Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Celebrating Ed Roberts, Disability Advocate

Ed Roberts Google Doodle

On Jan. 23, 2017, the featured Google Doodle in the US was a cartoon drawing celebrating the 78th birthday of Ed Roberts. Ed was born Jan. 23, 1939 and died March 14, 1995 at the age of 55. During his life, he was a notable disability rights advocate.

Ed was “severely disabled from polio which he contracted as a teenager. He had virtually no functional movement and was dependent on a respirator to breath[e]” (ilusa.com). Ed, the first student with significant impairments to attend UC Berkeley, was inspired by the social justice movements of the 1960s and 70s, and he went on to start the self-help “movement that would radicalize how people with disabilities perceived themselves” (ilusa.com). In a letter to Gini Laurie in 1970 Ed stated, “I’m tired of well meaning noncripples with their stereotypes of what I can and cannot do directing my life and my future. I want cripples to direct their own programs and to be able to train other cripples to direct new programs. This is the start of something big—cripple power” (ilusa.com).

Photo of Ed Roberts
Among many notable achievements, Ed “was awarded a MacArthur fellowship; and he was co-founder and President of the World Institute on Disability” (edrobertscampus.org). He also inspired a world of disability rights advocates, and the Ed Roberts Campus was created in his honor. The idea for the Campus came shortly after his death, and is a “universally designed, transit-oriented campus located at the Ashby BART Station in South Berkeley. The ERC houses the offices of the collaborating organizations as well as fully accessible meeting rooms, a computer/media resource center, a fitness center, a cafĂ©, and a child development center” (edrobertscampus.org). It is 80,000 sq. ft. and is a beacon of universally accessible design featuring a helical ramp, accessible elevators, automatic doors, wide corridors, restrooms for people with all abilities, specially designed signage, and hands-free sensors and timers among other innovations.

Interior of Ed Roberts Campus 
I imagine Ed would be proud of the ERC, and he should as well be happy with the fact that he has inspired so many people with disabilities to take life by the reigns. Even if people don’t know about Ed, surely they have been impacted by the disability rights movement. Cheers to Ed and a happy belated birthday!


Friday, January 13, 2017

"Intelligent Lives" Questioning Intelligence

Intelligent Lives - A New Film by Dan Habib

What do you think about intelligence? Do you have preconceived notions about what intelligence looks like? Do you imagine a rocket scientist or a wise old professor with glasses giving lectures about Plato? As the film “Intelligent Lives” points out, 49 out of 50 states still use intelligence tests to sort people, but what if the use of intelligence tests has been perverted and is biased in many ways including racially and culturally? What if intelligence doesn’t fit so neatly into a scored box?

Alfred Binet developed the first IQ test in the early 20th century, but from all accounts he didn’t mean for the test to be used in the ways that it has been. As is pointed out in the preview version of “Intelligent Lives,” IQ tests were used to further eugenics movements including those in Nazi Germany and the US. Thankfully, we are no longer living in those times, but many people still believe that a number on an IQ test will dictate how a person can live their life. While IQ tests might be instructive in certain circumstances, they were never intended as something to base a person’s life on.

The film “Intelligent Lives” breaks this idea that people are nothing more than their IQ scores. In this documentary “filmmaker Dan Habib will explore how the segregation of people with intellectual disabilities became the norm, why this segregation is slowly being dismantled, and how some people with intellectual disabilities are blazing a bold new path” (Intelligent Lives Website: About-Project).

Actor Chris Cooper, who is the narrator of the film, talks about his son Jesse (who had cerebral palsy) and how IQ tests could tell them “nothing about Jesse’s potential. About who he was as a person” (Psychology Today, 2016). As well, Habib shared with Psychology Today that “because his son uses a wheelchair, he is sometimes not treated as a teenager, but rather infantilized: ‘The perception of someone’s intelligence; the perception of someone’s capacity, dramatically affects their opportunities in life.’” (Psychology Today, 2016). In the preview for the film we meet a man named Micah Fialka-Feldman who has an intellectual disability, and is a teacher/student at Syracuse University. We also meet Naieer Shaheed who is going to school, is artistically gifted, and has an intellectual disability. These are just a few of the “intelligent lives” that Habib shares in the film.

We invite you to view the short preview of the film “Intelligent Lives” which appears to be a terrific and informative film. To find out more about the movie and the entire project, please visit the Intelligent Lives website at: https://iod.unh.edu/projects/intelligent-lives.

In addition, please check out the TEDTalk documentary below given by filmmaker Dan Habib.

To see our prior post about "Intelligent Lives," click this link

Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/welcoming-intellectual-disability/201606/intelligent-lives
Intelligent Lives Website, https://iod.unh.edu/projects/intelligent-lives