Saturday, December 31, 2011

Disability Blog Carnival #79 is up NOW!

It's been up for a day or two already, but it's still fresh and worth a visit (or two, or ten). Check out the December edition at After Gadget, where the theme is "Disability and Occupy," and the entries are grouped to subthemes, like "Occupy Activists with Disabilities" and "Educating Occupies about Disability and Access Issues." (In case you think it might be all happy tales, there's also a section on "Exclusion and Alienation.") Also read through the comments for some additional entries. Carnivals that gather up links about current events are so valuable in shaping the ongoing conversation, and help bring attention to issues that might otherwise be dismissed as individual experiences. Thanks so much to Sharon at After Gadget for a fine edition.

Now to 2012! Would you like to host an edition of the Disability Blog Carnival in the new year? I'll take host offers in comments here; you'll also need to send me an email address or twitter handle so I can send you any reminders, schedule changes, or submissions. I'll keep a running calendar below, and fill it in as the slots are taken. If your name appears in the table below, consider that a lock--and start planning your edition!

JANUARY (#80): Emma at A Writer in a Wheelchair (theme: "words")
FEBRUARY (#81): Dave Hingsburger at Rolling Around in my Head (theme: "loving")
MARCH (#82): I'm Not My Disease (theme: "firsts")
[APRIL (#83):]  Not posted
[MAY (#84): Spaz Girl at Butterfly Dreams] Not posted

JUNE (#83): Never That Easy
JULY (#84): Caitlin at Stream of Caitlinness
AUGUST (#85): Stacie at Riley's Smile
SEPTEMBER (#86): Emma at A Writer in a Wheelchair
OCTOBER (#87): Dave Hingsburger at Rolling Around in my Head (theme: "birthdays")

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Wheels of life

Professor of Political Science in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute visited us at the CSIC last summer. We,-that is, Paco Guzm├ín, Mario Toboso and yours faithfully- had the opportunity to share knowledge about artifacts ideology, which is Langdon´s expertise related with disability. You can visit Langdon´s webpage at: And his blog at

Disability Blog Carnival #78 is up now!

Actually, it's been up for more than a week--but I just found it. My apologies to the host, the contributors, and all eager followers of the carnival. Anyway, Martha at Believe in Who You Are has the November edition, around the theme of inspiration (in all its complexity). Go have a visit, definitely some fine links worth checking out.

The December edition is scheduled to be hosted at After Gadget. Here's the very thorough and clear call for submissions, around the theme "Occupy!" Links are due December 26, for December 28 posting.

In January I'll start recruiting hosts for the 2012 editions, so watch for that if you've been anxious to host a round.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Halftime Handoff

Every week during halftime on Sunday Night Football, Toyota announces which sports-related non-profit organization is getting $10,000 in their weekly campaign to publicize such groups. Last Sunday, it was Shane's Inspiration's turn, and my son is in the 15-second video's opening scene (blond kid in the Convaid chair, on the right of the picture, next to the rollerslide):

[Video description: Children playing on an accessible playground, some visibly disabled, some not--they are sliding, climbing, rolling, and smiling--sunny afternoon, colorful autumn clothing]

[Audio transcript: "Thanks to your votes, Toyota is proud to donate $10,000 to Shane's Inspiration, a Southern California-based foundation that helps build playgrounds accessible to children with physical disabilities. Every week, visit to vote for the next Toyota Halftime Handoff."]

Okay, 15-seconds of a corporate ad, probably not going to change the world. BUT--some of the folks watching football on Sunday night never thought about accessible playgrounds before. Now they've heard the phrase. Maybe one or two of those folks are on a town council or city planning board, and when they hear the phrase again, they'll associate it, subconsciously, with smiling children and a nice evening watching football. And maybe, just maybe, that means they vote yes on the proposed accessible swing in their neighborhood... not even knowing why.

(There's a two-minute version of the ad coming out next week, for the Toyota website and Facebook page and YouTube -- I'll post that here when it's available.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sequel to an Obituary

ARC Handbell Choir, Westwood
Originally uploaded by pennylrichardsca

More than five years ago, I wrote about Dixie Henrikson here, after seeing her obituary in the Los Angeles Times. Henrikson (d. 2006) was one of those mid-20th-century mothers of a disabled child who was tireless in founding programs--in her case, social activities for young adults with developmental disabilities. One of her prides was the English-style handbell choir she founded, which performed a lot in Los Angeles.

Well... five years later, I happened upon that handbell choir Mrs. Henrikson founded, as guest performers at a play day in an accessible playground in Westwood. What fascinated me was the adapted score the conductor used (in the image above), which was devised by Dixie Henrikson herself. The choir of adults are not, mostly, able to read music, so the usual format won't work. The conductor told us that she has to transcribe tunes into this system's boxes of letters and colors, and transfer those transcripts to plastic window shades, so they're both large enough for the ringers to see during a performance, and sturdy enough to last through years of use. By demonstrating how the score works, the conductor made the choir not so "tricky"--oh, the audience can say, it's not magic or charm, it's a clever adaptation that supports the players where they are.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Disabled and Proud at Occupy Oakland

There are plenty of videos on YouTube from the Occupy movement--that's the nature of activism and social media in 2011. But this one from Oakland is particularly good, and it includes the disabled activists who are involved. The disabled activist they interview between 2:00 and 2:30 (her name isn't given) is articulate and prepared, and puts disability in context with the other concerns of the Occupy movement:

Thanks to my friend Kathie for the link. I don't think there's a transcript for this video; I'll transcribe the segment specifically about disability activism below:

"We're here, we're loud, disabled and proud" repeated by a crowd of marchers using wheelchairs, crutches, etc.

Interviewee: "Um, I was moved to come out today because people with disabilities are being so strongly affected by cuts to the state budget, and also nationally, to Medicaid services, and it's just making it impossible to live independently because the cutbacks are so severe."

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Disability Blog Carnival #77 is up NOW!

[Visual description: Disability Blog Carnival logo by Ryn, featuring a black-and-white photograph of a man and a boy. The man is in uniform and holding crutches; he is apparently an amputee; the boy is holding onto one of the crutches as a child might hold an adult's hand; the two are photographed from behind, and we see beyond them a seashore and a bridge]

Spaz Girl at Butterfly Dreams was in the midst of some serious tumult recently, but she still hosted a fine edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, with music as the theme. Go have a read, and leave her a comment with your favorite "strong" song--she's collecting them!

