LightHouse Perspectives: First Ever Disability History Week in California Schools

Christina Mills, director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers sent out an announcement about Disability History Week in California schools. This is a first for public schools in our state, thanks to the hard work of a team of disabled youth organizers.

Click to hear to read the flyer: Announcing Disability History Week in Californai schools.

The photo banner along the top of the flyer includes portraits of Helen Keller, Ed Roberts, Paul Longmore, Lois Curtis and Frida Kahlo.

When it comes to history in the blindness community, Helen Keller is one of the best known figures. But many visually impaired people are ambivalent about the Keller legend.

In Blind Rage: An Open Letter to Helen Keller, Georgina Kleege delves into her complicated relationship with Keller. Kleege re-imagines Keller’s life story while posing hard questions to Keller as she retells true stories from her own life as an educator and artist in contemporary society. Georgina Kleege is a visually impaired novelist and Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

The LightHouse recently called for nominations to rename our Enchanted Hills cabins after important persons in blindness history. Thanks to your suggestions, we compiled an impressive list of figures who are not widely known, but deserve further recognition and study.  In this list, we have the Turkish painter Esref Armagan, the British Thomas Rhodes Armitage, and the famous American abolitionist Harriet Tubman to name a few.

And today, after chatting with LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin, I learned about Jacques Lusseyran, a blind resistance fighter in World War II. Bryan is enjoying Lusseyran’s memoir, And There Was Light.

As our public school teachers build their curriculum from one Disability History Week to the next, year after year, I hope that they really push the envelope and explore all types of writing (like Kleege’s creative nonfiction on Keller), many different voices (artists like Armagan) and many lesser recognized men and women. (Many people do not know that Harriet Tubman became blind while continuing to fight for freedom.)

The following is a short list of links to disability history information and educational materials. I have added a couple specific to blindness.

Disability Studies for Teachers.

American Action Fund History of Blindness Timeline

The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States

–This post was written by LightHouse Resource Specialist Amber DiPietra