Black and White photo of disability rights protest, Sign reads "separate is never equal" on back of a person using crutches

History of Disability Identity, Culture, and Community

Event Details

Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2021

6:30 PM



Event Website

Online registration or tickets


Samm Delorey



This event is on UMASS campus

This event is handicap accessible



The Alliance Against Ableism presents the first of the Disability Culture and Community Speaker Series featuring two distinguished speakers.

Fred Pelka will discuss the history of disability and disability identity in the 20th Century as it has been framed by the intersections of gender, race, class and sexual orientation. He will also address how disability as an identity was reframed at different points in time in American history based on religious interpretations, medicalization, or industrialization of labor, the movement from rural to urban spaces, and as part of Jim Crow laws, or the realignment of Women's Roles in society, and as means to limit the immigration of undesirables across various times and places in U.S. history. Pelka will also speak about the epiphany that occurs concomitant with the Women's Rights Movement, the LGBT Rights and Civil Rights movements of the 1960s-1970s that helped solidify "disability" as a category of identity that came to be used as a framework for defining people with disability as an oppressed class, and how this reframing of disability like the other movements of the era, ultimately led to activism and the passage of the ADA.  He plans to speak about disability history up until about the mid-1990s or through passage and enactment of the ADA.

Professor Lisette Torres-Gerald bring the discussion forward to a more contemporary timeframe (meaning talk about disability history and identity since the 1990s). She will begin with the 4 pillars of the ADA and essentially talk about the gaps that remain. What could be referred to as a discussion of the unfinished business of disability activism or the gaps in the ADA, including those who are marginalized, ignored, excluded or omitted. These might include institutional gaps in education, workplaces, elder care, etc. Next she will talk about the shift in disability activism from disability rights to disability justice, including digital activism and she will provide some examples of some of the newest new disability activism and organizations.