The November edition of the carnival is scheduled to appear at Believe in Who You Are, hosted by Martha there. ETA: Here's the call for submissions. Martha writes:
...was there a disabled character from a book or movie, fictional or nonfictional, who inspired you when you first became disabled? Is there someone whom you have met in real life or online who has had an impact on how you view your disability or disabled people in general? It doesn't have to be anything huge; it could be something as simple as before I didn't know I could dance from my wheelchair or this tip helped me save time on my low energy days.
When you submit, I'd like your name or screen name, the name of your blog, and the link to your post. Links are due by November 27.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Call for links, October Disability Blog Carnival: "Sweet is the Melody"

Spaz Girl at Butterfly Dreams is hosting this month. Here's her call for links:
I'm hosting the October Disability Blog Carnival! Pieces of the June one are still languishing in my drafts folder, and I intend to actually put it up.....sometime. But onto October! My theme for the October DBC is sweet is the melody. How does music help you get through the tough times related to disability? What songs empower you? What songs remind you of the disability experience? As always, I welcome submissions off-theme as well. Please have submissions to me by October 25th and I will try my hardest to have them up by the first of November!! You can comment on this post with your link or email me at You can even send them to me through Tumblr if you like, I don't care. Happy blogging, everyone!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Disability Blog Carnival #76 is up NOW!

It's the September edition of the Carnival (which started in autumn 2006--so we're coming around to our fifth anniversary? wow), hosted at Never That Easy, with the theme "Being Seen." NTE has rounded up some fine links with the usual range of thoughtful, funny, raging, and wise, and it's worth a look. It's our first carnival edition since last spring, which is a long gap--so give the host and the linked writers some thanks and encouragement.

Next edition is set to be hosted by SpazGirl (Cara) at Butterfly Dreams, in October. Stay tuned for more information on that one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CFP: Society for Disability Studies (20-23 June 2012, Denver CO)

From H-Disability:

Call for Proposals
Society for Disability Studies
25th Annual Conference
Denver, Colorado
June 20-23, 2012

Collaborations, Cultures, and Communities

Submission system will open November 1, 2011
Deadline for submissions: December 1, 2011

The terms "collaborations," "cultures,"and "communities" express many meanings on many different levels, ranging from the most intimate personal and familial relations to the broadest global and virtual arrangements. With this year's theme, we seek to challenge potential
presenters to explore the rich and varied ways in which people with disabilities are shaped by and in turn form their own collaborations, communities, and cultures. At the same time, we must also be mindful of the ways in which the larger, nondisabled population has -- through
common, dominant cultures and collaborations of power -- worked both to exclude and to include disabled people in community and cultural formation and development. In addition, we hope presenters will explore the ways in which disabled people themselves have sometimes
restricted access to their own communities and cultures and worked to form limited collaborations with one another. We believe that this is a time for members of SDS to consider the many ways in which we might strengthen our communities and express our dynamic cultures by recognizing not only our many commonalities, but also our tremendous and incredibly valuable diversity. Our hope is that this year's theme will encourage members to foster spaces that value diverse expressions and analyses of class, race, gender, sexuality, sub-culture and national status within SDS and the broader communities of people with

We offer the following broad questions to foster interdisciplinary perspectives and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration:

* What are the many ways in which disabled people have conceptualized and enacted culture, community, and collaboration? What barriers have people with disabilities faced? How have these things changed over time?
* How have various technologies--and access to them--shaped the formation of collaborations, cultures, and communities?
* In what ways are community formation, cultural production, and collaboration bounded or shaped by geographic location, institutional formation, identity politics, and other factors?
* How have coalitional politics shaped momentum?or barriers? in disability activism?
* How does enduring poverty, racism, sexism, and the persistence of the medical model shape / limit access to opportunities for community formation, cultural production, and collaboration? How do these factors also open possibilities? How have these factors enhanced disability rights?
* How have the various disciplines within disability studies explored and analyzed community, culture, and collaboration? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches?
* How have/might the various disciplines and fields within disability studies work across disciplinary boundaries to enhance the products we create?
* How have/might scholars, activists, artists, service providers, and others collaborate for the benefit of disability studies and the larger society? What factors inhibit such collaborations?
* How have/might disability studies reach out to local and national organizations and institutions to influence families, religious communities, service providers, political institutions, employers, etc.
* How does a focus on collaboration, community and culture influence research methods, theory, and the underpinnings of disability scholarship and practice?

We welcome proposals in all areas of disability studies, especially those submissions premised on this year's theme.

This year's program committee is introducing the idea of specific "strands" that relate to the larger more general theme of the SDS conference. Each strand may have 3 or 4 related events (e.g. panels, workshops), organized to occur throughout the conference and in a way that will eliminate any overlap of sessions in an effort to facilitate a more sustained discussion of specific issues that have arisen as areas of interest within the organization.

Our planned strands this year are as follows. Others may emerge from member proposals:

- Denver / local movement history: Denver has a rich history of disability activism that offers tremendous opportunity for exploration. Denver will be hosting a disability arts festival to
coincide with the Society for Disability Studies meetings.

- Religion / religious communities and disability studies: Members have identified these areas as fertile and provocative sites of challenges and possibilities that shape collaboration, culture, and community for people with disabilities.

- Power and privilege: Ongoing discussions among SDS board members, members of SDS caucuses, and others led to this strand, intended to look both at the workings of power and privilege broadly and in SDS itself.

- Professional development: This strand addresses a need identified by many of our members for professional development, including matters such as locating funding, pursuing academic and non-academic jobs, surviving the tenure track, etc?

If you would like your proposal to be considered as part of these thematic strands, mark this in your submission.


All submissions in formats A to F below are peer reviewed. All session formats are 90 minutes in length, including all introductions, presentations, discussion, and closure. Proposals may be submitted for presentations in any of the following formats:

A. Individual Presentation: Individual presentations will be placed alongside three other panelists with a similar topic and a moderator chosen by the Program Committee. In general, we assume 15-20-minute presentations (if you are requesting a longer time, please specify and
explain why). Presenters are required to submit 300-word abstracts for individual papers/presentations. List all co-authors, if any, and designate the presenting author(s).

B. Poster: Individuals or small teams will be provided a common space and time with an easel (and/or table if requested) to present a display of a research, training, service, or advocacy project, or other work. Presenters should be in attendance at the poster session. Submissions for the poster session requires a 300-word abstract, complete contact information for anyone involved in the project who will attend SDS, and a designated lead contact person. We encourage people to submit proposals specifically for the poster session. Each year, SDS proudly awards the Tanis Doe Award for the best poster. Additionally, this year, we will award "Honorable Mentions" for posters with student first-authors at each level of education: K-12, community college, four-year college/university, and graduate school as a way of encouraging student participation in the poster session.

C. Panels: Groups of 3-4 presenters (each with 15-20 minutes), a designated organizer / contact person and moderator (need not be the same person), plus an optional discussant, are encouraged to submit proposals around a central topic, theme, or approach. Panel proposals
require BOTH a 300-word proposal describing the panel AND a 300-word abstract for each paper/presentation. List all paper/presentation co-authors, identify the presenting author(s), and provide biographical information for the discussant, if one is planned.

D. Discussion: A topical discussion with a designated organizer / contact person and moderator (need not be the same person), but no formal presentations. Submit a 500-word proposal, including a description of how the time will be used, complete contact information
for the designated organizer and each participant in the discussion, and a description of their roles.

