Chapter 12. The Disability Press
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227 12 The Disability Press The 1970s and early 1980s, during which so much disability rights activism took place, also saw the emergence of an overtly political crossdisability press. This means of communication was especially vital in the days before the widespread use of fax machines—let alone the advent of the Internet , social networks, and e-mail listservs—and when long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive for a community in which many members were on low or fixed incomes. Among the most widely read of these new publications were Mainstream: Magazine of the Able-Disabled in southern California and The Disability Rag in Louisville, Kentucky, while Madness Network News out of San Francisco was undoubtedly the most influential publication of its time in the psychiatric survivor movement. Cyndi Jones “We never missed a deadline.” Mainstream magazine was intended to provide a voice for people with disabilities , according to its founder, Jim Hammett. Established in 1975, Mainstream was also a training center for people with disabilities who aspired to be journalists and editors or to work in the advertising or production side of the publishing industry. After 1984, when Cyndi Jones, a businesswoman, and her journalist husband William Stothers rescued Mainstream by assuming its debt, the magazine became a for-profit business, competing in the “real world” for scoops, visibility, and the all-important advertising dollar. Cyndi Jones was born in 1951 in Terre Haute, Indiana. “After I was born my family moved to Carlsbad, California, and my dad was working on a construction project. His father, who lived in Rolla, Missouri, was dying. So everybody piled in the car and we headed back to Rolla. I got polio, and that was the way that went. . . . I think about the AIDS epidemics now, and I think it’s very simi- 228 chapter 12 lar to the polio epidemics in my day in the early fifties, because people didn’t want to be around anyone who was associated with polio. There were a lot of similarities in the fear.” Jones’s family settled in St. Louis, where she was seen at the local March of Dimes polio clinic. In 1957, she was a March of Dimes “poster child.” “That year I was in my class—it was first or second grade—and they passed out this flyer [for the March of Dimes]. I remember my teacher saying, ‘Oh, this flyer has one of our classmates on it!’ Of course, it was me. It was my picture with the frilly dress and the crutches, and I was in my regular poster-child pose, which is this smiling crippled child. There were two other kids running down a hill, and over the picture of the kids running down the hill it said, ‘This,’ and over my picture it said, ‘Not this.’ I wanted to slump under my desk.” Excelling in science in high school, Jones majored in biology at the University of California at San Diego, with a minor in religious studies. In an era before Section 504 or any such thing as “disabled student services,” at least in San Diego, she struggled to get to her required courses held at opposite ends of the campus, often arriving late and exhausted. After graduating from college, she applied to the Peace Corps but “was denied on the basis of my disability.” Instead, she became involved in the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, becoming its West Coast coordinator in 1974. Along the way she also became involved in disability rights work, first with the California Association for the Physically Handicapped (CAPH), then joining the Mainstream staff in 1976. Jim Hammitt conceptualized the program because he thought the disabled community needed a voice. Jim, who I had met at Sunshine School,1 had since applied to Cal State Northridge. He wound up getting his degree in communications, and he’s one of the people at Cal State Northridge who produced campus plays, and he’s done really well. You think of someone who came up from Sunshine who, because he had CP and a severe speech impediment, really was not educated. He had to teach himself to read even though he was in school. All of the horror stories we know about special education. Jim Hammitt survived special education. The first two Mainstreams were really four-page newsletters—just two pages folded in half. Then they applied to get RETC funding, which is Regional Employment Training Consortium money. Mainstream was the disability press 229 funded—I...



Subject Headings

  • United States. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • People with disabilities -- Civil rights -- United States -- History.
  • People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States -- History.
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