Professor chronicles history of people with disabilities in new book

October 2, 2012 | News, Research, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham

The history of people with disabilities in the United States is chronicled in a new book by Dr. Kim Nielsen, who recently joined The University of Toledo as a professor of disability studies.

A Disability History of the United States, published by Beacon Press, will be released Tuesday, Oct. 2, and already is getting attention with a review from Inside Higher Ed and an interview with The Takeaway public radio program.

“I have spent more than five years chronicling this history that spans 800 years. It begins prior to the European arrival and follows how history has changed over time,” Nielsen said. “It’s marvelous to see this work published and to receive early attention for this examination of the shared American story.”

Nielsen illustrates in her book how concepts of disability have shaped the American experience in relation to immigration, establishing labor laws, and justifying slavery and gender discrimination. Her work includes powerful stories spanning narratives of women being involuntarily sterilized to accounts of returning veterans with disabilities securing civil rights.

It is the first book to cover the entirety of American disability history, from pre-1492 to the present.


Nielsen joined UT in August from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She also is the author of Beyond the Miracle Worker: The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship with Helen Keller; Helen Keller: Selected Writings; The Radical Lives of Helen Keller; and Un-American Womanhood: Anti-Radicalism, Anti-Feminism and the First Red Scare.

For more information on the book, visit

Click here for more information Nielsen’s interview on today’s edition of The Takeaway.

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