Letter from the Editor
EVERYBODY - Excellent Virtual Exhibit by Smithsonian Institute
A few years ago I came across the virtual exhibit put together by the Smithsonian Institute about the history of people with disabilities in America.
A product of the public school system in California in the 60’s and 70’s, I can’t say I had much exposure to disability. In fact the only times I can recall even meeting someone with a disability was a young girl with a prosthetic arm and a friends’ sibling who was autistic.
But people with disabilities have been a part of America since the beginning. And how they have been treated has flip-flopped back and forth over the years. The exhibit is both eye opening and alarming. For instance, its’ through their natural need for adaption that many things we take for granted were invented. And it was appalling to discover that Eugenics was promoted heavily in America prior to World War II.
I contacted the Smithsonian and put together a slide show of the exhibit to take into the schools. This is an abridged version, because the actual exhibit takes about 3 hours to tour. I present this shortened version primarily to middle grades and high school, and use it as a springboard for a conversation. Once the students decide this is a safe environment to bring up their questions, I find the discussion is lively and varies greatly from class to class. All the questions show curiosity and are thought provoking.
I enjoy presenting this slide show immensely, and I envision each of these kids growing up and being an advocate for inclusion independence for people with disabilities!