Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal

Titchosky, T. (2007). Reading and writing disability differently. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press

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Titchosky, T. (2007). Reading and writing disability differently. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Walker, J. (2008, June 8). The silence generation: QuietComfort headphones. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from

Book Reviews

Title: Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in Britain

Editor: Marlene Tromp

Publisher: Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8142-1086-4

Price: $49.95, Cloth, 328 pages

Reviewer: Charles Folk
The freak shows of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in the United States and Great Britain are stark reminders of the change in western societal perceptions of human differences. The so-called ‘freak’ is often recalled as an unfortunate individual, usually with a severe disability, who through exploitation by the unscrupulous, was subjected to ridicule and mockery in feeding the public’s voracious insensitive curiosity. The emergent sub-field of Freak Studies reconsiders this phenomenon using current thought on disability, gender, race, ethnicity, and societal norms. Victorian Freaks, a collection of twelve essays edited by Marlene Tromp, is a substantial new contribution to this sub-field.
These essays reveal the social process of "enfreakment" whereby those possessing unusual bodies, abilities, and disabilities were recreated as spectacles for consumption. By drawing on a variety of compelling historical sources and documents, each essay attempts to situate these spectacles in the context of the social tensions in Great Britain as it underwent extensive economic, political, scientific and social changes. In "Poor Hoo Loo" by Meegan Kennedy, the botched and ultimately fatal operation to remove a large tumor in the genital area of a Chinese man became a spectacle for the medical establishment striving for a new standard of clinical objectivity, and the society's concern at the "unnatural growth" in the British Empire. Another essay, "Our Bear Women, Ourselves" by Rebecca Stern, convincingly argues that Julia Pastrana, whose face and body were covered with long hair, presented a challenge to Victorian categories of femininity and the erotic, and inflamed Victorian anxieties about class, race, and particularly gender.
The issue of personal agency repeatedly arises in these essays. Hoo Loo apparently faced a forced choice of either going to London for an operation thereby unknowingly subjecting himself to the spectacle his life and death became, or resigning himself to staying in China, where doctors refused to operate. Joyce L. Huff’s "Freaklore" describes the career of Daniel Lambert, who exhibited himself at fairs and theatres and accepted fees from curious visitors to his home to offset the expense of having his furniture and clothing custom made to fit his unusually large size. The aforementioned Pastrana seems to have collaborated quite cleverly with her husband/promoter, though she did not likely contribute to the decision to be embalmed and displayed posthumously along with the newborn who only briefly survived her. Each of these individuals made choices from a limited set of options based on the information, qualities, and skills they possessed, in the hope that their circumstances might be improved.
While these are academic essays, any student or scholar of the humanities or social sciences will be quite familiar with the jargon and theoretical frameworks employed, and the forward by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and introduction by Marlene Tromp offer an adequate grounding in the foundations of Freak Studies. The overlap between the collection's subject and that of Disability Studies is considerable, and where there is difference in focus, as with questions of race and gender, there exists a useful space for mutual engagement. Victorian Freaks is a valuable contribution to scholarship in the areas of disability, race, gender, and class, and offers an interesting perspective for understanding the social history of Victorian Britain.
Charles Folk is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley.

Title: Living with Low Vision and Blindness: Guidelines That Help Professionals and Individuals Understand Vision Impairment

Authors: John M. Crandall, Jr., Ph.D. and Lee W. Robinson

Publisher: Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publishers, 2007

Hardcover: ISBN: 978-0-398-07741-9

Cost: $49.95

Softcover: ISBN 978-0-398-07742-6 (paper)

Cost: $34.95, 220 pages

Reviewer: Beth Omansky
Take two parts developmental psychology; add one part special education; sprinkle with one part blindness/low vision rehabilitation and you have Living with Low Vision. Chapter subjects address concept, growth, cognitive development; science and the visually impaired; measurement and assessment; learning theories; the senses and perception; motivation, emotion, attitudes, self-concept, and memory; orientation and mobility; advocacy; transition; mainstreaming; and psychology of blindness. Even though authors Crandall & Robinson claim to challenge negative attitudes toward blindness, unfortunately their text perpetuates ‘individual’ medical model notions of ‘’limitation,’ ‘weakness,’ and ‘overcoming.’ For example, they ask, “[t]he question for professionals who work with the blind, “Can the effects of vision loss be totally overcome and if so, how?” (p. 92). As a social model advocate, I would much prefer the question be framed, “How can education and rehabilitation best understand and adapt to students and clients’ lived experience of blindness and low vision?”

