This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Grant funds disability center’s programming for 2011-12

  • “We feel the speaker series and the spring colloquium…will begin to move us toward a more integrative and inclusive understanding of the place of disability and disabled people in American life and our collective past.”

    Michael Rembis
    Associate Director, Center for Disability Studies
Published: June 30, 2011

The meanings of citizenship as they relate specifically to disability and the experiences of people with disabilities will be the focus of programming the Center for Disability Studies (CDS) will implement for the 2011-12 academic year, thanks to a $10,000 grant it received from the New York State Office of Diversity and Educational Equity.

The grant will fund three invited talks in October, November and March 2012, as well as a daylong colloquium in April 2012 featuring national experts in the fields of disability history and disability studies.

All events are free and open to members of the UB and Western New York communities.

One of the principal aims of the programming is to develop curriculum for a new seminar, “Disability and Citizenship: A Historical Perspective,” to be offered beginning in fall 2012. The seminar would be an elective in the new concentration in disability studies the center will offer, pending approval by SUNY and the state Department of Education, as part of the MA in Humanities Interdisciplinary Program.

CDS hopes to partner on the programming with a variety of UB departments and units, among them History, American Studies, Anthropology, Architecture, English, Political Science, Rehabilitation Science, Sociology, Social Work, Law, Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Humanities Institute and Disability Services, as well as such community organizations as People Inc., Museum of Disability History, Western New York Independent Living Center, Deaf Adult Services and Community Mental Health Advocates.

Center director David Gerber, UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of History, notes that the core of the center’s programming will center on “questions that emerge around the long and rich history of struggles for recognition, equity, dignity, empowerment and inclusion.”

Speakers and colloquium participants, Gerber says, will address such issues as fair housing and institutionalization; reproductive rights and abortion; medical services, including Veterans Administration benefits; and equal access to education, employment, and public transportation and accommodations.

In this context, “citizenship” is defined broadly to include civic and political engagement, volunteerism, civil and human rights, popular protest, policy development, legal enactments and challenges, participation in state- and privately funded public initiatives and programs, and larger systems of social and political exclusion and inclusion.

By engaging with these experts, as well as with the UB and community partners, the center’s programming initiative “will foster public dialogue and critical discussion of the often-problematic relationship between disabled people and the state, civil society and the larger nondisabled community,” says Michael Rembis, associate director of the center and assistant professor of history.

Discussion of these important issues certainly will “raise awareness” and “promote diversity” at UB and throughout the region, Rembis says. Moreover, “we feel the speaker series and the spring colloquium…will begin to move us toward a more integrative and inclusive understanding of the place of disability and disabled people in American life and our collective past.”

CDS has lined up several prominent scholars to deliver the invited talks, all of whom, Gerber says, “are experts who engage with the many intersections of disability with race, class, gender, age, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.”

They are:

  • Leslie Reagan, an internationally known historian and legal and medical humanities scholar from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. Reagan, who will visit UB during Disability History Week in October, will discuss her book “Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities and Abortion in Modern America.”
  • Martin Norden, a leading historian of film and disability from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Norden will lead a discussion after a screening of the film “Born on the Fourth of July.” The screening, which will take place during the week of Veterans Day in November, will specifically address issues of citizenship as they relate to disabled veterans.
  • Ellen Samuels, assistant professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Samuels, who recently published a book titled “Fantasies of Identification: Disability, Gender, Race,” will speak on “Ranges of Motion: Disability, Biocertification and the Parking Permit Paradox.” The talk will address the “near-endless series of medical certifications…(disabled people engage with)…in a number of settings, including (but not limited to) school, work, transportation, insurance, court, taxes and even sports.”

The year’s programming will conclude in April 2012 with the daylong colloquium, “Citizenship and Disability: A Historical Perspective.” Scheduled to speak are three prominent scholars of citizenship and disability: Allison C. Carey, associate professor of sociology, Shippensburg University; Kim E. Nielsen, professor of history and women’s and gender studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; and Richard K. Scotch, professor of sociology, public policy and political economy, University of Texas-Dallas.

Carey, Nielsen and Scotch also will take part in a two-hour plenary with CDS faculty members, among them Gerber, Rembis and fellow history faculty members Susan Cahn, professor, and David Herzberg, assistant professor. The plenary session will provide an opportunity for participants to sum up the conference and confront any unresolved issues.

Check the center’s website in the fall for specific dates, times and locations for the lectures and colloquium.