UofM Student Research on 3D Everything (Except Printing)

#mlibres Students on #3d

Last week there was another of the wonderful Emergent Research Series of lectures sponsored by the University of Michigan Libraries Research Unit (2014 archive, 2013 archive).

Main topics covered were spatial tracking, 3d virtual reality, optical motion capture, holography, optical tracking, acoustic motion tracking. During the Q&A, a major diversion (at least for me) was “Sim-sickness”, in which 3d immersive virtual reality (think of Oculus Rift & Google Cardboard) make folk nauseous, some to the point of actually tossing their cookies. There are videos in Youtube. I don’t need to find them for you. Fun topics mentioned included virtual augmented reality, Hololens, holography for teaching anatomy, biomechanics, cultural preservation, robotics, aerospace engineering, body slicing with the Kinect, body tracking, and DIY arduino acoustic sensors and automated echolocation. There were lots of tips and tricks, what works and what doesn’t. Many interesting links in the Storify below.

Taubman Health Sciences Library: Open for Business!


Taubman Medical LibraryHealth Sciences Library / Taubman Medical Library
Taubman Library: StacksDSCN0694


New THL: AnatomageMoving in
Moving in

Just over a year and a half ago we moved out. Mysterious things happened (ie. a renovation). Almost a month ago, we moved back. At that point in time, there were still places that looked a lot like this.

New THL: Construction Signs

And somehow, miracle of miracles, today, we opened to the public. There’s a bunch of press about it, but I thought some might like to get a sense of the unofficial, completely my own personal point-of-view, behind the scenes view. Especially other medical librarians!

The space is, as my colleagues describe it, “BEAUTIFUL!” I confess, we were a little worried when the color scheme was described as, “Aggressively neutral with black and yellow accents,” but it absolutely works. The space is bright with light and color, cozy with comforting nooks and crannies, and deliciously modern to the minute with tech. Here are some of my favorite highlights (which are likely to be rather different from what excites the popular press).


New THL: Video Studio

I love that there is a video studio, complete with backdrops, green screen, audio and video equipment, computers, editing software, and so forth. I’m very excited to see what comes from this, and equally proud of Anne Perorazio who has reinvented herself as our local video expert through a great deal of passion and practice and study.

I am hoping that there will be times when I find time to expand my own skills in this area, and am hoping for some tutorials and training sessions to be forthcoming. My understanding is that the studio has already been in use!


New THL: Sit/Stand Station

I could hardly contain myself when I realized there were sit-stand tables for public use. Not just one, but FOUR! FOUR sit-stand tables, one at each corner of the public computing areas. I bet these are going to be popular. That level of attention to accessibility issues in the design is just thrilling to me. Here is what the sit stand tables look like in context, both at an elevated height and at the same height as the rest of the tables.

New THL: Computers / Sit/Stand StationNew THL: Computers & Long View


Moving in

One rule of designing for tech is, until we have safe & ubiquitous wireless charging, there is no such thing too much power. Not talking superhero or political power, but power to charge our electronic devices. I was so delighted to see not just electrical power, but also USB chargers, and these are at almost every seat in the entire library. We’re talking hundreds of outlets and phone chargers. HUNDREDS. Yowza. I am blown away. There are also Ethernet jacks in the public space, and other features that are designed to make the tech environment as seamless and powerful as possible. See the official details for more info on this.


Moving in

The new multipurpose room is very flexible, and can be redesigned for a wide range of uses, but what I’m excited about is all the teleconferencing capability that keeps being mentioned. I’ve heard rumors that this may even include satellite connections. I’m hoping it’s true, and looking forward to being able to attend events here that used to have me running all over campus.


MLive: The University Of Michigan’s New Virtual Cadaver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U372pSI47I

OK, OK, yes, everyone in the press is geeking out over the Anatomage for “virtual dissection.” I would be remiss in some sense if I didn’t mention it, however what excites me about is, again, likely to be a little different from what other folk are thinking. My background, before coming to UM, involved supporting multimedia for medical and dental education. I’ve been tracking the Virtual Human project and uses of its data for a very long time. Decades. Really. I’ve seen programs and tools and resources developed around the data to try to make it useful for teaching, learning, and research. By and large most of the failed, and for the same reasons. They repackaged the basic data, added very little content, and called it cool. The Anatomage is different.

