Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Conference for Law Students with Disabilities, January 27 - 28, 2007 at American University in Washington, D.C.

The American Bar Association's (ABA) Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities' Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (IRR), along with the ABA's Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Lawand the ABA's Law Student Division, will be sponsoring a planning conference for a new national student organization that will encourage those with disabilities to pursue careers in the legal profession as well as assist them in the admissions process, throughout their tenure in law school, and in securing employment after graduation. Attendance at the conference is free and financial assistance for travel expenses is available on a first-come first-serve basis. The conference is being held at American University's Washington College of Law, Washington, D.C.

For more information, contact IRR at (202) 662-1030 or download the flier [PDF].

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Parking on the Surface of the Moon

At what point does the surface of a parking lot become so rough that a parking space is only "accessible" in a theoretical sense? Took this photo yesterday in a parking lot in my neighborhood--it's one of two side-by-side designated spaces in such rugged pavement. Making it more worrisome, these spaces are in a lot that serves both an elementary school and a senior center. (Oh, and it's about two blocks from a recent big-budget accessible home-building event shown on national television.) I assume this is out of compliance with the applicable codes, but it's also just obviously dangerous. And I also assume it's not the worst example of its kind.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New HIV/AIDS blog

I have just started a blog specifically devoted to the issue of HIV/AIDS, Deafness and Disabilities, all welcome! I will be hosting an issue of the Disability Blog Carnival there in March on HIV/AIDS but pertinent information or news and people interested being part of the blogger team welcome at any time.

all best,


Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15: Chantal Petitclerc (b. 1969)

A world class performance is a world class performance - on a bike, in the pool or in a wheelchair.

--Chantal Petitclerc

Today is the 37th birthday of Canadian athlete Chantal Petitclerc, born on this date in 1969 in Saint-Marc-des-Carrières, Quebec. She had a spinal cord injury in an accident when she was 13. In high school, a coach encouraged her to swim for upper-body strength and overall stamina; at 18, she discovered wheelchair racing, and it turned out that she would become very, very good at that sport: she holds sixteen medals from four Paralympic Games (Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, and Athens 2004)--including five gold medals at the 2004 Games. She's also been on the Canadian team for the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2006, and the Canadian record holder in five events. And she's been the spokeswoman for Defi Sportif, a Canadian organization for athletes with disabilities.

Petitclerc caused a bit of scandal in 2004, when she turned down a trophy from Athletics Canada--it's awarded each year to the track-and-field athlete of the year. Petitclerc was to be co-winner with Perdita Felicien, a hurdler who had a disappointing performance in the Athens Olympics that year. Petitclerc considered the co-winner status to be patronizing. "To me, it's really a symptom that they can't evaluate the value of a Paralympic medal - that it's easier to win a Paralympic medal than an Olympic medal," she explained. "That may have been true 15 years ago. That's not the case any more."

In 2005 Petitclerc was named Canada's female athlete of the year, as well as the Laureus Award, given by sports journalists around the world to the disabled athlete of the year. That same year, she was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Disability Blog Carnival #5 is up NOW!

Click on over to Planet of the Blind for the most recent edition of the Disability Blog Carnival--the special theme this month, and a timely one it is, is "Travel with a Disability--The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Connie and Steve Kuusisto have gathered posts about airport security and restrooms, wheelchair-accessible buses and minibuses, pre-boarding, transfer systems, adaptable car controls, sailing, Arizona Dranes (that's a person, not a place)... oh, and Rudolph, the "special" reindeer.

The next edition will be in January (we're taking a carnival break for the holiday season), so make it your New Year's resolution to submit something by January 8, then look for the Disability Blog Carnival #6 at the Life and Times of Emma on January 11. Emma has set as her special theme "Disability, Friendships, and Relationships." We're still open for hosts in February and later, can comment here if you want to take a turn. It's fun.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

December 12: Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

Born on this date in Rouen was French writer Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880, shown at left). The onset of epilepsy in 1844 ended his (already wandering) interest in the study of law, and he lived at home with his mother for many years, in part out of concern for his own safety. In his best-known work, Madame Bovary (1857), Flaubert wrote a secondary character, Hippolyte, whose club foot doesn't bother him or interrupt his farm work, but doctors persuade him to have it "fixed" anyway--and he ends up with an amputation when the surgery goes wrong. His epilepsy was a secret and a rumor during his lifetime, when he would only refer to "my nervous attacks." Its possible effects on his writing have been a topic of speculation beginning with a comment by his friend Maxime Du Camp in 1882:
I am absolutely convinced that Flaubert was a writer of rare merit, and had he not been attacked by his terrible nervous illness he would have been a writer of genius.
Sartre and Vargas Llosa both considered Flaubert's seizures to be hysterical or affective, rather than entirely organic, in origin. More recent opinions have disputed this judgment.

Here are some print sources on Flaubert's epilepsy:

Gastault, Henri, Gastault, Yvette, and Broughton R. "Gustave Flaubert's Illness: A Case Report in Evidence against the Erroneous Notion of Psychogenic Epilepsy," Epilepsia 25(5)(October 1984): 622-637.

Jallon, P., and Jallon H. "Gustave Flaubert's Hidden Sickness," in Bogousslavsky and Boller, eds., Neurological Disorders in Famous Artists (Basel: Karger 2005): 46-56.

Wall, Geoffrey. "The Invisible Man: An Essay on Flaubert and Celebrity," The Cambridge Quarterly 35(2)(2006): 133-150.

Monday, December 11, 2006

December 11: Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) and Matilda Ann Aston (1873-1947)

Two disability biographies today: this date marks the birthday of astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, born on this date in 1863, and of writer/educator Matilda Ann "Tilly" Aston, born on this date in 1873.

