Click above for more information about the journal itself and to subscribe.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Editorial from Volume 10, Issue 3,4 by Megan A. Conway, PhD, RDS Editor-in-Chief

Image of grinning man in Aloha shirt pointing to data chart while volcano explodes in the background.

I was recently asked to write a forward to a book about the portrayal of disability in literature. When I asked what the author would like me to highlight, he suggested something about progress that has been made and progress that has yet to come about attitudes towards people with disabilities. Progress. We are always striving forward towards progress, measuring our progress and the progress we have yet to achieve. Always talking about the way it used to be and always hoping for something better for the future.
Image of empty bed in State Hospital labeled "The Lives They Left Behind
Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic"

In a recent class discussion for my Introduction to Disability and Diversity course, we talked about the institutionalization of people with disabilities. The students had been asked to view a video called "When the Moon Comes Up" by Norman Kunc, who talks about how his parents made the choice to raise him at home rather than have him institutionalized as the doctors suggested. The film shows Kunc with his wife and children, on the job, sailing his sailboat, and then transitions to photos from the 1960s of inmates at a residential institution for people with developmental disabilities accompanied by a haunting lyric, "When the moon comes up, it shines on them too, cut them and they bleed..." The film ends with Kunc saying, "It is sobering to realize how much the course of a life can be altered by a single decision."

"That was a really powerful video we watched," commented one of my students, "I'm so glad we don't have institutions like that anymore. It's so good that people with disabilities can now receive services instead of being stuck in a place like that." And so I had to explain that no indeed, there were still institutions where people with disabilities were stuck. Maybe, at least in the United States, they are not quite like they used to be. You don't see images of naked starving people covered in feces wandering the halls like the images that we saw in the film, but there are still people who could easily tell you how other people's misperceptions and power has adversely affected their lives. Can we pat ourselves for making progress in this area? Not really.

Photo of protesters crawling up the Capitol steps
But then I read the article in this issue of RDS that compares the experiences of visually impaired people in Peru and Jordan, an article that celebrates the progress that these two countries have made in access for people with disabilities, but also highlights the inequities that still exist, especially when compared to my own experiences as a visually impaired person in the United States. As I sit here typing on my new computer with the latest enlargement software, listening to the tap of the keys with my spiffy Bluetooth-enabled, state-of-the art hearing aids, pondering life as a college faculty member, I am reminded of what progress can do. Progress is possible, and progress is something to aim for.

As we celebrate and conclude our tenth volume of RDS, we also conclude the end of our print edition. We have been proud to be one of the only disability studies journals still offering a print edition, but progress, it seems, has caught up with us. Onward into the exciting world of web-based products and multimedia possibilities. May we look back ten years from now and see where we made progress too!

An Interview with Ann Millett-Gallant

Ann Millet-Gallant is one of the guest editors for the forum section of the current issue of the Review of Disability Studies, Volume 10, Issue 3,4. We asked Ann to talk a little bit about herself and her experience as an artist.

Ann Millet-Gallant
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a professor of art history and liberal studies for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am the author of two books, The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art and Re-Membering: Putting Mind and Body Back Together Following Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as essays and art reviews for journals. I have chaired several panels at academic conferences on the intersections between art history and disability studies and am currently co-editing a volume of such essays titled Disability and Art History. I am also an artist who paints, draws, and makes collages about the experiences of her disabled body, and I do portraits of pets and still life compositions.

Ann Millet-Gallant

2. What role does the artist have in disability culture?

The artist can express a number of experiences of being disabled in culture. They can utilize their disabled bodies as the subject and creator of new, liberated, and multifaceted images of disability.

3. Why do you feel this forum is a critical topic?

Art history has not been as engaged with disability studies as have other disciplines of the humanities.  Visual art contributes greatly to images of disability in visual culture.  I believe exploring the intersections between art history and disability studies fosters a new area of research and new understandings of representations of disability in visual culture.

Ann Millet-Gallant

4. What work do you most enjoying doing?

In terms of artwork, I most enjoy painting. I like mixing and layering color.

5. What’s your favorite art work or artist?

Frida Kahlo is my favorite artist. She was a disabled artist who painted self portraits in which she portrayed a number of her life experiences. Her work is often considered expressions of her “suffering,” and they may have been cathartic, yet they are also bold, brilliantly colorful, and spectacularly dramatic.

6. Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

I am congenitally physically disabled, and in 2007, I had an accident that resulted in traumatic brain injury. One of the many forms of therapy that contributed to my recovery was art therapy. My artwork and writing have been greatly influenced by these experiences.

Ann Millett-Gallant

Don't miss the current issue of RDS that includes a wide range of perspectives on art history and contemporary art with a disability studies focus. This issue also includes research articles on topics such as Dyslexia, the Paralympics, and accessibility in Jordan and Peru. You can find the current issue here. Stay tuned for the launch of RDS' new open access website. Coming soon!