What makes it different? Customization. The ability to add your own data, your own labels, to expand data sets and enrich the content. The other thing that makes it pretty cool is the ease and flexibility of exporting images from the device. This is what I’ve been waiting for.

Here you can see some of the labeling (which again, can be customized), and the extreme responsiveness of the touchscreen manipulation. Chase Masters is demonstrating this with his tie. Any kind of touch works to interact with the device. And Chase deserves a big shoutout for all the work he’s done learning about working with the Anatomage, building community of practice around it, incorporating it into instructional design and specific course, and so very much more.

Moving in: AnatomageNew THL: Anatomage

The Anatomage is super popular. So far, if I walk out into the main part of the library, there is always someone using it. I am deeply impressed that the Anatomage is being made available for use by the public, and not just locked away for use by medical students. It has a lot of potential for working with outreach, patients, and more. I am very hopeful about ways in which it can change lives of regular folk as well as supporting and enriching medical education.

New THL: AnatomageNew THL: Anatomage


New THL: I have a window! And visitors!

OK, this is just for me. I have a window. I’ve never had a window before. I must say, I really do like it.


Key features of the new Taubman Health Sciences Library:

* It stands on the site where U-M’s second hospital began taking patients in 1891 – one year after the Medical School adopted a then-revolutionary four-year curriculum.
* Learning spaces are spread over five levels of the building – two below street level.
* Learning technologies include a large touch-screen table for exploring human anatomy virtually, and facilities for teleconferencing and computer-based testing.
* The Clinical Skills Suite includes 30 realistic patient care rooms complete with simulated medical technology, and facilities for the trained medical actors – called “standardized patients” and actual patients who help medical students learn and test hands-on skills.
* In addition to the library, the entrance level includes a new café with coffee and light fare.
* A medical student lounge offers kitchen facilities and entertainment options.
* An all-glass exterior of nearly 18,000 square feet of low-e glass replaced the former windowless brick walls on all sides of the building, providing natural illumination
* About 6,000 square feet were added in the renovation, including a monumental staircase.
* A wide array of “green building” features make the building eligible for Gold LEED status, a measure of environmentally conscious facility construction and operation.
* The building has indoor connections on several levels to other Medical School buildings.
* Construction teams used 1,700 tons of concrete, recycled 1,780 tons of material, and installed more than 67 miles of data cable and 2,011 data jacks.


A grand space for learning: U-M reopens Taubman Health Sciences Library after $55M metamorphosis http://www.uofmhealth.org/news/archive/201508/grand-space-learning-u-m-reopens-taubman-health-sciences
Brochure: http://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/sites/medicine.umich.edu.medschool/files/content/downloads/THSLbrochure.pdf

Crain’s Detroit Business: Transformed UM library reopens after two years http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20150802/NEWS/150809996/transformed-um-library-reopens-after-two-years

Detroit Business: U-M’s Taubman Health Sciences Library Reopens After $55M Renovation http://www.dbusiness.com/November-December-2015/U-Ms-Taubman-Health-Sciences-Library-Reopens-After-55M-Renovation/

See U-M Medical School’s new 3-D virtual cadaver http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/08/see_u-m_medical_schools_new_vi.html

University of Michigan unveils state of the art medical library http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/08/university_of_michigan_unveils_2.html

UM Libraries: Taubman Health Sciences Library: http://www.lib.umich.edu/thl

UMMS: A. Alfred Taubman Health Sciences Library http://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/about/facilities/alfred-taubman-health-sciences-library

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part Three, “Are We Done?”