E. Workshop: Engaged application of a specific program or exercise involving a minimum of 4 planners / presenters. Proposals should include a 500-word proposal that addresses methodology and learning outcomes. Please describe the background and role of each workshop participant, designate a contact person/moderator, and provide complete contact information for each planner / presenter.

F. Performance, Film, or Art Event: We encourage submissions of an artistic performance by individuals and/or groups. Submissions must include a 500-word proposal, and sample of the proposed performance (up to 2,500 words of text, ten images of artistic work, demo CD,
YouTube or other Internet link, DVD, or other appropriate format). Send via email at or postal mail to the SDS Executive Office at 107 Commerce Centre Drive, Suite 204, Huntersville NC 28078 USA. Samples must reach the SDS Executive Office by the submission deadline. Please describe the background and role of each artist/participant and designate a contact person / moderator. Performers should be aware that SDS does not have the ability to provide theatrical and or stage settings in the 2012 venue. While every effort will be made to provide appropriate performance spaces, proposing performers are advised that special lighting, audiovisual equipment, and staging requests cannot be accommodated. All film
entries accepted for presentation at the 2012 Conference must be provided to the SDS Executive Office on DVD not less than 30 days prior to the start of the Conference in open-captioned format, and the presenter should be prepared to provide audio description as needed. As SDS cannot pay distribution rights for film screenings, the provider of the film is fully responsible for securing any necessary permissions from trade and copyright holders for public showing. Sponsors of accepted films must register for and attend the conference, host the screening, and bring documentation of rights clearance to the Conference and have it available during the time of film showing. SDS may request the right to schedule more than one screening at the conference. SDS program committee may request more samples and cannot return materials that are submitted for consideration.

G. Student interest group/Caucus/Other (non peer-reviewed): Various ad hoc and organized SDS or other non-profit groups may wish to have business, organizational, or informational meetings or some other kind of non-peer reviewed event or exhibit space at the meetings. Anyone hoping to host any such event should request space by December 1, 2011
by using the proposal submission form. After December 1st, space will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. No meetings can be planned through SDS after the early-bird deadline of April 15, 2012. All presenters at such events must register for the conference.
Requests from groups not affiliated with SDS may be assessed a share of cost for space and access arrangements. Please provide the name of group, a description of the group and/or meeting purpose and format (in 300 words), and contact information for at least one organizer and a designated moderator.

* A Special Note on Films / Film Shorts: Films and film clips may be submitted as part of any of the format categories described above. Follow the appropriate instructions above. Participants proposing films within any of the proposal formats must be registered for and
attend the conference. Ideally, film length should not exceed 60 minutes under any category, to allow time for introduction and / or comments. All film entries must be captioned and the presenter should be prepared to provide audio description as needed. SDS cannot pay
distribution rights for film screenings.

* All participants must register for the conference by the early bird deadline: April 15, 2011, or they will be removed from the program. Please note: low income/student/international member presenters are eligible for modest financial aid for meeting costs. Applications for financial assistance will be available via the SDS listserv in the coming months.

* Participants MAY NOT appear in more than TWO peer-reviewed conference events (excluding evening performances, book reception, non-presenting organizer, non-presenting panel moderator, New Book Reception). Individuals with multiple submissions will be asked to rank order their preferences for participation. The program committee will prioritize spreading program slots across the membership before offering multiple slots to any one participant.

* Any participant with a book or other materials (e.g., DVD, CD) published within the last three years (2010, 2011, 2012) is welcome to participate in the New Book Reception. Authors will be provided a table for display and the opportunity to interact with conference participants. The fee for representation in the New Book Reception is $40.00. You may register and pay for your participation as a part of your overall Conference registration, not through this proposal portal.

* Any participant is welcome to request meeting space on behalf of a group. Requests for meeting space should be made by the December 1st submission date. Requests will be accommodated thereafter on a first-come, first-served basis and must be received by the SDS
Executive Office in writing to no later than May 1, 2012.

* Please indicate on the submission form whether you are willing to serve as moderator for a session.

* If you intend to participate in multiple events, please complete the submission process for each event.

* Participants will be notified of the status of their proposal by March 1, 2012.

* Any cancellations and requests for refunds after April 15, 2012 (the early bird deadline) may incur a cancellation fee. Any participant unable to attend must notify SDS in a timely fashion.

