Celebrate Disability Pride month! Visit “Disability in the Modern World”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990 — now recognized as National Disability Independence Day, making July Disability Pride Month. Celebrate the passage of the landmark ADA and learn about the Disability Rights movement in “Disability in the Modern World: History of a Social Movement,” a new resource in the Library’s A-Z Databases list!

You will find stories that transformed society and yet were left out of history books — about the battle to secure disability rights, and the role that people with disabilities have played in all aspects of modern life. You can fill gaps in your knowledge about the impact that people with disabilities have had in media, the arts, political science, education, and other areas where the contributions of the disability community are typically overlooked. This dynamic and growing resource will contain over 150,000 pages of primary sources, supporting materials, and archives, along with 125 hours of video when completed.

“Disability in the Modern Word” contains the first complete digitized run of “The Disability Rag” and its successor, “The Ragged Edge” — a periodical that launched a revolution in 1980, uniting activism nationwide into a growing, passionate community. At a time when people who experienced disabilities had no control over how they were portrayed in the media, periodicals like “The Disability Rag” fostered solidarity, and now they also serve as a lens through which the entirety of the disability rights movement to the present can be seen.

Photo of Ed Roberts at a protest rally, viewed from the chest up, a seat belt across his chest secures him in his wheelchair. Behind him a protestor stands with a sign that says in all-caps "CIVIL RIGHTS FOR DISABLED".

Disability activist and “father” of the Independent Living Movement, Ed Roberts.

You can learn about Ed Roberts (1939-1995), widely regarded as the “father” of the Independent Living Movement. A memorial tribute in the May/June 1995 issue of “The Disability Rag” likens Roberts’ story to “our basic myth, the tale we can sit around and tell each other to understand who we are …” The article describes the arc of Roberts’ life as “a young man determined to go to college despite his paralysis … talking his way into staying in the Berkeley campus infirmary, then getting dorm housing for himself and other quads … becoming director of the [California] Rehab Department that 10 years earlier had deemed him unemployable; think-tank founder, MacArthur ‘genius’”. The tribute cites one admirer who said, “There are no statues of him, but nearly every city street corner has a monument to him: a curb cut” — those concrete ramps built into sidewalks, easing wheelchair access and making life easier for everyone, whether they are pushing strollers, wheeling bicycles, or pulling suitcases.

In addition to historical periodicals, other sources in the database include:

  • Brochures
  • Advertisements
  • Pamphlets
  • Memoirs/Diaries
  • Patents
  • Press Releases
  • E-books
  • Graphs
  • Poetry
  • Documentary Films
  • Art Films
  • Interviews
  • Chat Shows
  • Performances

When you click the link to “Disability in the Modern World,” you should be allowed to enter as a University of Virginia user, which will give you full access to the database. If you see “samples” of content, please clear your computer cache, close your browser, and try again. The publisher, Alexander Street, is aware of the problem and they are working to fix it.

Please visit the Library’s Accessibility Services page to find out what the Library is doing to provide equitable access to our collections and library services. You can report barriers to access anywhere at UVA on the University’s Report a Barrier form.

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