BADD has been good for me.)

If you clicked any of those links, you'll know I usually blog about disability history for BADD--about the ways we use and record history, the stories we forget, and the stories we need to remember and retell.  This year, I'm on the same soapbox, but this time, no rant--instead, a challenge. 

For the past couple years, I've been putting more and more time and energy into editing on Wikipedia.  It's not easy, but it's interesting, and I seem to have a knack for it. I'm slowly learning how to do more and more there. I know schoolkids aren't supposed to use Wikipedia, but I hope they do anyway, because I'm consistently impressed with the way new entries are combed for typos, outlandish declarations, and unsupported claims of notability.  Writing on Wikipedia makes me think about the details.

I mostly create biographical entries for women, artists and scientists and museum folk not previously represented with full entries.  In addition to starting new entries, I make many small edits on existing entries--and some of those small edits involve shifts in language, removing cliches, decreasing melodrama, respecting personhood.  In other words, I find ways to use Wikipedia to fight disablism when I spot it.   Might seem extremely minor, but these entries are consulted by many thousands more readers than a journal article or a blog post will ever draw.  And the beauty of crowdsourcing is in the cumulative effect of many little contributions and improvements.

So now the challenge:  join me.  Or maybe join WikiProject Disability, which is the gathering of Wikipedians interested in disability topics.  Editing from a base of support and coordination like a WikiProject helps in learning the ropes. Or try an edit-athon--there are several going on in any given month--you can participate in person or virtually.  Edit-athons are supportive events, and tend to bring more attention to their products.   Can you contribute images or sound clips to Wikimedia, or verified quotes to Wikiquote, for use in Wikipedia entries?  Maybe you can translate an entry, or add a Wikipedia assignment to your course syllabus.

There's plenty of work to do out there--and Wikipedia is one pretty nifty place to do some of it. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nelson Mandela on "the long walk to equality"

"We cannot claim to have reached anywhere near to where a society should be in terms of practical equality of the disabled. We continue to try. We realise that legislation and regulations are not sufficient or the end of the long walk to equality and non-discrimination. Education, raising of awareness, conscientisation, eradication of stigmatisation: these are key elements in achieving non-discrimination against the disabled in practice and in their everyday lives."

--Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), in a 2004 message

Sunday, September 15, 2013

RIP: Anita Blair (1916-2010) and Betty G. Miller (1934-2012)

Two obituaries came to my attention this morning. Both women died more than a year ago, but I'm just seeing these now. If I write about them here, I won't forget to follow up with getting Wikipedia entries going about them, when the time allows.

I first mentioned Anita Lee Blair (pictured at left, a white woman dressed in a dark suit, in a portrait with her guide dog Fawn) at this blog a few years ago, when David Paterson had become Governor of New York, and the topic of blind elected officials was in the news.  Anita Blair was born in 1916, and became blind after head injuries sustained in a car accident, not long after graduating from high school (no seatbelts or safety glass in the 1930s).  She graduated from the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy; later she earned a master's degree as well.  She was the first person in El Paso to receive a guide dog, a German shepherd named Fawn; she even made a short film about Fawn, to use on her lecture tour.  Fawn and Anita made headlines in 1946, when they escaped a deadly hotel fire in Chicago.  As far as anyone can tell, she was the first blind woman ever elected to any state legislature--she served one term in the Texas House of Representatives, 1953-55.  (Here's a Time Magazine article mentioning that she won the Democratic nomination for that race.)  She was also the only woman appointed to Harry Truman's Presidential Safety Committee, the first person to bring a service dog onto the floor of the US Senate, and later was a familiar presence in El Paso, vocal on talk radio and at city council meetings.  Anita Lee Blair died in 2010, just a couple weeks before her 94th birthday, survived by her slightly younger sister Jean.  Upon her passing, the Texas House of Representatives passed a resolution in tribute to their former member.  There's a video of Blair talking about her life on youtube (not captioned), and her El Paso Times obituary included a photo gallery from news files.

