EVERYBO DY A History of Disability in America Presented by Disability Action Center NW
www.everybody.si.edu People with disabilities have been present throughout American history. Sometimes difference mattered, at other times it didnt. People with disabilities and ideas related to disability are everywhere in American history.
What constitutes a disability has depended on who was judging and who was being judged. A lot depends on things such as where
you are, what you are doing, and whether you feel safe or excluded. For example, a beggar, a war veteran, a baby, and a musician may all have shared the
experiences of being blind, but stigma, discrimination, and access to resources would be different for each. Who is
Normal ? Sandy Koufax, Left
Handed pitcher for the Dodgers Vision: An individuals capacity to see and ways
to measure, protect, and assist vision vary. Modern vision testing didnt
begin until the mid 1800s. This hand-written receipt from tobacco farmer Frank Peacock is signed with an
X. Ray Charles keyboard and sunglasses, late 20th century Appearanc
e Concepts of beauty and comeliness can influence how people are
valued and treated. It's Complicated People often use more
than one framework at a time when thinking about disability but its more complicated than that. This tourist, breathing oxygen
through a mask and being carried in a basket on the back of a Sherpa guide, is disabled by the mountain altitude. "God is Testing
You" Religious beliefs about disability have varied among the worlds
traditions. "Help the Handicapped" In the charity tradition, people with disabilities were seen as dependent and in need of help or saving.
Muscular Dystrophy Association of America Inc. raised millions using poster
children. Photo from 1910 Not all were comfortable with pity Beggars
card, 1907 "What Is Wrong with You? With the incorporation of medicine into more
aspects of daily life in the 20th century, health practitioners and scientists closely studied human variations.
Baby shoes attached to steel bar, 1950s This orthopedic device, called a Browne splint,
was invented in 1931 and is still occasionally used. Toddlers wore it to prevent intoeing by
adjusting hip, foot, and tibia angles. Lobotomy knives, 1960s
A doctor might remove one of these two pointed steel rods from its black leather case, insert behind a patients eye and destroy the
prefrontal lobe of the brain. Doctors treated unruly or depressed patients by lobotomy from the 1950s to the 1970s.
"Crip Is Hip" Valuing disability as a part of ones core identity is a
principle of social empowerment Childrens shoes from the 1880s and 2002
Disability history is a peoples history. 1860s Comfort Bennett was a wealthy farmer and father of twelve children in western New York State.
People Everyone experiences degrees of independence, dependence, and interdependence Personal Responsibility
Tintype from 1880s of a mother and her
children Intentional Communities Home and Daily Life
Many people with a disability must be pioneers. Creative Adaption and Accommodati
on Raincoat, 1990s Place Space is a key factor in the history of
disability. OUTSIDE Everyone is somewhere. Removal
Questions about where people belong and who decides have created tension throughout American history. Removal of people with disabilities from their original communities started in the early 1800s.
Department of Labor brochure from 1932 laid out the governments
plan to care for the disabled. Institutions were formed for different kinds of disabilities and for different purposes.
Blackwell Island Lunatic Asylum, in New York, 1866 Identity Bertha Flaten (18751905) was institutionalized
because she had seizures. Grave Marker #7
Experiences inside institutions varied widely. Institution s
It took 20 years to start the change to independent living.
Autonomy Straight jacket, mid20th century Electroconvulsive shock device, 1950s
Homemade keys for Technology Access to resources often comes through technology. Communication
Communicating with one another is central to human survival. TTY and Braille converter
Television invented in 1934 Comparison Hearing aid, 1850s
Transistor hearing aid, 1949 Transportation Each advance in
public conveyance has had the potential for exclusion.
Inventing Mobility Wheelchair at impassable curb, 1970s
Medicine Medical technology has had complicated consequences for people with disabilities. War
Facial prostheses, 1919 Limb-fitting, World War II
Soldier making limbs, World War II Citizens
Ellis Island inspection, 1890s These agents are inspecting a group of
women for the contagious eye disease trachoma. Work
Selling in the streets Freak Shows Accommodation
Focus on ability Eugenics
Although citizenship guarantees certain rights, access to them has been unequal. Feebleminded family, 1946 Forced
Sterilizatio n on people with disabilities Activism
Activism takes many forms. It can be as complicated as a class-action lawsuit or as
simple as wearing a T-shirt. Architecture Architectural design has entailed barriers that in turn created disability.
Phone booth, 1979 ADAPT Civil Rights, Disability Rights
Demonstrating the need for curb cuts. Inaccessible Greyhound Bus Lines Nursing Homes
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