A History of Disability in America

A History of Disability in America

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

The United States Capitol Building

ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act

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