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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Longmore helped establish disability study as academic field

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

In an obituary, the Los Angeles Times, describes Paul K. Longmore as a major founder of the field of disability studies, and says he helped establish it as a field of academic research and teaching. Longmore died August 9 at the age of 64.

“He devoted his life to making this a better and more just world,” Robert A. Corrigan, [San Francisco State's] president, said in a statement. “Legendary, inspirational, pioneering, irreverent … many words are needed to sum up this remarkable man.”

… Last month, Longmore spoke at a San Francisco celebration of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act and reminded the crowd of a perspective he had long espoused: Disability rights activists had brought about change by redefining what it means to be disabled.

The movement recast “disability” as “a problem located mainly out there in society” that had to be dealt with, Longmore had said, whether it meant improving access by placing wheelchair-accessible ramps on curbs or elevators in buildings.

Read the full obituary here.

Earlier post here.

Paul K. Longmore, disability advocate and historian, was 64

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Joseph Shapiro, writing on NPR’s ‘Shots’ health blog, salutes the legacy of disability advocate, scholar and historian Paul K. Longmore, who died Monday at the age of 64. Longmore was a professor of history and director of the Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. He lived with complications of polio contracted when he was a child.

Longmore emerged on the national stage in 1988, when he burned a copy of his first book in an act of protest against federal regulations that keep many people with disabilities from working and deprive them of public benefits if their incomes exceed certain levels. (Longmore reasoned that he would lose some $20,000 in the yearly federal benefits that made it possible for him to work if his book, The Invention of George Washington, made just $10,000.)

The story of the protest is featured in Longmore’s book, Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability History. Social Security changed its rules on royalties in the wake of Longmore’s protest, Shapiro writes, but left in place other work disincentives which contribute to widespread unemployment among people with disabilities.

An excerpt:

Most of all, Longmore taught that people with disabilities, themselves, had changed the way the world defined what it means to have a disability. “Previously, disability was defined as a set of limitations in the abilities of people with disabilities to function in society because of some pathology in us,” Longmore said last month, at a San Francisco celebration of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The disability rights movement redefined disability as a problem mainly out there in society-not just in our bodies and minds but in society.”

It wasn’t the person with a disability who needed to overcome that disability, Longmore said. It was society that needed repair – whether it meant putting curb cuts at the end of the block, so someone like Longmore could get around in his power wheelchair, or changing Social Security laws so he could publish books and not lose the assistance that assured his accomplishment and independence.

See also:

Survey: ADA has not improved quality of life

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

From USA Today:

A survey commissioned by the Kessler Foundation/National Organization on Disabilities finds that the ADA has not made meaningful progress in improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The survey shows that more must be done to help people with disabilities get ahead, said Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability.

“While education has improved considerably, joblessness has not. We as a nation must figure this out,” she said.

Among the survey’s key findings:

• People with disabilities still lag in key areas such as employment, access to health care and social interactions;

• 21% of disabled working-age Americans had a job in the past year, versus 59% for those without disabilities;

• 19% of people with disabilities said they did not get the medical care they needed in the past year, with lack of insurance coverage cited as the top reason;

• 48% of people with disabilities eat out at a restaurant twice a month, compared to 75% of those without disabilities; and

• 34% of disabled people say inadequate transportation is a problem, compared to 16% of those without disabilities, a gap that has widened 5 percentage points since 1986.

Related post here.

Selected coverage of ADA anniversary

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

… When I was 27, the ADA became law. It didn’t get me a job. But it addressed the differences between essential and nonessential job tasks … it provided not just legal recourse, but validation and hope.

Now, the ADA’s impact is everywhere: wheelchair lifts on city buses, signs in Braille, sign-language interpreters. Many young disabled people are growing up with a marvelous sense of belonging, entitlement and pride I never had.

Yes, there is still a long way to go. Yet in redefining the terms of disability, the ADA made us impossible to ignore. So now people should understand we’re just part of the human landscape, and we’re here to stay.

Twenty years later, ADA still sparks debate

Monday, July 26th, 2010

As the nation’s disabilities law marks its 20th anniversary today, it’s still the target of criticism and derisive humor, CNN reports. The law is credited with creating opportunities and transforming lives, yet critics say it imposes unfair financial burdens on businesses. An excerpt:

As the anniversary approached, an internet chat board sampling turned up countless positive comments but also many critical ones.

”ADA laws have been interpreted, reinterpreted and misinterpreted so many times that unfortunately nobody has a final answer until you end up in court,” one posting complained.

On plumbingzone.com, a forum for plumbers, a comment poked fun at requirements for urinal heights in public restrooms, saying, ”Listen, a handicapped person ain’t gonna use a urinal to begin with.”

The Census Bureau estimates that 54 million Americans, or almost one in five, have a disability.

Columnist: ADA brings progress, but U.S. lags on jobs

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Albert R. Hunt, writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, says the ADA has transformed the nation and served as a model for much of the rest of the world.

Still, daunting challenges remain, particularly in employment, Hunt says. Experts estimate that the real unemployment rate for people with disabilities probably exceeds 50 percent. At the same time, many cash-strapped states are cutting back on vital services for people with disabilities. An excerpt:

The progress since Bush signed the measure in the summer of 1990 has been notable. Moreover, auguring well for the future, there’s a generational divide, with younger people far more comfortable and accepting of those with disabilities.

Yet the most remarkable change has been for those most affected.

“The ADA has helped disabled people think about their status as a measure of civil rights and equality, not simply as a medical or social welfare policy,” says Andy Imparato, the president of the American Association of People with Disabilities. “The ADA has given us the right to talk about our disabilities and not be ashamed.”

Congressman: More work needed to achieve ADA’s promise

Monday, July 26th, 2010

From the Providence Journal, Boston Globe:

Rep. James Langevin (D-Rhode Island) writes that only a generation ago, people with disabilities were commonly treated as second-class citizens. Langevin, who was paralyzed at the age of 16 as a result of an accident, says the 20th anniversary of the ADA offers an opportunity not just to celebrate our achievements but to reflect on how to improve upon them. An excerpt:

Individuals with disabilities remain one of our nation’s greatest untapped resources, and they continue to face challenges in accessing employment, transportation, housing and even health care. This will only continue as we see increasing numbers of veterans returning with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic-stress disorders and other disabling conditions.

It is more important than ever to educate businesses and link them with resources to create more job opportunities in our communities. We must collaborate with local and state governments to ensure that transportation is available and accessible to everyone so they can get to their job, or the doctor, or the grocery store. We need to provide more resources for our teachers so that every child can receive a proper education, which is the steppingstone to a brighter future.

… We have come so far, but we have much more work ahead. Disabilities don’t discriminate on the basis of party affiliation, income or gender; instead, they have the unique ability to unite us in common purpose. If we act with courage and commitment, then we will provide the means for every individual to fulfill his or her potential and realize the true promise of the ADA on its 20th anniversary, and for years to come.

Langevin will preside over the House of Representatives Monday, using a Speaker’s rostrum that has recently been made wheelchair-accessible through a series of lifts.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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