Available here for the first time will be the complete digitized run of the The Disability Rag and its successor, The Ragged Edge. With its launch in 1980, The Disability Rag started a revolution—connecting isolated activists nationwide in what would become a growing, passionate community. At a time when the disabled had no control over their portrayal in non-disabled media, periodicals like The Disability Rag were the answer, fostering solidarity and community building among groups. From its first issue, The Disability Rag provides a lens through which the entirety of the disability rights movement’s history and challenges can be seen.
Following on the heels of other Civil Rights movements, disability rights laws emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Often these laws were more symbolic than precise in terms of objectives and strategies for implementation of anti-discrimination policies. Policy refinement, the process of translating legislative mandates into strategies and procedures to govern administrative action, is both dynamic and controversial. This introductory playlist will explore the origins of the Disability Rights Movement, its intersectionality with other rights movements of the day, landmark legislation passed through its efforts, barriers and opposition it faced, and the continuing work done by activists and advocates.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, empire building, and world wars throughout the nineteenth century, military- and work-related casualties occurred more frequently, requiring governments to react to this growing population. Out of this age of war and industry grew vocational rehabilitation programs, workers compensation legislation, and technological advances, allowing veterans and injured workers a greater chance of returning to the workforce as productive members of society. Prior to the nineteenth century, a person’s value was determined by his/her ability to be productive and contribute to society, and people with disabilities were often considered sub-class, non-contributing members of society. Despite these initial advancements, it wouldn’t be until the development of the Disability Rights Movement in the 1960s where issues of equality, access, and independence would be addressed.
From Disability Media Australia, No Limits is a frank and candid chat show that covers “everything you ever wanted to know about disability but were afraid to ask.” The show tackles a range of topics, from current events to sexuality, science, accessibility, and more. A contemporary production, No Limits documents advocacy in action, tracing the evolution, role, and influence that the media can and do have. Featuring Australian activists such as Stella Young, Sara McQueenie, Phineas Meere, Naomi Chainey, and others, Disability in the Modern World includes seven seasons of No Limits from 2007 through 2013.
Despite the legislative victories seen over the past few decades, stereotyping people with disabilities is still common, and the mass media has played a role in perpetuating those stereotypes. Both through language and depiction, the media continues to focus on the medical model of disability: disability as an impairment, disability as something to be fixed, disability as a person’s sole identity. Disability culture aims at breaking down the perception of disability as tragedy or deficiency. By involving the disability community in the development of media programs, such as the periodical Disability Rag/Ragged Edge or Disability Media Australia’s chat show “No Limits,” which works to increase the visibility and involvement of people with disabilities in the media, as well as continued development of accessible programming and greater and more authentic portrayals of people with disabilities, the media actually can serve as a strong tool in combating disability stereotypes.