SL15: VAI: ADA25

The first post in this series focused on the White House’s #ADA25 celebration and how high tech can sometimes lead to high touch, improvement of quality of life and connections. In the second post, the focus shifted from the national to the hyper-local, with the new Amtrak technology innovation in Ann Arbor that we hope will impact on rail accessibility nationwide. In this third post, I’d like to introduce you to Virtual Ability, a virtual world space that is home to a global community of persons with all kinds of disabilities


Virtual Ability, Inc. (VAI) has, throughout their existence, facilitated access to resources and training for persons with disabilities around the world. This includes personal one-on-one support as well as informational, educational, advocacy and awareness events for their audience. These events engage an international community around disability advocacy. Naturally, the 25th anniversary of the signing of the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act was not overlooked, with related activities planned for the weeks before and after the actual date. Because of the international nature of their community, events are often scheduled twice, to enable access from different hemispheres.

SL15: VAI: ADA25

Because of the complex range of disabilities supported within their community, information and presentations for their events are offered in text and audio, to support those with or without hearing as well as those with or without sight. This is standard practice for them, and a model that clearly should be adopted for webinars and livestreams and other multimedia online events. What can I say? VAI is ahead of the curve, and committed to doing it right if at all possible. FYI, they used to offer a consulting and testing service to advise organizations providing online content, and providing access to a group of engaged testers with a wide range of access challenges. Very, very valuable.

The VAI events and conversations were hosted and moderated by Gentle Heron, who also provided the voiceover for presentations provided in text.

SL15: VAI: ADA25

For the actual day of the anniversary, VAI offered four events. Two were showings of videos about the ADA then(1) and now(2), with community conversations about them; the other two were formal presentations, one about strategies and resources for personal disaster and crisis preparations (which I hope to blog about as a separate post), and another about the bare bones basics of what persons with disabilities can and should expect (and REQUEST) for accessibility for online content from organizations in the United States, how this varies globally, and why there aren’t any such guidelines for virtual world online content. This last was basically a user’s guide to WCAG, the first presentation I’ve seen like this. Most WCAG presentations are for web developers, instructing them on what to do. It is rare to see a presentation for persons with disabilities explicitly on what WCAG means for them.

SL15: VAI: ADA25SL15: VAI: ADA25
SL15: VAI: ADA25SL15: VAI: ADA25

The question that came up over and over through the day’s events was, “Are we done yet? What’s left?” It’s been 25 years, we’ve come a long ways, but there is still a lot left that needs to happen for true equality and access. Me, in real life, I was listening to these conversations sitting on my couch wearing a t-shirt that said, “Disability Rights ARE Civil Rights.”

#ADA25 TshirtDisability Rights ARE Civil Rights

The conversation was urgent, engaged, informed, and educational. People talked about the need for more accessible modes of transit; new technologies that may help the homebound get out into public life (especially exoskeletons and the Rewalk System, examples of persons with disabilities in leadership roles that influence policy for others; how the United States leadership in disability rights has influenced access and expectations in other countries; the looming cuts to social security income (SSDI) for persons with disability, and the potential impacts (“Many of us are foregoing meds already”). Ironically, the topic of foregoing meds appeared the next day in one of my Twitter chats.

This post focused on #ADA25 in virtual worlds in part because this powerful way of using technology to build community remains drastically undervalued and overlooked. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways in which online social spaces are being used to create community, support, and opportunity around these issues. Just take a look at #spoonies, #SpoonieChat, #a11y, #AXSchat, and the #ADA25 hashtag itself. Many of the same issues and concepts brought up in the VAI conversations and events were echoed in the Easter Seals #ADA25 Twitter chat, #ADAtoday.

If any of this intrigues you about the potential for how virtual worlds, online environments, and related technologies can support individuals and communities with disabilities, you might want to also take a look at this recent video describing the VAI community.

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part Two, “Our New Technology”

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

To continue the series on “what I did for #ADA25,” I’d like to talk about the very exciting event here in town last week, in which Ann Arbor sets the stage for a national high speed rail system, and access for persons with disability is at the core of making this possible.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y


The event was the ribbon cutting for the new disability-accessible platform at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station.

