Sunday, May 13, 2012

how i got into this

language, originally uploaded by Edu-Tourist.

In the early 1990s while a graduate student at Penn State in the beginning stages of conducting research on and with the local disability community, I discovered The Disability Rag. A monthly news magazine edited by Mary Johnson and published by Advocado Press in Louisville, Kentucky, the "Rag" as it was affectionately known, would be sitting in the waiting area while I was visiting various Pennsylvania CILs. Once the magazine had me in its grips I found myself seeking out old copies like it was manna from heaven. Disability Rag was funny (in a sarcastic sort of way) and provocative.

While perusing its pages, I was learning a new language. The Disability Rag offered a broad perspective on the activist disability rights community and was only matched in its power by the similarly provocative Mouth. Shorted from the original title 'This Brain has a Mouth,' it was another snarky newsy that wore its message on its sleeve. Mouth's principal aim was to provoke so-called liberal-minded health and social services professionals. Disability Rag's audience was broader - it included government bureaucrats as well as budding academics such as myself.

These publications gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I wasn't entirely off base (or on remote earth orbit). Rather was the world around me that was spinning further and further off its axis.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

BADD 2012: History is still happening

A day late--I was hoping something would go up on DSTU yesterday, but as it hasn't, I'll write this, rather than missing a year of BADD.  To read our past six, more punctual entries, see 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  The official list of contributions for BADD 2012 is growing at the Goldfish's blog, and you can follow the @BADDtweets account on Twitter for updates.

A few years ago, I started a Flickr group for disability history images--called, cleverly enough, Disability History.  Today it contains over 200 images contributed from libraries and personal collections, including images of family life, activism, art, technology, war--all topics I was hoping it might address.  It's true that most of them are black-and-white, or rather that warm sepia tone that makes the past look maybe a little rosier than it should.  But some are in color, because history didn't stop with the invention of color film, and indeed, history is still happening.  I certainly welcome contributions to the growing collection of recent disability history images there--we could especially use more images from non-US/UK contexts.  Here's a sampling of the generous additions so far, by the Flickr users credited in each caption:

Lilibeth Navarro leads a Not Dead Yet protest in Hollywood, on a sunny March day in 2005, 
against the film "Million Dollar Baby" (which went on to win best picture).  In the image, several protestors 
in power chairs roll past stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with walking protestors behind them.  
(I'm just barely visible at the way back.)  Photo by Cathy Cole.

Candid undated snapshot from shows three people.  The young man at rear, left, is violinist Itzhak Perlman, 
smiling and flashing a peace sign; his arm crutches are both visible.  The other two people are not identified; 
one is an young Asian woman, and one is an older white man with a mustache.  
Photo from the account of Erin Corda, who writes, "I found this 120 color transparency of 
Issaac Perlman while clean out my fathers sheet music cabinet."
Informal snapshot from the 1960s, shows a smiling blonde little girl with glasses, a green print dress 
with very white collar and cuffs; white socks and black maryjanes.  She's standing outdoors, in front of blooming flowers and a stone wall.  Photo from the account of Joshua Black Wilkins, who writes, "My aunt Karen. 
Who had Downs Syndrome."

Art piece by Al Shep, titled clinical waste / institutionalisation, which addresses the history of asylums.  
In the image, two trash bins are marked with stenciled block lettering and images.  The trash bin on the left says 
"Empty Unreal Unable to Feel" with the face of a woman labeled "Annie, May 1900 Melancholia Recovered"
the larger blue bin on the right is stenciled with a definition of "institution" (the wording wraps around the bin so 
 we can only read part of the definition, with words like structure, social, behaviour, community, 
permanence, rules).  Other images of the project are here.  Photo by Al Shep.

A portrait of Jack Smith, of Rhodell, West Virginia, made by photographer Jack Corn in 1974; he is a white man in his early 40s with sandy hair.  His arms are crossed, showing his watch and wedding ring; he does not have legs.  Jack Smith was disabled in mining accident, and became active with the United Mine Workers Union during his eighteen-year struggle for worker's compensation.  Photo from the US National Archives, Documerica set, in Flickr Commons.