Disability History

Did you know that on December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly changed the name of the "International Day of Disabled Persons" (first observed on December 3, 1992) to the "International Day of Persons with Disabilities" (IDPD was first observed in 2008)?

Disability and the African American Experience

African Americans and the disABILITY Experience is presented by the Museum of disABILITY History and a group of colleagues working in disability services at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Predominantly Black Colleges and Universities (PBCUs), and the Taishoff Center at Syracuse University.

IDPD 2018

The theme for this year’s IDPD is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. The focus of this year theme is on empowering persons with disabilities for the inclusive, equitable and sustainable development envisioned in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Timothy’s Law 2006

Timothy’s Law is the reference used for a New York state statute that was signed into law on December 22, 2006 and took effect on January 1, 2007 by then Governor George E. Pataki. This law required that health plans sold in New York state provide comparable coverage for mental health ailments as they did for physical ailments. E.g. Mental Health Parity.

President George H. W. Bush at the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990

View President Bush's remarks

ASL is a Real Language

"From a purely academic standpoint, ASL measures up to every spoken language in terms of complexity, utility and aesthetics. Sign language is much more than "a language of gestures." Most of the terms in the language's 50k+ word vocabulary do not consist of "acting out" what you're trying to say. Instead, understanding ASL's hand shape patterns and unique grammar reveals the elegant structure of the language.

ASL had its birth in 1817 when Thomas Gallaudet recruited Laurent Clerc to establish the country's first school for the Deaf. The Deaf community's first national university was later named after Gallaudet. For the next century and a half, the emerging American Sign Language was forcibly suppressed by advocates of the oral method. Deaf students' hands were struck or bound to keep them from signing. It was through a long battle that Deaf activists and scholars were able to prove to the world that ASL is a fully functional language on par with English or any other.

This journey, from 1817 to the present day,  produced an immense body of historical documentation. ASL students learn about the controversy of deaf education and the development of what it means to be capital-D Deaf. New hearing aid technology sparks ethical issues and an exploration of what it means to "fix" a disability. Social justice plays a prominent role in the story, as do the many forms of art produced by the Deaf community. It's all tied to the language that forms the powerful epicenter of Deaf culture.

ASL offers a viewpoint into both classic and modern linguistics, unlocking a new dimension of communication. Language and culture link in the fight for freedom of expression and the search for identity." 

This is an excerpt from an article originally written for FreshU by Evelyn Pae.