“New disability-accessible platform opens at Ann Arbor Amtrak station” http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/07/new_disability_platform_opens.html

The event started out with the mayor, Chris Taylor, describing the importance of the University of Michigan Health System and hospitals in providing advanced health care to the residents of the State of Michigan, and how critical accessible rail transport is for supporting this.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley noted, “Acceptance & awareness are important, but inclusion is a game changer.”

Richard Bernstein, Judge of the Michigan Supreme Court, waxed eloquent, clearly joyful and delighted with this innovation. You can hear his full remarks on Soundcloud.

Joe McHugh (Amtrak’s Senior Vice President) described this as “the flagship of our new technology,” continuing with the vision and possibilities that would come from this.

Joe really meant technology, too! The new boarding platform is retractable, and extends toward the train when in use. The Amtrak press release describes it as “The platform mechanically extends toward the train, bridging the gap created when a level-boarding platform is needed. This next generation of passenger-focused technology will allow America’s Railroad® to deliver a modern passenger railroad that is accessible to all.” That wasn’t the limit of the tech, either. In addition to designing the platform, the interactive portions of the tech, they also had to design manual tech to support the process in case of problems with the automated portions or for situations that require special extra support.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

As with all ribbon-cutting events, the actual story started long long before. Or stories, I should say. This event sprang from the intersection of many stories, many people’s experiences. There are the local folk who fought for a better way to take the train, and helped make people aware of the reasons why it should start HERE. There were wheelchair passengers who complained about being put on a jack, hoisted into mid-air, and left dangling in the rain while the station staff try to get the logistics sorted out. There were the Amtrak staff who helped people with luggage, moms with strollers, elderly folk climbing the narrow stairs into or out of the Amtrak cars.

The story that resonated most powerfully with me was told by Richard Devylder, the U.S. DOT’s Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

Richard was born without arms or legs. The combination of his experience, his intelligence, his connections with the community of persons with disabilities all help to inform his position and influence change. And when the opportunity presents itself, he absolutely will go for the brass ring.

That’s kind of what happened one day a few years ago. Richard described a room full of transportation higher ups. He asked, “Well, do you want to see high speed rail in the United States?” Yes, yes, yes, they all did. The next thing Richard said? “Then you have to find a way to let people like me board the train in less than 15 minutes.” BOOM.

That was one story. He had another good one. Richard described one day when he was trying to get on the train, and a ramp had been set up to allow him to board. But he couldn’t even get on the ramp because it was so crowded with people. Elderly with walkers. Parents with strollers. People with heavy rolling bags of luggage. Part of him thought, “Hey, why are all these people blocking my ramp?” Immediately he realized it is because all of them also needed a ramp, and the one provided for him was the only one there. BOOM #2!

We need ramps for boarding trains absolutely as much as we need curb cuts. The next ADA25 story I’ll be telling is about a group of people in virtual worlds. They were pretty impressed when I told them about this new Amtrak platform. Then they asked, “But why did it take 25 years? And why is there only ONE in the entire United States?” More on that in the next post.

The actual ribbon cutting, with Gary Talbot as the honored local person who pushed the hardest to make this happen.

And then people could board!

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y
#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

Updated to include Gary Talbot’s name.

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part One, “I couldn’t type a hug.”

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the signing of the American with Disabilities Act. I want to describe three technology events that happened around the theme of celebrating this milestone! These three stories include high speed rail, robots, assistive communication devices, virtual worlds, web accessibility, exoskeletons, 3d printing, and more. That’s the tech. But the touch is just as important, if not more so, and the question of what’s left that needs doing is the idea of defining and meeting our targets. Let’s get started.


First, President Obama celebrated, of course, with many people. One was Haben Girma, the first deaf-blind graduate of the Harvard Law School. The President would type words to talk with her, and she would listen with her hands on a machine that translated the typing into Braille. “I couldn’t type a hug,” he said.

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

Alice Wong, of the Disability Visibility Project, attended the event through her telepresence robot, and wrote about it later, here.

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

The White House has made available both the highlights video (under 3 minutes) and the complete event (about 1.5 hours).

