From Disability Rights to Disability Justice in Kansas: Reflecting on the First Fifty Years, Anticipating Better FuturesUniversity of Kansas
- Ray Mizumura-Pence, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of American Studies, University of Kansas
The project chronicles the pursuit of disability rights and justice in Kansas as an ongoing struggle. Some fifty years ago, a disability rights movement emerged in the United States along with passage of federal laws mandating accessibility and forbidding discrimination. This movement has expanded, diversified, and responded to myriad challenges. Neoliberal political and social arrangements, ableist ideologies, cultures of normativity: these threaten disabled people individually and as an aggrieved population. Such factors affect the lives of disabled Kansans, whose stories are vital to larger narratives.
Several urgent questions arise, for instance: How have people with disabilities responded to ableism? How do their lived experiences illustrate self-determination as well as victimization? What futures do disabled people seek to create and sustain?
Taking a multidisciplinary, cross-generational, and intersectional approach to oral history, the project charts the trajectory identified in its title, “From Disability Rights to Disability Justice in Kansas: Reflecting on the First Fifty Years, Creating Better Futures.”
This title recognizes changes in the movement’s emphasis and goals. Early on, reform of existing systems was central to disability rights activism, which focused on eliminating barriers to access and inclusion. While this agenda remains relevant, shifts in more radical directions aimed at systemic, structural change are setting new standards for what disabled people want and how they go about getting it. Rehabilitation of the disabled – changing their bodies to fit the world – has given way to demands that the world be changed to fit people.
No longer is it acceptable, in most quarters, to confront oppression of disabled people without also taking on racism, sexism, homophobia, and capitalism. The disability rights movement has taken on a dimension of demanding disability justice, which is transformative. One major goal of the project involves understanding the causes, the need for, and the implications of this paradigm shift. By pursuing this objective, “From Disability Rights to Disability Justice in Kansas: Reflecting on the First Fifty Years, Creating Better Futures” contributes to public history and the public good.
Associate Teaching Professor, Department of American Studies, University of Kansas
Ray Mizumura-Pence is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of American Studies, University of Kansas (KU) at Lawrence. He also teaches in the KU Leadership Studies program and co-directs the Disability Studies Seminar at the KU Hall Center for the Humanities. His writing has been published in the scholarly journals American Quarterly, American Studies, Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal, and several reference encyclopedias. Ray earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from KU in 2006. He also holds M.A. and B.A. degrees in English from Miami University of Ohio and the University of Wyoming, respectively.