Oscar season: evening gowns, betting pools and accolades for non-disabled actors. When The Shape of Water won Best Picture, it sparked a conversation in the disability community about authentic representation. This year’s nominees, like so many previous slates, included a non-disabled actor playing a disabled character. Sally Hawkins received a nomination for her performance as Elisa, a mute woman. Although Hawkins herself did not win, her performance is part of a longstanding trend that deserves examination. Over the past 30 years, 13 actors have won the Best Actor award by portraying a character with a disability, while another 14 have won Best Actress. All actors portrayed characters with disabilities that they do not personally have. The only example of a disabled actor winning an Oscar is Deaf actor Marlee Matlin, who won Best Actress in 1986 for her performance in Children of a Lesser God. To break it down further, here’s a comprehensive … Continue Reading ››
Thomas ‘Blind Tom’ Wiggins was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1848, on a slave plantation owned by Wiley Jones. Though Tom was originally designated to be sold off or left for dead for his blindness and presumed uselessness on a slave plantation, Tom’s mother fought to keep him with the rest of his family by arranging to have herself, her husband, Tom, and her two other children sold as a group to a different master, General James Bethune. Though the diagnosis did not exist in the nineteenth century, current historians believe that Wiggins was an autistic savant. Savant syndrome is a kind of neurodivergence in which people experience major differences between their abilities and disabilities. For example, someone can be a brilliant violinist and be unable to read, write or do mathematics. Tom showed these traits. While Wiggins’s ability to play and compose music was extraordinary, he was mostly non-speaking and … Continue Reading ››
Editor's note: This article is the first of a four part series highlighting Black and neurodivergent leaders and historical figures, in honor Black History Month. Each leader was selected by Finn Gardiner, a contemporary Black and Autistic leader and scholar. Harriet Tubman is widely known as a brave Black woman who led herself and hundreds of other slaves to freedom through the loose network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. What is less known, however, is that Tubman was also disabled and neurodivergent. Born Araminta Ross, Tubman was born on a relatively small plantation at the beginning of the 19th century. Tubman took her husband’s surname upon marriage and changed her first name to Harriet around the same time. From the age of five, Tubman was forced to perform strenuous tasks for other slaveholding households, including looking after other families’ children, trapping muskrats, and other work that would be stressful … Continue Reading ››
Humanity & Inclusion became the new name of Handicap International’s global network today. The organization, which shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to ban anti-personnel landmines, implements more than 300 emergency and development projects in about 60 countries per year.
New name. New logo.
- ‘Humanity & Inclusion’ expresses one of the organization’s central values, humanity. This is reflected in a benevolent and empathic approach to the organization’s actions, close proximity with its beneficiaries, and a deep respect for each person’s individuality.
- “’Inclusion’ reflects one of the core ambitions that has driven our actions for 35 years: the inclusion of people with disabilities and vulnerable people who are so often overlooked,” said Jeff Meer, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion in the U.S. “We value difference and fight exclusion. This name helps to show that.”
- It means ensuring that everyone has a place in the community while respecting each … Continue Reading ››
Last week, the quarterly Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meeting took place. IACC is a government advisory panel responsible for setting federal research priorities. A thread running throughout the six hour meeting was representation and diversity, or lack thereof, both in autism community leadership positions and within IACC itself. In many ways, the sessions were a string of events demonstrating not only the need for more autistic representation, but the need for racial diversity. There are currently only two autistic members of IACC. A third autistic member, Amy Goodman, stepped down in 2017. Similarly, IACC's membership is almost entirely white. Dr. Marcella Ronyak, IACC member and Deputy Director of the Division of Behavioral Health for the Indian Health Service, gave the first presentation of the day. She began by asking how many people in the room had a good understanding of what Indian Health Services is and what it is that they … Continue Reading ››