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Disability and the American Story (Chase Rodgers)

Professor Kim Nielson’s lecture on disability through out American history gave an interesting insight on an often-overlooked aspect in American society. Everyone always hears about the travesties that slaves, African-Americans, women, and Native Americans went through, but rarely do we hear about the disabled. Helen Keller, for example, refused to publicly endorse a candidate for Presidency because she was afraid no one would pay attention to anything but her disabilities. Slaves were thrown overboard if they were considered disabled.

This all ties into the themes we’ve been learning in class because it yet another section in society that was prejudiced against. Industrialization brought about lots of change in the American society, but what most people don’t realize is that it struck the disabled the hardest. People who could work just fine in their own homes could not get jobs in the factories. The factories themselves caused many to get disabled, whether they went blind or even lost a limb.
America is the melting pot, where tons of immigrants mingle and create a unique society. Back in the early 1800s, immigrants were turned down admission into the United States if the had “poor physique.” Since the definition of ‘disabled’ is very vague, this covered anyone with a “frail frame, flat chest.” It also covered undersized people and homosexuals.
The struggles of the disabled in America are often overlooked. These people are stigmatized as not being able to contribute to society, though this is often not the case, such as the deal with Helen Keller.