Accessible Ed & Disability Resources: Disability History

Professional Development, Training, and Awareness Building Opportunities

Disability History Exhibit

The Disability History Exhibit is a 40 foot-long museum-quality display consisting of 23 individual panels, each approximately 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall. There is a timeline that runs along the bottom of the entire display, and each panel is a collage of words and images that invite individuals to better understand the complex ways in which disability has been treated over time. There is color coding to represent the treatment of the disabled from a medical, moral, and social viewpoint.

The physical display was created and is sold by Advocating Change Together, an independent living group out of Minnesota. A copy of the display was purchased by the Oregon Association on Disability and Higher Education (ORAHEAD) to be shared within our state.

Disability History Exhibit Playlist

There is an accessible html version of the disability history exhibit that was created by Kaela Parks while at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It is hosted by the State of Alaska Governor's Council on Disability. It contains a single column representation of the content for each panel with alt text for images. In addition there is a full view of each panel available as pdf.

Power of 504

On the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, here’s a look at how the ADA changed our physical landscape.

Intersections of Disability Justice and Transformative Justice

Featuring Elliott Fukui and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

In response to heightened levels of abuse and violence experienced by disabled people, disability justice organizers have developed tremendous knowledge and creative approaches to care, safety, and preventing and stopping violence without relying on the state. How do disability justice strategies and knowledge inform transformative justice practices? In this video, disability justice and transformative justice organizers Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarsinha and Elliott Fukui explore some of the intersections of these movements.

Disability in the Curriculum

The PCC Multimedia Department worked with Disability Services, creating a video for each panel. These videos are all captioned and assembled into a playlist. The videos feature high resolution photography and narration with voices of PCC students and faculty.

Faculty are encouraged to incorporate the exhibit into their teaching. Many disciplines provide natural connection points. Ideas for assignments are included below.

  • Scavenger Hunt - Ask students to find specific items in the display that relate to the course content.
  • Essay  - Ask students to write a brief essay on one or more elements in the exhibit that relate to course content.
  • Creative Expression - Ask students to create a drawing, painting, sculpture, or other expression that is inspired by a theme within the exhibit.
  • Free-write/Discussion - Show selected clips from the exhibit and provide a prompt that asks students to process their reactions through a five minute free-write, followed by a discussion.

The Hidden History of Hand Talk

Centuries before we had American Sign Language, Native sign languages, broadly known as “Hand Talk,” were thriving across North America. Hand Talk would be influential in the formation of American Sign Language. But it has largely been written out of history.

One of these Hand Talk variations, Plains Indian Sign Language, was used so widely across the Great Plains that it became a lingua franca — a universal language used by both deaf and hearing people to communicate among tribes that didn’t share a common spoken language. At one point, tens of thousands of indigenous people used Plains Indian Sign Language, or PISL, for everything from trade to hunting, conflict, storytelling, and rituals.

But by the late 1800s, the federal government had implemented a policy that would change the course of indigenous history forever: a violent boarding school program designed to forcibly assimilate indigenous children into white American culture — a dark history that we’re still learning more about to this day.

Because of a forced “English-only” policy, the boarding school era is one of the main reasons we lost so many Native signers — along with the eventual dominance of ASL in schools for the deaf.

Today, there are just a handful of fluent PISL signers left in the US. In the piece above we hear from two of these signers who have dedicated their lives to studying and revitalizing the language. They show us PISL in action, and help us explore how this ancient language holds centuries of indigenous history.

Hellen Keller Exorcism

The Helen Keller Exorcism is a Radiolab podcast episode from Mar 11, 2022. 

In addition to the podcast, there is a transcript. ASL version transcription, and braille transcript. 

Here is the description:

Fantasy writer Elsa Sjunneson has been haunted by Helen Keller for nearly her entire life. Like Helen, Elsa is Deafblind, and growing up she was constantly compared to her. But for a million different reasons she hated that, because she felt different from her in a million different ways. Then, a year ago, an online conspiracy theory claiming Helen was a fraud exploded on TikTok, and suddenly Elsa found herself drawing her sword and jumping to Helen’s defense, setting off a chain of events that would bring her closer to the disability icon than she ever dreamt. For over a year, Elsa, Lulu and the Radiolab team dug through primary sources, talked to experts, even visited Helen’s birthplace Ivy Green, and discovered the real story of Helen Keller is far more complicated, mysterious and confounding than the simple myth of a young Deafblind girl rescued by her teacher Annie Sullivan. It’s a story of ghosts, surprises, a few tears, a bit of romance, some hard conversations, and a possibly psychic dog.