Some blind people have mannerisms unique to blindness which rehabilitation negatively labels as blindisms--behaviors rehabilitation seeks to eradicate while training clients to act sighted. While many blind activists and scholars resist this model of ‘lack’ or ‘loss,’ Crandall & Robinson do not challenge the rehabilitation viewpoint. They write, … [blind people] “often lack facial expression, engage in repetitive rocking, light filtering, and other ‘blindisms,’ dress inappropriately, and lack personal care. These are socially limiting behaviors” (p. 105).

Considering their extensive expertise and experience in psychology, special education, and blindness rehabilitation, it is not surprising Crandall & Robinson heavily rely on traditional psychological concepts, theories, and scientific research. However, I was disappointed to find copious use of the language of ‘normality’: “handicap,” “vision limitation,” “normal,” “deficits,” “overcome,” as examples, belying their stated desire to help change negative public attitudes toward blindness and blind people. Another shortcoming of the text is how often the authors state “studies have shown…,” but fail to provide citations to back their assertions. For example, they write, without supporting evidence, “[o]bservers have noticed that blind children seem to lack ‘normal’ motivation (p.102), and… “[I]n the end, most people would rather be remembered as a friend and mentor than as a blind person” (p. 128). Crandall & Robinson also conjecture as to why sighted people are more afraid of blindness than any other impairment, “… many individuals, as children, played ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ and felt foolish because they could not do even simple tasks when blindfolded” (p. 112). This is a rather reductionist explanation which ignores complex social processes that construct blindness, such as charity’s perceptions of blindness as tragedy, negative media images, and segregationist methods of blindness education.
Living with Low Vision contains much more information about psychology and special education, in general, than the topic of blindness. It reminds me of books marketed as specific to particular dog breeds when, except for photographs, the material, in fact, is applicable to any and all breeds. If you are interested in developmental psychology concepts and theory, or if you want a refresher intermediate level education research methods course, then this book is for you. But, if you seek a practical “how-to” about living with vision loss, as the title might lead you to expect, look elsewhere.
Beth Omansky, Ph.D., is an activist and disability studies scholar in Portland, Oregon. Her book, Borderlands of Blindness, will be published by Lynne Rienner Publishers in April, 2011.

Title: Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture

Author: Carol Poore

Publisher: Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 2007

Cloth: ISBN: 978-0-472-11595-2

Cost: $70.00

Paper: ISBN: 978-0-472-03381-2

Cost: 24.95, 432 pages

Reviewer: Katharina Heyer, Ph.D.
“Why has disability remained outside of the focus of most cultural historians in German studies?” asks Brown University German studies Professor Carol Poore in her comprehensive and nuanced new book, Disability in Twentieth-Century German Culture. While cultural representations of disability have been central to specific topics in German history – most notably the development of eugenics and the social welfare system for disabled workers – there has been no comprehensive study weaving together the different discourses of disability in German society until Poore’s important contribution. Informed by critical disability studies, Poore uses an impressive range of texts and resources to match the cultural representations of disability with the way that Germans with disabilities themselves responded to and resisted that representation. The result is an intensely readable, richly illustrated, and thought-provoking read for students of disability studies, German culture, and contemporary bioethics.
A large part of the book’s attention goes to the development of the Nazi eugenic ideology. This is perhaps an inevitable focus of a book on disability in Germany, even though much has been written about the subject already. Poore provides the important cultural background to understanding National Socialism’s contempt for “useless eaters” and “lives unworthy of life” by tracing metaphors of the disabled body back to the Weimar Republic, where images of the disabled veteran in both art and politics symbolized both Germany’s humiliating defeat in World War I as well as Germany’s fascination with modernism. It is no coincidence that this period provided the foundation for Germany’s unrivalled leadership in physical and vocational rehabilitation. The compelling image here is that of a quadruple amputee war veteran wearing state of the art prostheses on both arms and legs while working as a skilled craftsman (p. 11).
Continuing chronologically, Poore’s analysis moves to the postwar Allied occupation and the founding years of the two German states, both grappling in different ways with yet another generation of disabled war veterans. In contrast to the Weimar model of rehabilitation and generous pensions, the Allied occupation of Germany discouraged the privileging of war veterans in their attempts to “impress upon the public that a military career bears neither honor, profit, nor security” (p. 171). Just a year after the end of the occupation, however, the young West German state re-instituted employment quotas for disabled workers and social welfare benefits that became emblematic of Germany’s postwar economic miracle (Heyer, 2005).