Annie Jump Cannon (portrait at right) was born in Dover, Delaware, where, as a girl, she learned the names of constellations from her mother. She enrolled at Wellesley to study physics and astronomy, but after her graduation in 1884, she went home for ten years to care for her dying mother. During that decade, she caught scarlet fever, and became deaf. (She used a hearing aid in later life.) Eventually, she returned to school, to do graduate work in astronomy at Radcliffe College. In 1896, she began working for Edward Pickering at the Harvard College Observatory, examining photographic plates. She started as one of Pickering's "computers"--women hired to do the tedious but crucial calculations of size and position of stars. She wasn't the only deaf woman working at the Observatory at the time; Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921), head of the Department of Photographic Photometry, had a similar story of adult-onset deafness and a career studying the stars. (December 12 is the 85th anniversary of Leavitt's death.)

In 1911, Cannon became curator of astronomical photographs at the observatory, and editor of the Henry Draper Catalogue (which listed the spectral classes of 350,000 stars). In 1938, she was finally given an official Harvard appointment (she was 74 at the time). Cannon died in 1941, in Cambridge, and her papers are in the Harvard University Archives. An Annie J. Cannon Prize is given by the American Astronomical Society to a young woman astronomer. There are craters on the moon named for Annie Jump Cannon and Henrietta Swan Leavitt.

Matilda Ann "Tilly" Aston (portrait at left) was born at Carisbrook, Victoria, Australia, the youngest of eight children. She was born with low vision, and by age 7 was considered totally blind. She was sent to the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind in 1882, where she learned braille. Aston studied briefly at the University of Melbourne (she's considered the first blind student enrolled at an Australian university), but she found too few braille texts to support her studies. So, in 1894, Aston founded the Victorian Association for Blind Writers (later Victorian Braille Library) and the Association for the Advancement of the Blind. Her first three books (Maiden Verses, The Woolinappers, and The Straight Goer) were published between 1901 and 1908. (She would publish eight books of verse in all.)

In 1913, Aston became head of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (an appointment that was mocked as "the blind teaching the blind"). She lobbied for free public transit, state pensions, and voting rights for blind Australians. She also edited, for many years, A Book of Opals, a Braille magazine that was sent to Chinese mission schools (there must be a journal article there), and corresponded with other Esperanto proponents around the world. The Memoirs of Tilly Aston: Australia's Blind Poet Author and Philanthropist (1946) appeared in print the year before her death from cancer. In the Kings Domain gardens in Melbourne, there is a Tilly Aston Bell--it rings if you run your hand across its Braille inscription. A few months ago, an audio interpretation feature was added, explaining the bell and Aston's life story.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wendy Trafton's paper on the failure of HIV awareness campaigns

Wendy Trafton, a masters student in Public health, has posted her interesting paper on the failure of the KNOW AIDS CBS/Kaiser Foundation public relations campaign to reach out to Deaf people.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

December 9: Cootie Stark (1927-2005)...and John Milton (1608-1674)

I didn't have it hard as some people, but I think what I had, it was hard enough. The hardships I had I'm glad about. I appreciate that. Because I know how to treat people.

--Cootie Stark

December 9, 1927, bluesman Cootie Stark (shown at right) was born Johnny Miller in Abbeville, South Carolina. He was considered one of the last of the old Piedmont Blues guitarists. When he was a boy, someone suggested to his mother that he could attend a blind school in Spartanburg (possibly the state school for the deaf and blind, aka the "Cedar Springs School," where fellow Piedmont bluesman Gary Davis went years earlier). "I wanted to go, but she didn't let me. Back in those days she thought they might be mean to me. That's the reason why." Instead, he took up the guitar.

Stark performed extensively, and powerfully, but hadn't recorded anything before a 1997 session (organized by the Music Maker Relief Foundation) that became the CD Sugar Man. His last years were marked by renewed interest in his work, and he was performing at festivals and awards shows until his last months. "They say the older you get, the more fun you gonna have, and I believe them now," said Stark in a 1998 interview. "I just wish I'd had some of this a long time ago." (Three tracks by Stark, "Metal Bottoms," "Sandyland," and "Blue Smokey Mountain," can be found on the MMRF website.)

December 9 was also the birthday of English poet John Milton (left, 1608-1674). He wrote his masterpiece Paradise Lost (1667) after he'd become blind, composing the verses in his head at night, and dictating them the next day. (Dartmouth also has the Paradise Lost text online, in English and Latin, with notes, using a frames layout.) The front matter by Milton's assistant and fellow poet Andrew Marvell begins: "When I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold/ In slender Book his vast Design unfold..."

More on Milton's blindness:
Baruch, Franklin R. "Milton's Blindness: The Conscious and Unconscious Patterns of Autobiography," in John Milton: Twentieth-Century Perspectives, vol. 1: The Man and the Author, Martin J. Evans, ed. (Routledge 2003): 26-37.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

December 7: Blind John Davis (1913-1985)

Bluesman John Henry Davis, best known as Blind John Davis, was born on this date in 1913, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was raised in Chicago, and lost his sight to an infection when he was nine years old. He learned to play piano in his teens, and by twenty had his first band, Johnny Lee's Music Masters, that played around Chicago speakeasies. From 1937 to 1942, he was the house pianist at the Wabash Music Company, and played on over a hundred recordings. He toured with his band, the Johnny Davis Rhythm Boys, during WWII, and formed the John Davis Trio in the late 1940s. After 1951, he played mostly solo; in 1952, he toured Europe with Big Bill Broonzy, and recorded on a French label. Many successful return trips to Europe followed, in the 1970s and 1980s, including a number of German and Dutch recordings. He also played blues festivals around the US and Canada. There are tracks by Davis available online, and some CDs in print.

Friday, December 01, 2006