* Accessibility: In keeping with the philosophy of SDS we ask that presenters attend carefully to the accessibility of their presentations. As a prospective presenter, you agree to:
~~~Provide hard copy and large print hard copies (17 point font or larger) of all handouts used during the presentation.
~~~Provide an e-text version of papers and / or presentation materials such as PowerPoint slides and a summary of one's presentation with a list of proper names, terminology and jargon in advance of their delivery (for open captioning, distribution to attendees with print disabilities, and to assist ASL interpreters with preparation). SDS will also use this material to create an on-line forum of all work submitted by June 10th in the hopes of facilitating a more inclusive
and richer discussion on-site. After June 17, 2012 work cannot be added to the forum. Participation in this forum is optional, but strongly encouraged. This forum will be password-protected and available only to those participants who have registered for the
~~~Make allowances for a "Plan B": consider bringing your presentation on a jump drive and projecting the text of your paper to enhance captioning.
~~~ Provide audio-description of visual images, charts and video/DVDs, and/or open or closed captioning of films and video clips.
~~~ Contribute to improving intellectual access at the conference: consider your presentation as an opportunity to engage your audience.
~~~ Avoid reading your paper.
~~~ Plan your presentation to accommodate captioning and ASL interpretation. Avoid using jargon, and slow the pace of your presentation to allow time for eye contact and spelling proper names and terminology.

Presentation rooms* for the SDS 2012 Conference will be equipped with:
~~~ 2 (two) microphones for use by presenters;
~~~ 1 (one) LCD projector, screen, power source, and cables;
~~~ Head table suitable to comfortably accommodate 4 (four) people;
~~~ Both table top and podium presentation spaces; and
~~~ Non-dedicated, WIFI Internet access (i.e. not functional for audio/video download reliably)
~~~ SDS does not provide computers, overhead projectors, or other audio/visual equipment as a matter of course. Presenters are responsible for ensuring that presentation structure and planning works well within these audio/visual parameters.
*This information is not applicable to film showings.

The Tanis Doe Award for best poster will be judged and awarded at the poster session of the SDS conference. The Tanis Doe Award includes a cash award, a certificate of recognition, and the posting of authors names on the SDS website. The Tanis Doe Award is open to everyone at all levels of education and experience. Additionally, this year, we will award "Honorable Mentions" for posters with student first-authors at each level of education: K-12, community college, four-year college/university, and graduate school as a way of encouraging student participation in the poster session. SDS also honors the recipients of the Senior Scholar Award and the
Irving K. Zola Award for emerging scholars at the annual conference. Please see the Call for Nominations via the SDS listserv and website. Decisions regarding these awards are made prior to the conference. Award winners will be invited to present during the program and receive recognition at the SDS business meeting. The Zola Award also includes publication in a future issue of Disability Studies Quarterly. Other awards may also be presented at the SDS business

By submitting to SDS 2012 in Denver, you give SDS full permission to publish your abstracts, photograph you, publish such photographs on the SDS web site or other publications, audio or video record your presentation, transcribe the presentation for access needs, and transmit or post and archive such recordings and transcriptions via live-streaming, podcast form, or any other electronic means. If submitting on behalf of multiple presenters and authors, you certify
that each presenter and author has granted his/her permission to Society for Disability Studies for purposes described in this paragraph. By giving this permission, you understand that you retain full rights to your work but give SDS the right to use your presentation in the context of the 2012 conference, including (but not limited to) charging attendees and others for access to derivative audio or video products, recordings or podcasts.

For further information contact Michael Rembis and/or Allison Carey, co-chairs of the SDS 2012 program committee at and

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

James Pendleton Vandiver (1869-1932)

Today's the centennial of the birth of bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. One of Monroe's best-known songs, "Uncle Pen," was about the disabled uncle who looked after him and taught him to play all the old tunes.

Pendleton Vandiver (1869- 1932) was born in rural Kentucky, the second-youngest of ten children. Somewhere along the way, he married and had two children, but the marriage broke up and he moved into a small cabin near his younger sister Malissa Monroe. There he got to know his nephew, Bill Monroe, and taught him early how to play mandolin accompaniment to Uncle Pen's fiddling. They'd play at square dances, or just for at-home entertainment.

Bill's parents had both died by the time Bill was 16, and he found himself living with Uncle Pen. By then, Vandiver was in his late fifties and using crutches, after a bad fall from a mule. Said Monroe years later:
He done the cooking for the two of us. We had fat back, sorghum molasses, and hot cakes for breakfast followed by blackeyed peas with fat back and corn bread and sorghum for dinner and supper....A man that old, and crippled, that would cook for you and see that you had a bed and a place to stay and something for breakfast and dinner and supper, and you know it come hard for him to get ...
Here's Bill Monroe performing "Uncle Pen" in 1956:

Video description: Grainy black-and-white television footage of a bluegrass band performing live.


Oh, the people would come from faraway
They'd dance all night till the break of day
When the caller hollered, "Do-se-do"
He knew uncle Pen was ready to go

Late in the evenin' about sundown
High on the hill and above the town
Uncle Pen played the fiddle, oh, how it would ring
You can hear it talk, you can hear it sing

He played an old tune he called, "Soldier's joy"
And the one he wrote called, "The Boston boy"
But the greatest of all was, "Jenny Lynn"
To me that's where the fiddle begins

Late in the evenin' about sundown
High on the hill and above the town
Uncle Pen played the fiddle, oh, how it would ring
You can hear it talk, you can hear it sing

But I'll never forget that mournful day
When uncle Pen was called away
They hung up his fiddle and they hung up his bow
I knew it was time for him to go

Late in the evenin' about sundown
High on the hill and above the town
Uncle Pen played the fiddle, oh, how it would ring
You can hear it talk, you can hear it sing

Late in the evenin' about sundown
High on the hill and above the town
Uncle Pen played the fiddle, oh, how it would ring
You can hear it talk, you can hear it sing

Thursday, September 08, 2011

CFP: Intellectual Disability in the Medieval/Early Modern Europe

From H-Disability:

Call for papers: Intellectual Disability in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

This special session will take place at the 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan (May 10-13, 2012).

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the steward Malvolio clearly connects fooling to intellectual disability when he says to the fool Feste, “Infirmity, that decays the wise, doth ever make the better fool”—to which Feste replies, “God send you, sir, a speedy infirmity for the better increasing your folly” (1.5.66-68). Yet, despite the clear connection these characters draw between the vocational fool and (intellectual) “infirmity,” few scholars have commented on the play’s repeated allusions to premodern beliefs in fools’ intellectual deficiencies. Disability studies have done much to examine and interrogate representations of extrinsic, physically visible disability. However, only a few scholars—such as C. F. Goodey—have begun to discuss and question historical notions of intellectual disability.

This panel seeks to further discussions of intellectual disability, asking: How are notions of intelligence and intellectual disability constructed and, perhaps, deconstructed in medieval and early modern Europe? How are these twin concepts portrayed in, for example, drama, poetry, narrative prose, visual art, music, dance, medical treatises, conduct manuals, and religious writings of the period? How is the historical contingency of ideas involving intelligence and disability evinced and critiqued in such works? How do fools in drama, religious writings, manuscript illuminations, and other artistic representations tangle with notions of intelligence and disability? What distinctions need to be drawn, and what connections made, between intellectual disability and premodern discussions of “madness”? How do premodern artists and writers portray the brain’s inadequacies, as well as its perceived failures to work?

This panel endeavors to enhance scholarly understanding of how premodern depictions of the intellect, its capabilities, and its deficiencies inform later discourses concerning the brain and mind—and, indeed, influence our own (dis)abilities to recognize such problems when they appear in the art and writing of medieval and early modern Europe.

