College to host disability symposium

Connecticut College will host a symposium on disability that focuses on issues of access, community and knowledge over two days this week.

The symposium begins on Wednesday, April 24, with a screening of “Lives Worth Living,” a  documentary on the history of the disability rights movement, at 4 p.m. in Room 210 of Blaustein Humanities Center. This film is an oral history told by the movement's heroes, like Fred Fay, who fought for decades for equal rights, access and opportunity for the disabled, and Ed Roberts, who founded the independent living movement and is considered a father of the disability rights movement.

“We were fortunate to be able to get the film’s director, Eric Neudel, and producer, Alison Gilkey, to bring the film to campus and talk about its production and the issues it raises,” said Barbara McLarky, director of  at the College.

The symposium continues with a talk and two discussions on Friday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room in Shain Library. The first event is a panel discussion titled “Disability 101” that will address disability rights under the law and disability services at the College.

At 11 a.m., Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, professor of women's studies at Emory University, will give a talk. Her scholarly and professional activities are devoted to developing the field of disability studies in the humanities and in women's studies, and she has written or edited five books including “Staring: How We Look,” “Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum,” “Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature,” “Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities,” and “Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body.”

“We are excited to bring Professor Garland-Thomson to campus to share how she has helped to bring the subject of disability into the academic curriculum,” said Mab Segrest, the Fuller- Maathai Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and one of the organizers of the event. “She is a wonderful speaker and will spark conversations in a variety of topics, from building design that allows maximum physical access to representations of the post-normative body across a range of mediums.”

And at noon, there will be a roundtable discussion, “Structuring Access, Creating Inclusive Community,” in which staff and students will share experiences dealing with issues of disability in their lives or their family.

“This symposium is a chance for us as a community to deepen our understanding of disability — which covers a range of circumstances and conditions — and examine how we can expand our access in our physical structures, our services, our consciousness and our curriculum,” said Segrest. “Consciousness of disability is important in our ongoing efforts at creating diverse and respectful community to which we all have access. We welcome everyone to this event, no particular expertise is required.”

The symposium is free and open to the public. It is produced by the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies and is co-sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of Disability Services. For more information, contact Segrest at

April 23, 2013