President Obama Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the ADA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZCQT-DYVNY

President Obama Speaks at the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUI-TUFlteU

Towards the end of his remarks, President Obama described the how his father-in-law’s experience with multiple sclerosis helped to shape his passion for reducing barriers for persons with disabilities, and his awareness of how access to necessary resources can help people grow into their potential, and how that helps all of us.

“And just an aside on this, for a long time, he would not get a motorized wheelchair because he had gotten this disability at a time when they weren’t available and it was expensive, and they weren’t wealthy, and insurance didn’t always cover it. And it just gave you a sense of — Michelle and I would talk sometimes about how much more he could have done, how much more he could have seen — as wonderful as a dad as he was, and as wonderful as a coworker as he was, he was very cautious about what he could and couldn’t do — not because he couldn’t do it, but because he didn’t want to inconvenience his family and he didn’t want to be seen as somehow holding things up.” Remarks by the President on The Americans With Disabilities Act https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/20/remarks-president-americans-disabilities-act

White House Champions and the Dream of Personalized, Precision Medicine (#WHChamps)

White House Champions of Change - Precision Medicine #WHChamps

A couple weeks ago, I had just started a blogpost on the White House Precision Medicine Initiative, when I heard that within the HOUR there would be an update from the White House on this very topic, livestreamed! I scrambled, livetweeted, and this is no longer the post I had planned to write, but a rather different one, that has taken a good bit more time than what I had planned. The ‘update’ on the Precision Medicine Initiative turned out to be a White House Champions event. I had not previously heard of the White House Champions, but it turns out this is a wonderful series of events that have been going on through Obama’s Presidency honoring community innovators in a wide range of topics & issues where America has needed innovation:
citizen science,
disaster preparedness,
domestic violence,
education (several of these events for different challenges),
food security,
libraries and museums,
open government,
open science,
Parkinson’s disease,
public health and prevention,
science equality for women and persons with disabilities,
suicide prevention,
tech innovation and inclusion,
veterans (several of these events for different challenges),
youth homelessness,
youth violence,
and much, much, MUCH more! My mind is just ringing with all that I’ve missed, and all the wonderful creative innovators I don’t yet know about. How did I miss all of this?

At least I didn’t miss the Precision Medicine event! Here are the honorees, and the treasures they have shared with us, in a very small terse form.

Marcia Boyle (MB’s blogpost about the Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF). Find them on Twitter at @MarciaIDF and @IDFCommunity)

Hugh Campos (HC’s blogpost about data liberation. Find him on Twitter @HugoOC)

Elizabeth Gross Cohn (EGC’s blogpost on the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation, their Communities of Harlem Health Revival, and their interactive graphic novel. Find her on Twitter at @Chi_Cohn)

Amy Gleason (AG’s blogpost about CareSync. Find her on Twitter at @ThePatientsSide)

Amanda Haddock (AH’s blogpost about Dragon Master Foundation. Find them on Twitter at @AmandaHaddock and @DragonMasterFdn)

Emily Kramer-Golinkoff (EKG’s blogpost about Emily’s Entourage. Find them on Twitter at @emilykg1 and @EmsEntourage4CF)

Howard Look (HL’s blogpost about Tidepool. Find them on Twitter at @HowardLook and @Tidepool_org)

Dorothy Reed (DR’s blogpost about Sisters Network of Central New Jersey (SNCNJ). Find SNCNJ on Twitter at @sistercentral)

Anish Sebastian (AS’s blogpost about Babyscripts. Find him on Twitter at @ASebastian87 and @Babyscripts)

Here is the best Storify I’ve found of the #WHChamps event, by E. Keeley Moore.

It’s amazing that there were over 1000 tweets per minute at the peaK. Here is the Symplur archive of all the event’s tweets:

Symplur: Healthcare Hashtag Project: #WHChamps http://embed.symplur.com/twitter/transcript?hashtag=WHChamps&fdate=07%2F08%2F2015&shour=05&smin=25&tdate=07%2F09%2F2015&thour=00&tmin=00

Did you miss it and want to see it? The entire hour-long event was recorded and is available in the White House Youtube channel.