Please send proposals of 250-300 words to Angela Heetderks ( by September 25, 2011. Early submissions are appreciated.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

J. A. Charlton Deas: Making Museums Accessible--A Century Ago

There have been several recent conferences on making museums accessible to blind patrons--and next month (October) is Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month--but the project of opening museum collections and art education to blind visitors, students, and scholars is much older than some might assume.

John Alfred Charlton Deas was curator at the Sunderland Museum in the 1910s. When he retired from that position, he looked into opening the museum's eclectic holdings to the students at the nearby blind school--and his efforts were met with enthusiastic encouragement. Soon, the museum was holding events that allowed the students to handle armor, zoological specimens, skeletons, paintings, sculptures, antique weapons, and vases, among other items. These sessions happened during times when the museum was otherwise closed to the public, like Sunday afternoons. Beyond the tactile experience, docents were present to give verbal information aloud, where the written labels were of little use. Lectures by local experts were arranged, for further information. Back at school, the students made clay figures based on what they touched and learned at the museum. The children's teacher wrote, "With minds better stored than their predecessors, they ought to be keener observers, better workers and more intelligent citizens." For some sessions, blind adults were also invited to participate. Deas published a paper on his efforts in 1913, but the idea didn't find many imitators at the time.

Natural History magazine ran an article on an American version of the concept in 1914. They reported that the American Museum of Natural History (in New York) started working with blind schools in 1909, by lending them models and giving guest lectures. In 1910 a fund was established to support field trips from blind schools and institutions to the museum, and to sponsor visiting exhibits from the museum to the schools.

A photographer recorded the 1913 tactile museum experiences run by Deas, and the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums has made a set of 38 images available (with no-known-copyright status) on Flickr Commons.

Friday, September 02, 2011

CFP: Cripples, Idiots, Lepers, and Freaks: Extraordinary Bodies/Extraordinary Minds

Call for Papers

Cripples, Idiots, Lepers, and Freaks:

Extraordinary Bodies / Extraordinary Minds

Thursday, March 22 – Friday, March 23, 2012

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Could disability be, as Susan Wendell writes, “valued for itself, or for the different knowledge, perspective, and experience of life” it gives rise to? This conference seeks to continue—and to expand—conversations about the cultural meanings and possibilities of impairment, as well as the ways that the disabled body becomes a locus for uneasy collaborations and tensions between the social and the scientific. What critical and theoretical perspectives can be brought to bear on human variations that are, or have been, subject to medical authority or understood as requiring

Emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach to “disability,” we seek papers from across the humanities (English, art history, music, etc.), social sciences (history, sociology, political science, etc.), and applied fields (law, education, medicine, etc.). We welcome papers on topics ranging
from the aesthetics of illness in medieval literature to the politics of disability in South Park, from the cultural fascination with autistic savants to race, impairment, and spectatorship in freak shows.

Possible paper topics include:

Genre, Aesthetics, and Disability: poetics; visual art, photography, and spectatorship; life writing and illness narratives; metaphors and representations of disability; disability and performance; “outsider art”; impairment and artistic production; comedy and disability

Pedagogy and Disability: teaching disabled authors; writing the body; student embodiments, teacher embodiments; “coming out” and “passing”; disability and composition studies; “special” education

Sexuality, Desire, and Disability: pleasure and the extraordinary body; voyeurism; fetishism; freak shows; sexual practices; queering disability

Epistemology, Subjectivity, and Disability: genius and savantism; the body in pain; affect; “terminal” illnesses; acquired impairments, congenital impairments; stigma and otherness; autistic minds; mental “illness” / mental “health”; trauma, violence, and disability

Intersections of Identity: masculinity and disability; femininity and disability; pregnancy, motherhood, and impairment; race and disability; class and disability; queer identities and disability

History of/and Disability: historicizing disability; historically specific impairments (e.g. hysteria); period-specific studies of disability (e.g. early modern); eugenics; race and/as impairment; evolution and “degeneration”; taxonomy and natural history

Medicine, Science, and Impairment: medicalizations of race, class, sex, body size; addiction and disability; medical and scientific discourse; doctor / patient interactions; concepts and problems of the “cure”; diagnostic manuals and other taxonomies; the human / animal divide

Disability Activism / (Bio)politics: rhetorics of “disability”; activist art; reproductive rights; genetics and eugenics; euthanasia; healthcare; war, disability, and the making of populations; impairment-specific campaigns and organizations

Technology and the Impaired Body: technologies of reproduction; cyborgs; prosthesis; body augmentation / body modification

Please submit 250- to 500-word abstracts to by December 5, 2011.

* * *

The conference, sponsored by the English Student Association of the CUNY Graduate Center, will feature concurrent graduate panels on the afternoon of Thursday, March 22, and all day on Friday, March 23. It will also include a Thursday evening plenary panel on the present and future of Disability Studies; panel members include CUNY scholars Sarah Chinn (English,
Hunter College), Victoria Pitts-Taylor (sociology, Queens College), Talia Schaffer (English, Queens College and the Graduate Center), and Joseph Straus (music, CUNY Graduate Center). Keynote address on Friday evening TBD. All conference events will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan.

If you have any questions, please email the conference co-chairs, Marissa Brostoff, Andrew Lucchesi, and Emily B. Stanback at

Thursday, September 01, 2011

September 1: Phyllis Wallbank (b. 1918)

Born on this date in 1918, English educator Phyllis Wallbank. She worked with displaced children as a young woman in wartime London, and knew she wanted to find a way to make that her profession; a chance to hear Maria Montessori speak became the means to that end. Wallbank is one of the UK's best-known proponents of the Montessori method. In 1948 she opened Gatehouse School on the grounds of a church, and a major feature of the program was the inclusion of disabled children, at a time when few educational opportunities were available. Said Phyllis Wallbank (source):
"We incorporated mentally and physically challenged children at a time when they were normally segregated. We had groups of eight called 'families', each incorporating one disabled child. The child adapted to normality instead of to an institution. We eventually had all kinds of challenged children: children suffering from blindness, autism, maladjustment, thalidomide, Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain damage and epilepsy. We had a social mix too: many children from professional families, some taking Common Entrance and public school scholarships and some local East Enders with parents known to have serious criminal backgrounds. And yet it all worked! Children were assisted and looked after by their friends and became an integral part of their "family". Often parents had no idea that a fellow student who came up in conversation at home was a disabled child."
Wallbank turns 93 today. Just a few years ago she went on an international lecture tour; one of her lectures in the US is on YouTube, in ten parts, here (there's no transcript, however).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Call for links, September Disability Blog Carnival

A carnival edition is set for September 27th. Here's the call... short version, extracted by the host herself, below:
"...I've decided to provide a non-compulsory theme to help out those who feel they want it: Being Seen. It's something I'm struggling to work out for myself, so I figured I'd ask how you all are handling it - How do you want to be seen? How are you seen? Do you feel invisible? What aren't people seeing that they need to see? Are you looking for a way to get noticed, or are you hoping that nobody will?

Please don't feel like you have to stick to my theme, though: if you've got something to say, I will find a way to make sure it's included. Since I don't tweet, and my FB is obviously off-limits because of anonymity, you can either leave a comment here (at with your e-mail or a link. Looking forward to all the entries... "