Betty G. Miller's obituary turned up in this month's Penn State alumni magazine.  (Miller is pictured at right, a white woman wearing a hat and glasses, with a big smile.) She was a deaf child of deaf parents, and learned ASL as a child at home, but was sent to oral education programs also, an experience that became a theme in her works.  Betty Miller was an artist, an art educator (she had an EdD from Penn State, and taught at Gallaudet), an author, and by her own account the first deaf person to receive certification as an addiction counselor.  In 1972 she had her first one-woman show, "The Silent World," at Gallaudet.  Further shows followed over the next several decades, and a large-scale neon installation by Miller is in the lobby of the Student Activities Center at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf.  She was survived by her partner, artist Nancy Creighton.  Some of Miller's works can be seen in this Wordgathering article by Creighton and at this Pinterest board.

Apparently, this is post #1000 at DSTU, according to Blogger (I suspect that count includes some drafts that didn't ever get posted, for various reasons).  Happy 1000 to our readers, then!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Luckily or Unluckily"

Just ran across this tidbit in the transcript of a 1997 oral history interview with Masatoshi Koshiba (b. 1926), a Japanese physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 2002: 
Koshiba: ...Because my father was an army officer, I was told to enter the military school during the war. Luckily or unluckily, one month before the entrance examination I got polio, which made my right arm numb. It's still numb.

DeVorkin:  But you have full control of it.
Koshiba:  Well, I don't have any strength. That made me exempt from military service during the war.

Later in the interview, Koshiba mentions that he had been fairly athletic, especially at kendo, before he contracted polio and diphtheria at age 13.  Afterwards, he took up building working model airplanes, from bamboo and paper and rubber bands. 

Now here's the odd way I came to this:  I took my daughter to Anime Expo over the weekend, and we went to a panel on kendo.  The expert speaker on the topic, it turned out, was a polio survivor, who took up kendo partly because his martial arts teacher pronounced it "too difficult" for someone with his disabilities.  So, while hearing about kendo, the audience of several hundred (mostly) young anime fans also got some disability memoir too.  I can't find the name of that speaker, but while I was trying to track him down, I came across Professor Koshiba instead.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wow, really?

So you're hosting an exhibit on disability and accessibility at your museum.  Cool!  It's within a day's drive of my house, so can my family come see it?  Oh.  Okay, never mind.

(Thanks to Rachel Cohen-Rattenberg for the heads up.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America

Check out the latest virtual exhibit on disability history, from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History!  From the press release:
        The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has just launched EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America to explore themes and events related to the history of people with disabilities in the U.S. and offer a new perspective on American history. This online exhibition is a first-of-its-kind image compilation that provides access to objects and stories related to the history of disability that have been collected at the museum for more than 50 years. The information is presented in English and Spanish, and the website is designed to be accessible to all users, including those using specialized software for vision or hearing impairments. All pages on the website follow federal accessibility guidelines, which are outlined on the site’s Accessibility Statement page.

        “Many stories and events related to people with disabilities never make it into the history books or shared public memories,” said Katherine Ott, curator of medical science at the museum. “Knowing this history deepens the understanding of the American experience and reveals how complicated history is.”

        The website explores such themes as identity and stereotypes; the importance of place, laws and legislation; home and daily life; technology, institutions and schools; eugenics; and work. Featured objects include prosthetics, adapted kitchen utensils, activists’ buttons and T-shirts, Section 504 (a federal law guaranteeing rights to persons with disabilities) protest artifacts, medical devices, text telephones for the deaf and Braille writers, wheelchairs, design plans for improving accessibility in public spaces and about 300 snapshots, tintypes and cabinet cards. Each image has descriptive detail.
Now here's my personal interest (in addition to my scholarly interest) in this exhibit.  It includes my son's first ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs), which were made for him in about 1998, and donated to the Smithsonian in 2002.  I haven't seen them since then--they look so tiny!  See if you can find them. 

Meanwhile, we posed for an "update" photo with one of the exhibit's posters, and with an array of all his AFOs since that first pair, including his current pair on his feet.
Mother and son, sitting next to a row of ankle-foot orthotics of increasing sizes; the poster for "EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America" is taped to the wall above the orthotics.  (Photo: Helen Turley)