White House Champions of Change – Precision Medicine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi1Tw1narVo

25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Personal Timeline [#ADA25]

ADA 25th Anniversary

The 25th anniversary of the signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act is this week. Disability, accessibility, and usability are frequent topics in this blog. I can’t let this pass without a post (despite being rather delinquent with posting since our move into our new library, but more on that another time). But what do I have to offer? There are countless people around the country writing about what has changed since the ADA came into effect, and how much remains to do. There are organizations devoted to #ADA25 with toolkits for organizing your own events. There are celebrations at the White House and most of the state capitals, and beyond. (Resources and links towards the end of this post.) So what can I do? Perhaps just share my own stories of disability experiences in my own life.


These are mostly stories from long before the ADA was signed into law. Back then, having a disability was shameful and stigmatized, denied and hidden if at all possible. Accommodations wasn’t even a concept that most people could hold in their mind. The language used to discuss disabilities was stigmatizing and hurtful, at best. You had to have a thick skin. Then, as far as we knew, my family was all able-bodied. We know better now. Several of us in my family have something not quite right with our bodies or minds. I suspect this is true for many families. The families I’ve met with extreme good health are often from cultures where disabilities is still heavily stigmatized, so I’m never quite sure if they are truly as healthy as they say, or if they are also in denial.

Eating sorrel at recess

I was in grade school, probably 2nd grade. There was a red-headed boy with freckles who was new to our class and a lot bigger than everyone else. He had been held back because he couldn’t pass the grade, so he was taking 2nd grade over again. His parents had transferred him to the Catholic school hoping that he’d get more support at a private school than in the public school system. These days we wouldn’t hold the kid back, but would have them tested for a learning disability, get a diagnosis, figure out the accommodations, and design an IEP. No one would play with him. He was new, big, a little scary, and people thought there was something wrong with him. No one was sure what, but they didn’t want to get too close. It was the contagion theory of disability. “Oops! He has cooties! It’s catching!”

I was a victim of the same contagion theory. My brother also had some undiagnosed disability (later discovered to be on the autism spectrum). The other kids wanted to steer clear of him, and by association, me as well. Not every one, and not all the time. Sometimes people would play with me. Not like the red-headed boy. No one EVER played with him. So I took him under my wing. At recess we’d go over to a big tree, sit in the dirt, and talk. I was really smart, and he wasn’t, at least in the same way, but he thought hard about things and had good questions. I’d answer his questions, and I enjoyed playing teacher. One of the things I showed him was the sorrel growing wild in the grass under the tree, that tasted tart and salty at the same time. At the end of the year, he didn’t pass again, and was held back again, or transferred again. I don’t know. I never saw him after that year. 

One leg shorter

A few years later, my family transferred all of us to a public school because we couldn’t afford the fees. In my new class there was a boy who had one leg that was shorter than the other. He’d had polio when he was little, and almost died, I was told. But he didn’t die, it just messed up his leg. Even so, he was taller than me. Quiet. I mean, REALLY quiet. I don’t remember him ever talking without being ordered to. He wore glasses, had dark hair that he wore almost down to his shoulders (which just wasn’t done then), with long bangs that fell over his face. In those days, we wouldn’t have called him disabled, it was just there were things he couldn’t do. He was that little bit ‘different,’ and boy, did he know it! I wanted to talk to him and get to know him (I thought he was kind of cute), but he didn’t talk to anyone.

Smart as a whip, too bad about the wheelchair

There were two Anderson families in my town that had large families. Mine was one, and there was another one. In middle school, I got to meet one of the kids from the other Anderson family. Ken Anderson was in a wheelchair, I didn’t know why. His disability was big and obvious and he couldn’t hide it. He was smart, social, and people liked him. There was never a shortage of folk who would help push his chair. Ken went on to found a student organization for people with “handicaps” (that was the lingo then) at the University of Iowa. It was called Restrict Us Not (RUN). He had a successful accounting career, and founded his own business. Ken died last winter.