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Call for links, August Disability Blog Carnival

Here's the call. August host lifeofthedifferentlyabled has an email address to send submissions to; they'll be accepted until August 20th; suggested theme is "courage."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Disability Blog Carnival update

Here's the latest: Spaz Girl (Cara) has the call for the June Disability Blog Carnival, with the theme "community," which she's hosting. She'd love to have submissions by June 25.

And it's time to recruit hosts for the rest of 2011. We do a monthly carnival these days, so we need six hosts, July-December. Who's in? Leave comments, I'll update this post as we fill slots.

UPDATE 7/26: The June Carnival may not have happened (though I've seen a good number of submissions in the comments at Butterfly Dreams)? And it's too late for July. But here are some host assignments based on the comments here...

AUGUST: Life of the Differently Abled (confirmed!)
SEPTEMBER: Never That Easy (confirmed!)
OCTOBER: Spaz Girl (Cara) at Butterfly Dreams (confirmed!)
NOVEMBER: Martha at Believe in Who You Are
DECEMBER: After Gadget (confirmed!)

Hosts, please confirm that you can take your assigned month, in comments or by email. I think the carnival format is winding down in the day of Tumblr and Twitter, but as long as hosts are volunteering I'll keep supporting that.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Neurodiversity Symposium, 5 August 2011, Syracuse University

Found at

On August 5, 2011, Syracuse University will be hosting a regional symposium on neurodiversity and autistic self-advocacy. Neurodiversity is a concept and social movement that advocates for viewing autism as a variation of human wiring, rather than a disease. As such, neurodiversity activists reject the idea that autism should be cured, advocating instead for celebrating autistic forms of communication and self-expression, and for promoting support systems that allow autistic people to live as autistic people.

The purpose of this event is to raise public awareness of the concepts of neurodiversity and the different facets of the neurodiversity movement, and to increase understanding and dispel myths about what it means to be against curing autism. The symposium will also address the ways in which the concept of neurodiversity can be expanded beyond just autism to include other atypical forms of neurological wiring, such as ADHD, hydrocephalus, and dyslexia, to name a few.

The event will kick off Friday with a keynote by Ari Ne’eman, Founding President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network ( and the Vice Chair of Engagement on the National Council on Disability ( Ari’s keynote will address issues such as the history, current state, and future of the neurodiversity/autistic self-advocacy movement, and autistic self-advocacy in politics.

Following the keynote, local activists will lead panels and smaller discussion on more specific topics related to neurodiversity, such as: autistic culture, allies, neurodiverse parents, self-advocacy, popular culture/conceptions of autism, dealing with sensory difficulties while still being anti-cure, and self-empowerment through facilitated communication and other non-verbal forms of communicating.

PLEASE NOTE: This is still a work in progress. Consequently, the content of panels is subject to change somewhat in the next few weeks. The exact time at which they keynote will begin, and when the panels will be held, has not yet been decided conclusively. Any updates will be posted to this page.

Cost: FREE!!!

Registration info: Preliminary registration is now available on this site.

The Neurodiversity Symposium is sponsored by:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

People at Circular Quay Sydney, ca. 1885-1890 / photographed by Arthur K. Syer

People at Circular Quay Sydney, ca. 1885-1890 / photographed by Arthur K. Syer
Originally uploaded by State Library of New South Wales collection

Another historical image of a wheelchair in use, recently uploaded to Flickr Commons by the State Library of New South Wales. [Visual description: A sepia-toned photograph from 1885-1890, of a man from behind, pushing a man seated in a wheelchair, along a boardwalk-style seafront in Sydney, with a lot of signage and a railing in the background.]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26: Moondog (1916-1999)

[above: Portrait of Moondog later in life, with long white beard]

I wondered how, as a blind man, he managed to cross the street without an instant of hesitation until he showed me how he listened to traffic lights; I had never heard them before in this way.

--Philip Glass, on fellow composer Moondog; from his introduction to Robert Scotto, Moondog: The Viking of Sixth Avenue (Process 2007).

Born on this date in 1916, street poet and composer Moondog, aka Louis Thomas Hardin. He knew he was a drummer from an early age, starting with cardboard boxes as a little boy, and drumming in the high school band. Young Louis became blind after a farm explosion at age 16; he left his local high school and studied music and composition at the Iowa School for the Blind. He learned to read braille, and devoured books on music theory; he moved to New York City in 1943.

Within a few years of his arrival in New York City, he took the name "Moondog," and was performing his own compositions on the street, often in a Viking costume of his own devising. He was influenced by the jazz scene, and by city sounds. Moondog created his own instruments to make the sounds he wanted to hear: an Oo and a Trimba, among the most notable inventions. ""Performing in doorways was the only way to present my music to the public, but for playing on the streets I needed drums down close to the ground, so I used to design my own instruments and had a cabinet- maker put them together," he explained. Much of his music was recorded, including a 1957 children's album featuring vocals by Julie Andrews.

In 1974 he moved to Germany, and lived there the rest of his life, composing, recording and touring. A German woman, Ilona Sommer, transcribed his braille notation and otherwise assisted him. After Moondog's death in 1999, Sommer became the administrator of his estate. Samples of his compositions turn up in popular recordings today, most recently a snippet of his "Bird's Lament" in Mr. Scruff's "Get a Move On." And there are quite a number of Moondog recordings to be found on YouTube; here's one for example:

[Description: There are no moving visuals here, just a photograph of an album cover called "More Moondog," which features a closeup of his bearded face, eyes closed.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15: Friends Hospital (1817)

Regular DSTU readers won't be a bit surprised that I like visiting the Wikipedia pages that say what happened on this date in other years. On today's, there's this note:
1817 – Opening of the first private mental health hospital in the United States, the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason (now Friends Hospital) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The name of the hospital stands out, for its length and specificity: "The Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of their Reason." The hospital offers relief, in the original sense of "asylum"--a refuge. The "person-first" language would satisfy the most ardent advocate of polite bureaucratese. Plain language wins too; no psychological jargon in this institution's name, because psychological jargon as we know it didn't much exist in 1817.

What else stands out: the hospital still exists. It's had various names over the years, of course, reflecting shifting treatments and labels and goals. Its 1813 mission statement says the asylum's Quaker founders "intended to furnish, besides requisite medical aid, such tender, sympathetic attention as may soothe their agitated minds, and under the Divine Blessing, facilitate their recovery"--intentions that reflected the most progressive ideas about mental illness and care in their time. The site and the building were modeled on York Retreat in England, "but with better ventilation and light." As the first of its kind, it set a standard that shaped similar institutions for generations; in 1999 it was named to the list of National Historic Landmarks.

Of course, hospitals seldom live up to their lofty mission statements, especially after almost 200 years. As with most institutions, it's not hard to find stories of abuse. PhillyGrrl had a three-part series about one man's protest at Friends Hospital. But it's maybe a little more ironic in this case: Quakers originally got into the asylum business after investigating the death of a Quaker widow, Hannah Mills, at the York Asylum in 1790. They condemned the abusive conditions they saw, and sought to do better.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

May 4: Marie Booth (1864-1937)

[visual description: a drawing of Marie Booth as a young woman, in profile, head bowed over folded hands; she has her hair in a low bun, and is wearing glasses and a high-collared jacket]

It's hard to imagine more formidable parents than Catherine and William Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army. Intensely religious and endlessly energetic in the pursuit of their causes, they had eight children, two of whom became "generals" in the Salvation Army. In fact, daughter Marie was the only one of the Booth children who didn't work for the Salvation Army.

