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Disability and the Media Cover

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Disability and the Media

Prescriptions for Change

Charles A. Riley, II

In the past decade, the mass media discovered disability. Spurred by the box-office appeal of superstars such as the late Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox, Stephen Hawking, and others, and given momentum by the success of Oscar-winning movies, popular television shows, best-selling books, and profitable websites, major media corporations have reversed their earlier course of hiding disability, bringing it instead to center stage.

Yet depictions of disability have remained largely unchanged since the 1920s. Focusing almost exclusively on the medical aspect of injury or illness, the disability profile in fact and fiction leads inevitably to an inspiring moment of "overcoming." According to Riley, this cliche plays well with a general audience, but such narratives, driven by prejudice and pity, highlight the importance of "fixing" the disability and rendering the "sufferer" as normal as possible. These stories are deeply offensive to persons with disabilities. Equally important, misguided coverage has adverse effects on crucial aspects of public policy, such as employment, social services, and health care.

Powerful and influential, the media is complicit in this distortion of disability issues that has proven to be a factor in the economic and social repression of one in five Americans. Newspapers and magazines continue to consign disability stories to the "back of the book" health or human-interest sections, using offensive language that has long been proscribed by activists. Filmmakers compound the problem by featuring angry misfits or poignant heroes of melodramas that pair love and redemption. Publishers churn out self-help titles and memoirs that milk the disability theme for pathos. As Riley points out, all branches of the media are guilty of the same crude distillation of the story to serve their own, usually fiscal, ends.

Riley's lively inside investigation illuminates the extent of the problem while pinpointing how writers, editors, directors, producers, filmmakers, advertisers and the executives who give their marching orders go wrong, or occasionally get it right. Through a close analysis of the technical means of representation, in conjunction with the commentary of leading voices in the disability community, Riley guides future coverage to a more fair and accurate way of putting the disability story on screen or paper. He argues that with the "discovery" by Madison Avenue that the disabled community is a major consumer niche, the economic rationale for more sophisticated coverage is at hand. It is time, says Riley, to cut through the accumulated stereotypes and find an adequate vocabulary that will finally represent the disability community in all its vibrant and fascinating diversity.

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Disability Histories

Susan Burch

The field of disability history continues to evolve rapidly. In this collection, Susan Burch and Michael Rembis present nineteen essays that integrate critical analysis of gender, race, historical context, and other factors to enrich and challenge the traditional modes of interpretation still dominating the field. As the first collection of its kind in over a decade, Disability Histories not only brings readers up to date on scholarship within the field but fosters the process of moving it beyond the U.S. “Western European axis by offering work on Africa, South America, and Asia. The result is a broad range of readings that open new vistas for investigation and study while encouraging scholars at all levels to redraw the boundaries that delineate who and what is considered of historical value. Informed and accessible, Disability Histories is essential for classrooms engaged in all facets of disability studies within and across disciplines. Contributors are Frances Bernstein, Daniel Blackie, Pamela Block, Elsbeth Bosl, Dea Boster, Susan K. Cahn, Alison Carey, Fatima Cavalcante, Jagdish Chander, Audra Jennings, John Kinder, Catherine Kudlick, Paul R. D. Lawrie, Herbert Muyinda, Kim E. Nielsen, Katherine Ott, Stephen Pemberton, Anne Quartararo, and Penny Richards.

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Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture

Carol Poore

Comprehensively researched, abundantly illustrated and written in accessible and engaging prose . . . With great skill, Poore weaves diverse types of evidence, including historical sources, art, literature, journalism, film, philosophy, and personal narratives into a tapestry which illuminates the cultural, political, and economic processes responsible for the marginalization, stigmatization, even elimination, of disabled people---as well as their recent emancipation. ---Disability Studies Quarterly "A major, long-awaited book. The chapter on Nazi images is brilliant---certainly the best that has been written in this arena by any scholar." ---Sander L. Gilman, Emory University "An important and pathbreaking book . . . immensely interesting, it will appeal not only to students of twentieth-century Germany but to all those interested in the growing field of disability studies." ---Robert C. Holub, University of Tennessee Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture covers the entire scope of Germany's most tragic and tumultuous century---from the Weimar Republic to the current administration---revealing how central the notion of disability is to modern German cultural history. By examining a wide range of literary and visual depictions of disability, Carol Poore explores the contradictions of a nation renowned for its social services programs yet notorious for its history of compulsory sterilization and eugenic dogma. This comprehensive volume focuses particular attention on the horrors of the Nazi era, when those with disabilities were considered "unworthy of life," but also investigates other previously overlooked topics including the exile community's response to disability, socialism and disability in East Germany, current bioethical debates, and the rise and gains of Germany's disability rights movement. Richly illustrated, wide-ranging, and accessible, Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture gives all those interested in disability studies, German studies, visual culture, Nazi history, and bioethics the opportunity to explore controversial questions of individuality, normalcy, citizenship, and morality. The book concludes with a memoir of the author's experiences in Germany as a person with a disability. Carol Poore is Professor of German Studies at Brown University. Illustration: "Monument to the Unknown Prostheses" by Heinrich Hoerle © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn A volume in the series Corporealities: Discourses of Disability "Insightful and meticulously researched . . . Using disability as a concept, symbol, and lived experience, the author offers valuable new insights into Germany's political, economic, social, and cultural character . . . Demonstrating the significant ‘cultural phenomena' of disability prior to and long after Hitler's reign achieves several important theoretical and practical aims . . . Highly recommended." ---Choice

