Documentary, book launch help to raise disability awareness

October 22, 2012 | Events, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences
By Brian Purdue

A documentary about two men on a quest to challenge negative views of individuals with autism and a new book that invites readers to reconsider their ideas of American history through the lens of individuals with disabilities are the topics of two upcoming events at The University of Toledo.

The UT Disability Studies Program will host a screening of the documentary, “Wretches & Jabberers,” Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2100.

Additionally, a book launch for A Disability History of the United States by Dr. Kim Nielsen, UT professor of disability studies, will be held Thursday, Oct. 25, at 3:30 p.m. in Libbey Hall.

Dr. Jim Ferris, Ability Center of Greater Toledo Endowed Chair of Disability Studies, is excited for both events and expects they will help give the public a better understanding of individuals with disabilities, whom he feels receive a severe misrepresentation in society.

“The way that people with disabilities are represented in mass media is greatly influenced by stereotypes,” said Ferris, who also is director of the UT Disability Studies Program and professor of communication. “They’re stereotypes that don’t really represent the actual lives of the real people that they portray.”

The documentary follows Tracy Thresher, 42, and Larry Bissonnette, 52, who have autism, as they set out to give hope to others like themselves and encourage everyone to make the most of life. The two address many different attitudes about autism and encourage others to reconsider how people are viewed.

Ferris believes the documentary can help to counter those stereotypes that are so prevalent in American culture.

“I think this movie has the potential to open people’s eyes and help them to know a little bit more not just about ‘those autistic people over there,’ but, ultimately, what it really means to be human and who we are,” Ferris said.

The new book titled A Disability History of the United States addresses the issue of disability through the history of the nation and how it has played an important role in the development of the country. Nielsen will read an excerpt from the book and talk to attendees afterward.

“One of the things we often learn to do is value certain kinds of differences negatively,” Ferris said. “What I hope is that we, as a society, are growing toward letting go of a lot of those preconceptions and negative evaluations.”

The UT Disability Studies Program is in the School for Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences.

For more information on the free, public events, visit

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