Marian Billups "Marie" Booth, born on this date in 1864, had an illness (or, in some accounts, an accident) in early childhood that "rendered her too delicate to take her place beside her brothers and sisters in their public work" (Booth-Tucker, The Life of Catherine Booth (1872), p. 534). Her sister Evangeline recalled an incident from their childhood that will perhaps sound familiar to anyone with a close sibling:
My mother often said that our sister Marie, two years older than I, was her most beautiful baby. But at a very early age smallpox weakened her health and she could not profit by study as did the rest of us, nor in later years take part in public life. Being nearest to her in age, my mother asked me to make it my duty to help her with her lessons and see that she had a place in the games.

One day she failed to grasp the intricacies of a French translateion and our governess, becoming irritated, took hold of her beautiful hair and pulled her head first one way and then the other... and my small hand smote the cheek of the governess. I was ordered to bed without lunch or supper. ...

For two days I refused to say I was sorry for the reason I could not say so truthfully, after which my mother returned.... It might have been right to defend Marie but she was sure I was sorry for the way I had done it. I still wanted to say "No," but I caught the dimness in my mother's eyes and I replied, "Nearly." I was nearly sorry.

(From P. W. Wilson, General Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army (1948), pp. 44-45.)
Marie attended public family events and held the rank of "staff captain" in the organization. She died in 1937, age 72, and was buried with her parents.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Disability Blog Carnival News

The May edition of the Disability Blog Carnival will be hosted by Astrid at Astrid's Journal, with the theme "Care." Here's her explanation:
This could be health or social care, but also the care family members provide each other or self-care, of course. Please submit your posts in a comment here or E-mail me by May 25. I will post the carnival on May 29.
Astrid also mentions that the Blog Carnival of Mental Health's May edition will be hosted at the Madosphere, with the theme "patients and professionals."

Sunday, May 01, 2011

BADD 2011: Disability History

I've had a rant coming on since, oh, 2008 (my paper at the Berks conference that year reflected the beginnings of this rant), and nothing in the time since has allayed my concerns, so here it is, for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2011. (This is DSTU's sixth time in the event; read our past entries here: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006.)

Disability history is too important to hide away in journals, it's too important to bury in jargon, it's too important to present to empty conference rooms.

Disability history is more than a line on your CV, academics.

I'm frustrated whenever I find some really amazing disability history in a scholarly journal. Why? Because it's in such an inaccessible place, and often presented with such inaccessible language that it will never reach the majority of the audience who wants, needs, and will use that history in their work. Of course I know that journal articles and conference presentations are part of the game of academic careers. But if your work is valuable and relevant beyond the department hallway, don't you have a further obligation to find that audience and present that work in accessible formats?

Blog about disability history. Post disability history images on Flickr. Curate a disability history exhibit off-campus. Make a zine. Start a Wikipedia entry, or improve one that exists. Speak to non-academic audiences about your work. Speak to children about it (there's a real challenge). Write for non-academic audiences, on op-ed pages, in local publications, in national magazines. Make a podcast. Make a video and post it online. Donate a copy of your book to a public library. Don't wait for someone else to do it. Don't assume your work is too esoteric. Don't dumb it down, but use plain language and express yourself clearly. Take a class if you need new skills. Enormous potential is wasted when you don't take responsibility for putting it where it can be read and seen and discussed, by teachers and retirees, by activists and local government officials, and other folks who can't take books out of university libraries or attend scholarly conferences. It's not just giving, either; taking your work off-campus is also an opportunity to see its practical dimensions, and to learn about resources for further study that aren't in the usual places.

What can disability history do if you take it off-campus? It can ignite, it can comfort, it can inform, it can connect, it can solve mysteries and correct misunderstandings. Tracking down a history of families like mine was a priority when my son was first born--if I don't know those stories, how do I know where we fit in? Whose pasts can we learn from? There was a hunger to know that went far beyond thinking about a postdoctoral project or an interesting reading to assign to a class. The conventional wisdom is full of nonsense about disability history; solid scholarship that reaches into the community can engage that nonsense and replace it with something far more powerful.

If you're doing disability history, it should matter.

ETA: In comments, the question of "what is disability history" came up. If you're interested in further information on disability history, come join the H-Disability listserv (just past our 10th year, and reaching over 500 members), and the Disability History Association. (Why didn't I think to link to these originally?)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Giuseppe Pontiggia, "Born Twice"

I recently picked up the English translation of the Italian novel Nati due volte by the late Giuseppe Pontiggia, because it seemed like my kind of subject--the narrator is a father whose second son has cerebral palsy. It's not so much a novel as a series of vignettes, thirty-eight scenes across the son's first three decades, in the father's marriage and work lives. I have no way to judge whether the translation is a good one, but some of the observations are very sharp, unsentimental, like this description of another parent, a mother in a parent support group:
Her son's case is not serious; he has trouble walking, and physiotherapy alone will probably take care of it. She tends to observe us with careful and detached curiosity, like a first-class traveler visiting the third-class deck. She never neglects to mention the minor nature of her son's condition. When we're discussing the most difficult cases she opens her eyes wide in a kind of theatrical solidarity, but you can tell that hearing other people's stories simply offers her yet another form of reassurance. (p. 69 in my copy, at the beginning of the chapter titled "Pleasure Island")
Yep. Met her, or at least met her American sisters (and brothers). Other standout chapters for me were focused on the son's school principal, a visit with a dementia specialist, and a lot of the conversations with the son (Paolo) as a teen and young man. The title phrase, Born Twice, refers to a counselor's advice that "These children are born twice. They have to learn to get by in a world that their first birth made difficult for them. Their second birth depends on you, on what you can give them...." I remember being aware of that, when my son was first born. I had been a teacher, I knew full well that birth didn't have the last word on anyone's outcomes in life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Long overdue updates...

Goldfish called me "a real community blogger" back in January, but I haven't been doing a very good job of that lately! A few efforts to make up for that:

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011

The SIXTH annual Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD) is coming up on May 1 (a Sunday this year), coordinated as always by Goldfish. We've participated every other round, and I'll try to get something ready for this year too--but that's one day of the year you never need to worry about finding amazing blogging on disability culture, disability rights, and the disability experience. Join in by following the directions at the link above.

There was no Disability Blog Carnival this month, but check out the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival or the Chronic Babe Carnival for all your link-love needs. Also, the next Blog Carnival of Mental Health should post on April 30th, so that's coming up soon (submissions requested by April 27).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Disability Blog Carnival #75 is up NOW!

[left: blog carnival logo featuring black-and-white historical image of a hospital, with the words "disability blog carnival/can't shut us up now" superimposed in yellow scrawly print]

It's a milestone! And to mark the occasion, Emma at Writer in a Wheelchair has this month's edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, with the theme "Milestones." The milestones represented include weddings, new and improved wheelchairs, first long cane, turning 21, new diagnoses, sad holidays, successes in advocacy... well, suffice to say it's another strong, diverse, honest collections of posts. Well done to Emma and all the contributors.