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Disability Protests

Contentious Politics, 1970-1999

Sharon Barnartt and Richard Scotch

Part and parcel to the civil rights movements of the past 30 years has been a sustained, coordinated effort among disabled Americans to secure equal rights and equal access to that of non-disabled people. Beyond merely providing a history of this movement, Sharon Barnartt and Richard Scotch’s Disability Protests: Contentious Politics, 1970–1999 offers an incisive, sociological analysis of 30 years of protests, organization, and legislative victories within the deaf and disabled populations. The authors begin with a thoughtful consideration of what constitutes “contentious” politics and what distinguishes a sustained social movement from isolated acts of protest. The numbers of disability rights protests are meticulously catalogued over the course of 30 years, revealing significant increases in both cross-disability actions as well as disability-specific actions. Political rancor within disability communities is addressed as well. Chapter four, “A Profile of Contentious Actions” confronts the thorny question of who is “deaf enough” or “disabled enough” to adequately represent their constituencies. Barnartt and Scotch conclude by giving special attention to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the 1988 Deaf President Now protest, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, focusing on how these landmark events affected their proponents. Disability Protests offers an entirely original sociological perspective on the emerging movement for deaf and disability rights.

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Disability, Providence, and Ethics

Bridging Gaps, Transforming Lives

by Hans S. Reinders

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Disability Rhetoric

by Jay Timothy Dolmage

Disability Rhetoric is the first book to view rhetorical theory and history through the lens of disability studies. Traditionally, the body has been seen as, at best, a rhetorical distraction; at worst, those whose bodies do not conform to a narrow range of norms are disqualified from speaking. Yet, Dolmage argues that communication has always been obsessed with the meaning of the body and that bodily difference is always highly rhetorical. Following from this rewriting of rhetorical history, he outlines the development of a new theory, affirming the ideas that all communication is embodied, that the body plays a central role in all expression, and that greater attention to a range of bodies is therefore essential to a better understanding of rhetorical histories, theories, and possibilities.

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The Disability Rights Movement

From Charity to Confrontation

Doris Fleischer

In this updated edition, Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames expand their encyclopedic history of the struggle for disability rights in the United States, to include the past ten years of disability rights activism.The book includes a new chapter on the evolving impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the continuing struggle for cross-disability civil and human rights, and the changing perceptions of disability.

The authors provide a probing analysis of such topics as deinstitutionalization, housing, health care, assisted suicide, employment, education, new technologies, disabled veterans, and disability culture.

Based on interviews with over one hundred activists, The Disability Rights Movement tells a complex and compelling story of an ongoing movement that seeks to create an equitable and diverse society, inclusive of people with disabilities.

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Disability, Society and Theology

Voices from Africa

Disability, Society and Theology: Voices from Africa is the result of a workshop which brought together African theologians, persons with disabilities and disability expertise in the Region to prepare resource materials to enrich the disability study process in the context of the Africa region. The book is in six parts and includes contributions from scholars across the continent. The parts are: Disability Theology: Issue to Debate; The Able Disabled and the Disabled Church: The Churchís Response to Disability; Disability and Society; Disability Theology: Some Interfaces; Disability and Caregiving; and Disability in the African Experience.

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Disabled Veterans in History

David A. Gerber

Disabled Veterans in History explores the long-neglected history of those who have sustained lasting injuries or chronic illnesses while serving in uniform. The contributors to this volume cover an impressive range of countries in Europe and North America as well as a wide sweep of chronology from the Ancient World to the present. The essays address the emergence of "veteran" as a political category with unique privileges and entitlements and of disabled veterans as a special project--and indeed one of the original projects--of the modern welfare state. The introductory essay, "Finding Disabled Veterans in History," offers perhaps the first attempt at synthesizing knowledge about disabled veterans in Western societies. The other essays examine the representation of disabled veterans from Sophocles' Philoctetes to American feature films; the relations of disabled veterans to the state and society in such public policy issues as pensions, medical care, physical rehabilitation, and job retraining; and the disabled veteran's agency and experience in reentering the peacetime world. Other topics include the place of disabled veterans in societies defeated in war; the fate of disabled veterans in societies experiencing frequent changes of political regimes; the emergence of pensions and vocational rehabilitation for disabled veterans; and the abiding problem of alcohol abuse among disabled veterans. The contributors come from a variety of disciplines, including history, physical rehabilitation, Slavic studies, sociology, communication and media, and museum studies. The book will be of interest especially to researchers in the fields of war and society, the welfare state, and disability studies, as well as those in the medical, rehabilitation, and counseling fields. David A. Gerber is Professor of History, State University at Buffalo. He is the author or editor of five previous books.

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Educational Interpreting

How It Can Succeed

Elizabeth A. Winston, Editor

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