Wednesday, May 07, 2008

May 8: Douglas A. Martin (1947-2003)

May 8 was the birthday of Douglas A. Martin, a leader of the disability rights movement in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, active in Californians for Strong Access, and co-founder and director of the Westside Center for Independent Living in 1975. In 1971, he was the first grad student with a "significant disability" to win a UCLA Chancellor's Fellowship--and the next year he was UCLA's first disabled teaching assistant. He earned a PhD in urban studies at UCLA. Martin co-founded the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Disability in 1983, and was a Special Assistant to the Chancellor to coordinate ADA and 504 compliance on campus. On the national level, he lobbied tirelessly to remove work penalties from Social Security provisions. Martin died way too soon, in 2003, at age 55.

There's a really good, long, interesting oral history interview with Douglas Martin, conducted in 2002 by Sharon Bonney, available in transcript at the Bancroft Library website. (There are also audio and video clips. This might be limited access, I'm not sure.) One section that particularly caught my eye was about his three years in an Omaha hospital after contracting polio at age 5; television was new then, and a great distraction for a ward full of children in iron lungs. But the Army-McCarthy hearings were running on the only channel for much of the day! Martin remembers that planting a seed:

It just really gave me a sense of, there's a whole big wide world out there going on, and you know this political world and all this stuff. It was interesting. Didn't have that much to do with it at that point except take it all in. But later I guess, it might have been part of the reason I was interested in politics, and getting involved in Washington, and kind of having knowledge. There was so much information and detail about the system, and how it worked and how it didn't work, in those days. Some of the best and some of the worst in people in politics came out. It was fascinating, and I guess I got interested, I saw it to be a place where you could make a difference. I kind of filed it away in the back of my mind. I kind of remember that as possibly motivating, as some basis for later interest in trying to bring about social change, something more positive. (here)

I don't watch TV if I can help it when I'm in the hospital. When my kid is hospitalized, it's usually in a shared room, and there's little choice. I remember being in a quad isolation room with him during the 1998 Clinton impeachment hearings; the mother across the room was shouting at the commentators a lot. Think I also saw an Olympics opening festivities in a PICU once? I know another mother whose son was born in July 1969--so she and the other women giving birth that week were among the Americans who did not see the Neil Armstrong moon landing live.

What have you seen--or not seen--on TV during hospital stays?


Anonymous said...

We watched Star Trek re-runs during the early part of labor. When the kid was born with one pointy ear, we blamed it on that! (joke)

Anonymous said...

I was in a quad room after the birth of my first child. One of my roomies had an every day schedule of watching 3 hours worth of Flintstones cartoons, by flipping from one channel to the next. That's when i realized i was an old new mother.

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