When it came to accountability for bringing the perpetrators of disability-based euthanasia and forced sterilization to justice, however, the German state fell miserably short. Similarly, the East Germany state’s ideal of social justice and a classless society failed to include disabled citizens in meaningful ways. Thus, Germany’s eugenic legacy continued to haunt the country’s thinking about disability for decades to come. Attitudes began shifting in the late 1970s, speared first by the student’s movement and then by disability activist protests against the UN Disability Decade, challenging the medical model that continued to inform Germany’s extensive but still segregationist rehabilitation system. The U.S. civil rights approach to disability became a powerful model for German activists eager to embrace notions of inclusion and equal opportunity while at the same time critical of the American social welfare system (Heyer, 2006).

Poore’s analysis covers an ambitious range of topics and historical periods. It is thus understandable, but ultimately frustrating, that her chapters can read like a list of events without conclusion or deep analysis. Readers may be left feeling deprived of a larger theoretical argument, or deeper case studies into the lives of activists and artists she introduces. Poore’s book is most successful when it is explicitly comparative, as for example her insightful comparison between FDR’s “splendid deception” (Gallagher 1999) and German contemporary politician Wolfgang Schäuble’s inability to escape disablist assumptions about the meaning of his disability for public office. She also offers powerful comparisons of the way Germany’s eugenic past informs contemporary debates about gene technology in both countries. Not to be missed is her last chapter’s personal observations: an “American Professor” with a visible disability navigating two worlds.
Gallagher, Hugh Gregory (1999). FDR’s splendid deception: The moving story of Roosevelt’s massive disability and the intense efforts to conceal it from the public. 3rd ed. New York: Vandamere.
Heyer, K. (2005). "Rights or quotas? The ADA as a model for disability rights" In L. B. Nielson and R. Nelson. Eds. Handbook of research on employment discrimination: Rights and realities, p. 237. New York: Springer.
Heyer, K. (2002). "The ADA on the road: Disability rights in Germany. Law and Social Inquiry, 27(4), 901.

Katharina Heyer is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawai’i. She may be contacted at

Title: Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries, and Sexuality: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

Author: Terri Couwenhoven

Publisher: Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-890627-33-1

Paperback: 8 ½ x 11, 400 pages

Cost: $24.95 USD. Order through Woodbine House

Reviewer: Martha M. Guinan, MPH
Talking to your son or daughter about sexuality and their bodies is difficult for many parents. What do you say? For parents of children with intellectual disabilities it can be even harder. Talking about the birds and the bees just leads to greater confusion for concrete learners. How can you be sure your son or daughter understood what you said? Can they apply what they’ve learned to their lives? Protecting your children means preparing them for the unknown—a scary prospect at best.
Today’s parents are more accepting of their children’s sexuality and the role they play in educating and helping their children than they used to be. However, they need ideas and strategies to teach their children about these issues in ways that are respectful and understandable. They pay close attention to their child’s physical and emotional growth but they are never sure how much to explain about sexuality to their child. Terri Couwenhoven has written a wonderful resource that answers many of these questions. Having worked as a sexuality educator and taught people with disabilities even before she had a daughter with Down syndrome, she has practical experience and a depth of knowledge. The writing is approachable, understandable, and well referenced. Body parts and sexuality are talked about candidly without excessive medical jargon. The author is respectful of differing beliefs and perspectives. She introduces thinking points that allow you to reflect on your own feelings, values, and attitudes about specific topics so you present a clear message to your child. The reader is informed about concepts they may have overlooked and key messages that affect goal behaviors.
Reading through sections about pelvic exams and periods made me appreciate having had a son. I don’t recall if my mother ever tried to talk to me about these things. If she did I am sure I cut her off with my embarrassed teenage know-it-all attitude. As a parent I can appreciate how necessary it is to move past embarrassment, as people with intellectual disabilities might not be able to learn about these topics on their own. They live in a more sheltered world than the rest of us.
My son had a well-meaning teacher when he was in elementary school teach him about “shame” when he was really trying to teach about “modesty.” I spent a lot of time having to differentiate between the two concepts with my son. I wish this book had been published then, as it would have helped in explaining to my son as well as to the teacher what my objections were!
This is a book that should be read by all parents of individuals with intellectual disabilities as well as the professionals that assist them with their daily lives. It would be helpful for anyone with young children but addresses adult and disability-specific issues that may not be relevant. It is organized by issues rather than age and includes illustrations that help open dialogue between you and your child. This book really is the starting point for discussions about freedom, responsibility, maturity, and becoming an independent adult.
Martha Guinan is a PhD. student in Exceptionalities and works for the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawai`i. She is also the mother of an exceptional young man named Ryan.
Disability Studies Dissertation Abstracts
Editor’s Note: The information for this section of RDS is provided by Jonathan Erlen of the University of Pittsburgh. A full list of disability-related dissertation abstracts may be found at:
Cultural differences and perceptions of autism among school psychologists