Next month's edition of the Disability Blog Carnival is scheduled to be hosted at Finding My Way: Journey of an Uppity Intellectual Activist Crip. More on that as details become available.

UPDATE 4/13: Cheryl at Finding My Way had to cancel--anyone available to be a last-minute substitute host?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

No, Amy. Just... no.

I miss the FWD blog for all kinds of reasons, but one of the features they did really well was "Dear Imprudence," reviewing advice columnists' advice on matters pertaining to disability. Now, I don't claim to have anything like their wealth of insight on the subject, but you don't need much insight to realize that today's Ask Amy advice is just wrong.

The question comes from a woman who uses a wheelchair (she explains that her mobility is affected by multiple sclerosis). Her son is getting married soon, and she wants to know how they can handle the mother-son dance at the reception. So far so good. Reasonable question, especially if she hasn't ever been in a dancing situation while using a wheelchair before. And a mother-son dance is already kind of an anxious-making situation--how many times in life are you dancing with your son, while a room full of all the people you love just watch?

Amy starts off okay--she asks a spokeswoman from the National MS Society to comment. That person just encourages the mother to have fun and enjoy the music:
"When we have events with dancing, people in wheelchairs treat the wheelchair as their legs. A wheelchair can easily move to and fro to the music. Your son can spin you about and you can even circle around him in your chair. Just think of your chair as your chariot. The key is to take this with a bit of grace and humor. The chair is the tool for you to enjoy the music and the key is to have fun."

Fine, for a soundbite--nice note of reassurance that there are plenty of times that people use wheelchairs on a dance floor. And Amy could have stopped there, and all would be okay, but she decided to add her own suggestion:
Your son might want to show his solidarity to his mom by borrowing a wheelchair for his own use during this special dance with you. He could appoint two ushers to wheel you both in a lightly-choreographed duet. You'd have to work this out ahead of time, practice a little, and make sure everyone involved was sober.
Uhhhhhhhhh....... this is a bad, bad idea, Amy, for a lot of reasons. First, the son wouldn't be showing "solidarity" by borrowing a wheelchair (and from whom, exactly?). The mother doesn't sound like she needs any gestures of "solidarity," anyway; what she needs is a dance partner. If she doesn't know how to dance in a wheelchair, and he doesn't know even how to use a wheelchair, then two wheelchairs digs them even further into confusion, no?

Appointing ushers to wheel you both... oh my. The mother of the groom may well wheel her own chair ordinarily--she doesn't say in the letter. If so, it's weird to suggest that she not do so for the dance. The idea of rounding up two random ushers to make a pas de quatre (?), they'd have four people on the dance floor who don't know what to do--and the whole mother-son dance aspect is out the window. Oh, but it will be "lightly choreographed." They'll "practice a little" and "make sure everyone is sober." Sure. Dancing gracefully together for an audience only requires a little planning and a blood alcohol level below .08. Right?

Grrrrr. I was at least happy to see that the very first comment called Amy's advice "tacky," "condescending," and "mocking." Right on, and then some.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Disability Blog Carnival #74 is up NOW!

[Visual description: historical image of a man in profile, facing right; he has a peg-type prosthetic right leg, and is using a walking stick. The words "Disability Blog Carnival" are superimposed. This was the second Disability Blog Carnival logo, first appearing in early 2007.]

Go have a read at Through Myself and Back Again, where Lilwatchergirl has assembled a good collection of links around the theme of "Participation." This edition of the carnival has "previews," little clips from each linked blog post, so you can get a taste before clicking through to the whole post.

Next edition of the Disability Blog Carnival is #75, and will be hosted by Emma at A Writer in a Wheelchair. Emma also hosted the 50th edition of the Carnival, so it makes some kind of sense that she's back for this milestone--and hey, the theme of her edition is....Milestones! Click over to read her invitation and instructions, then plan to participate (!) before the March 25 posting date.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cerrie Burnell's Arm, Part 2

Wow, so two years after I first wrote about this, Cerrie Burnell's arm is still a matter of controversy? Maybe because I'm also reading Sue Schweik's The Ugly Laws right now, it seems amazing that in 2011 we're still anxious about the sight of an arm that doesn't end in a hand. For recent blogging about Cerrie Burnell's story, see Planet of the Blind and Bess's The Right to Design, among others.

I had just finished reading (and retweeting) that last link when my daughter's newest issue of American Girl magazine arrived in the mail. [visual description: girl holding a magazine open, with the story "Lizzy's Ride" visible; one page is a large photograph of a girl in equestrian gear, riding a pony, with her arms raised; one arm ends above the elbow]

"Lizzy's Ride" is a six-page first-person story about a Pennsylvania girl who rides ponies in competition. Lizzy says "I was born with only one hand. It might seem like that would be a big deal, but it's really not." The story isn't about her arm, it's about her ponies and how she cares for them on her family's farm. (There's video of Lizzy riding on the American Girl website.) But clearly, the editors at AG don't think that such things should be kept under wraps, either.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 17: Marjorie Lawrence (1907-1979)

Born on this date in 1907, Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence (show above in her wheelchair, smiling in a hallway for LIFE magazine; a man stands behind the chair; they appear to be dressed for a formal event).

Marjorie Lawrence was a noted performer of Wagner heroines. In 1941, while appearing in an opera in Mexico, she contracted polio. Eighteen months later, after treatment with Sister Elizabeth Kenny, she returned to the stage. Lawrence generally performed in a seated or reclining position thereafter, with creative staging that incorporated her stance into the visuals. The photo below, also from LIFE magazine, is from a performance by Marjorie Lawrence after polio (she played Venus--shell and all!). She taught after she retired in 1952, near her home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, until her death in 1979.
[Visual description: Black-and-white image of about eleven women in costume, on stage; the central woman, Marjorie Lawrence, lounges across a stylized throne-like shell, while the others around her are lounging or standing; there is a man in the foreground, crouching against the front edge of the throne/shell]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

C.P. Steinmetz (LOC)

C.P. Steinmetz (LOC)
Originally uploaded by The Library of Congress

No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions. --Charles Proteus Steinmetz

New in the Flickr Commons this week, a fine portrait of Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923), a Prussian-born mathematician. He was just 23 when he finished his doctoral work at Breslau; soon after, he immigrated into the United States. As a dwarf with a hunched back and no money, he was nearly refused entry at Ellis Island; but he was traveling with someone who was able to convince the inspectors that he was actually brilliant and rich scientist. He went to work as an electrical engineer, designing motors and power systems.

Two years after coming to America, Steinmetz patented a means of transmitting alternating current (A/C). It was the first of his 200+ patents in the US., most of them bought by the General Electric Company. Steinmetz, a committed socialist, was also president of the Board of Education in Schenectady NY, and presided over the city council as well. He was an officer in the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. He also studied lightning at a campsite he built on the Mohawk River, and published a book of essays on science and religion. He was even responsible for ensuring that every orphan in Schenectady received a present at Christmas.

From 1902 to 1913, Steinmetz was head of the School of Electrical Engineering at Union College. Today, the annual Steinmetz Symposium at Union College is an undergraduate research expo; there is also a Steinmetz Hall at Union College. A short recording of his speech, with film clips and stills, is on YouTube (with subtitles for his accented English). The IEEE has a Steinmetz Award for advancements in electrical and electronics engineering.

Further reading:

Floyd Miller, The Electrical Genius of Liberty Hall: Charles Proteus Steinmetz (McGraw Hill 1962).

Ronald Kline, Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist (Johns Hopkins University Press 1998).