SF State News {University Communications}

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Chronicling disability rights

July 14, 2010 -- Professor of History Paul Longmore is chronicling the rise of a movement that has impacted nearly every area of American life in the past 30 years--the disability rights movement--and has earned a research fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education for his efforts.

Photo of Professor of History Paul Longmore

Professor of History Paul Longmore

Longmore will publish his work in a new book on the history of the disability rights movement and its impact on U.S. society. The movement's advocacy has prompted changes in public policy, education and medical practices and visibly transformed buildings and public space, for example through architectural changes and the introduction of dropped curbs and textured paving at crosswalks.

"What characterizes this movement is that people took what was thought of as a tragedy and realized that it is a social injustice caused by discrimination and socially created obstacles," Longmore said. "And every step of the way, people with disabilities have been active advocates for themselves."

Longmore traces the movement from the early 1900s--when people with disabilities and their families campaigned for the provision of specialist care, services and education--to the 1960s when disability activism entered the political realm.

"In the 1960s, disability rights activists borrowed concepts from the civil rights movement and adopted a rights-based model," Longmore said. "Individuals who were refused service at restaurants or movie theaters because they were disabled realized that they were being discriminated against and that there needed to be laws in place to protect their rights."

Longmore hopes the book will prepare students to grapple with the contradictions and complexities of a diverse movement. The book will draw on Longmore's recent research into the rise of new communities of disability, for example the disability sports movement and the fight for the Paralympic Games to be affiliated with the Olympic Games.  

Longmore received a research fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to write his forthcoming book, which is scheduled to be published by Routledge in late 2011.

Read more about Longmore's career: www.sfsu.edu/~news/2005/spring/26.htm

-- Elaine Bible


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