Tasby, Calissia Thomas. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2008. Section 0803, Part 0525 156 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Texas: Texas A&M University; 2008. Publication Number: AAT 3348040.

The retention of college students with learning disabilities

Huger, Marianne Seabrooke. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2009. Section 0075, Part 0514 207 pages; [Ed.D. dissertation].United States -- District of Columbia: The George Washington University; 2009. Publication Number: AAT 3344873.

Human service students' perceptions of people with mental retardation

Bennett, Dianne M.. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2009. Section 1351, Part 0534 94 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Minnesota: Capella University; 2009. Publication Number: AAT 3344907.

Who's being left behind? A study to determine the progress of students with disabilities and nondisabled students in Georgia urban elementary schools

Booker, Rasheen G.. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2009. Section 1351, Part 0524 122 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Minnesota: Capella University; 2009. Publication Number: AAT 3344645.

Infusing self-determination into the curriculum for young adults with significant disabilities: One teacher's journey

Held, Mary F.. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2008. Section 0093, Part 0529 205 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Indiana: Indiana University; 2008. Publication Number: AAT 3344574.

Self-beliefs in high school students with learning disabilities: Interaction and intervention

Mitnick, Ethan Samuel. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2009. Section 0055, Part 0529 125 pages; [Ed.D. dissertation].United States -- New York: Teachers College, Columbia University; 2009. Publication Number: AAT 3348359.

The meaning and means of inclusion for students with autism spectrum disorders: A qualitative study of educators' and parents' attitudes, beliefs, and decision-making strategies

Sansosti, Jenine M.. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2008. Section 0206, Part 0524 392 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Florida: University of South Florida; 2008. Publication Number: AAT 3347368.

The role of caregiving on quality of life of parents with children having autism in Taiwan

Hu, Hsiu-Shuo. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2008. Section 0128, Part 0628 157 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Michigan: Michigan State University; 2008. Publication Number: AAT 3348121.

Promoting resiliency in families of individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder: The relationship between parental beliefs and family adaptation

Warter, Elizabeth Hill. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2009. Section 0016, Part 0620 252 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States - - Massachusetts: Boston College; 2009. Publication Number: AAT 3344740.

The grief process in children with cognitive/intellectual disabilities: Developing steps toward a better understanding

Trueblood, Sonya. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2009. Section 1009, Part 0620 87 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Wisconsin: Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology, Inc.; 2009. Publication Number: AAT 3348804.

Double jeopardy: Disabled and black disability, race, and their interaction

Maeder, Evelyn M.. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2009. Section 0138, Part 0325 147 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Nebraska: The University of Nebraska - Lincoln; 2009. Publication Number: AAT 3344515.

Enjoyment and physical activity levels of students with and without disabilities in physical education

McClain, ZaNean D.. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2008. Section 0172, Part 0523 178 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- Oregon: Oregon State University; 2008. Publication Number: AAT 3336394.

Bimodal bilingualism in hearing, native users of American Sign Language

Bishop, Michele. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2006. Section 0505, Part 0290 304 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- District of Columbia: Gallaudet University; 2006. Publication Number: AAT 3337513.

Meaning-making in chronic disease: A qualitative study of how adults with epilepsy create a meaningful concept of illness

Gatt, Maureen Theresa. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2008. Section 0669, Part 0339 156 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- California: Institute of Transpersonal Psychology; 2008. Publication Number: AAT 3336644.

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The Center on Disability Studies is the umbrella for some 25 funded projects. It originated as the Hawai‘i University Affiliated Program (UAP) funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It was established in 1988 as part of a network of over 60 UAP's in the United States. It is now a University Center for Excellence in Disability Education, Research, and Service.
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