Second Disability History Webinar

You might be wondering why I failed to write about the second edition of the Southeast ADA Center‘s The History of Disabilities webinar series, which was slated for January 25, 2018. (My thoughts about the first webinar can be found here.) I tried to sign in for 20 minutes before I gave up; I don’t know why I can’t get along with Blackboard. Fortunately, the transcript is available online. (A recording of the webinar is also available, but the audio was awful.)

Having left the Civil War behind, Dr. Larry Logue describes the progressive era in the second edition. He notes that although progressives did not necessarily agree on the cause of America’s problems, they did agree on the need for evidence-based solutions run by the government. They proposed two options to resolve the problem of disability: prevention and rehabilitation.

Prevention, as many disability historians will recall, was ugly. The early 1900s saw the rise of eugenics. I’m sad to say the first eugenics statute was implemented in my home state, Indiana. Generally, these statutes allowed for the sterilization of individuals with disabilities, and especially those with intellectual disabilities. According to Dr. Logue, more than half of American states also forbade individuals with disabilities from marrying. Immigrants with disabilities were turned away at Ellis Island and other points of entry. Another element of prevention, Dr. Logue notes, was assimilation. The early 1900s included the push for oralism, led by Alexander Graham Bell. Deaf students were forbidden from learning in sign language, and were forced to lip read and attempt speech. Deaf identity was suppressed until the 1970s. Interestingly, many eugenics statutes remained on the books until the 1970s, as well.

Rehabilitation was an option for individuals who could be put to work and take their place in an organic society. Again, America saw soldiers returning from World War I and recognized that the burden of disability should not necessarily be borne by those soldiers who fought for the public good. As such, some people with disabilities were placed in unskilled jobs for industrial partners. Soldiers who could verify their disabilities also received a pension. Dr. Logue refers to the situation as “the individual/medical model with government funding.”

In sum, I enjoy the way Dr. Logue puts together his presentations and assembles different historical components of each era. But I really hate the delivery method. Southeast ADA Center, please fix it!

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