Put the pedal to the metal

In high school, Jeff Benson was a year ahead of me. Jeff had also had polio (I’m old enough to remember getting the vaccine on sugar cubes). For him, it wasn’t just one leg, and not just a little. Both legs were effected. He could have used a wheelchair, but I remember him walking with arm braces. Bright, shiny light hair, gritty and determined, and always the life of the party. He was a live wire! He was a drummer for a popular band, and really belted it out. I remember when he got his first set of wheels. At that age, I didn’t know it was possible for people with wheelchairs to drive. I’m not sure anyone in town had seen a car like this before! His parents had the red hotrod modified to use hand brakes, and I remember him waving to his audience, as he’d roar out of the parking lot with the top down. We lost Jeff just a couple months ago.

Hiding in plain sight

In college, one year, I took Italian. It was a small class. The university didn’t allow classes to be taught unless they had a minimum of six students. We managed to barely scrape by with just the required number to allow us to take the class for the full year. There was one young man who was a senior for the second time. He was in engineering, and they wouldn’t allow him to graduate until he had a full year of a foreign language. He had already flunked out of every other foreign language taught at the school, and this was his last chance to graduate. He struggled, but we all helped him along. Towards the end of the year, the rest of us went off to the side and had a conversation. We had all figured out that he had dyslexia. Did he know? Did he know there are resources to help? Should we talk to him about it? Life could be easier, you know! So we did. We brought it up the last day of class. We mentioned that we knew he had to be absolutely brilliant to have gotten along this far with good grades and no one knowing. He completely panicked. He’d been trying to hide it for his entire school career, and was terrified that we would tell someone and he’d never be able to get a job.

Keeping her safe from romance

After college, I worked at the university library. Someone brought in one of the faculty who was blind to talk about how she used information resources. She was brilliant, obviously, sturdy, and with a huge sense of humor, but life wasn’t built for people with visual impairments, and she had no vision at all. How had she gotten through school and become a faculty member? What struck us the most about her story was when she complained that they had no audiobooks of Harlequin romances. She explained that people with disabilities were considered too fragile to have any interest in sex or romance, and so the organizations that would pay to make audio copies of her academic research information needs would not pay for “smut.” A couple of the gals took matters into their own hands and corralled a group of volunteers. We all took a chapter, and recorded a “smutty” romance novel for her.

Closing Thoughts

I could go on. There are many more stories. As the time of the ADA came closer, I have more and more stories of people wanting to learn more and understand about the barriers. After the ADA was signed, I have stories of some incredibly bone-headed things people did in the name of “accommodation.” When I moved here to Ann Arbor, I was initially shocked by the lack of accessibility for the library I was to manage, and how difficult it was to find people on campus aware of web accessibility. We got an elevator for my library, and then we got a campus web accessibility working group. 

First Meeting of the University of Michigan Web Accessibility Interest Group
1pm on Tuesday August 7, 2007, in a meeting room in the School of Public Health.

There is still a lot to do, but we keep trying. Meanwhile, over the years, many if my friends and family have been diagnosed with temporary, chronic, or permanent health issues ofone  sort or another. Disability advocacy started out for me as something I wanted to do for others, because I love to help people. Now it is personal. As I age, it becomes more and more personal. Without the ADA, I probably wouldn’t even have a job. I wouldn’t have been able to get past a few major health hurdles in the past few decades. Because of the protection of the law, I was able to get accommodations and keep working. I hope that what I do will continue to be useful for years to come. 


ADA Anniversary Toolkit: http://adaanniversary.org/
Proclamation (Organizations & Government Entities)
Pledge for Individuals
Faith Communities
ADA Information: http://www.adainformation.org/
ADA Legacy Project: http://www.adalegacy.com/ada25
ADA National Network (Great Plains ADA Center): https://adata.org/ada-anniversary
Timeline of the American with Disabilities Act
National ADA Systematic Review
ADA 25 Celebrate: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbUCwPT82s4WnKwnc-vEQyw
Disability.gov ADA25 Social Media Toolkit: https://www.disability.gov/newsroom/ada-25-social-media-toolkit/
Smithsonian: EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America: https://everybody.si.edu/
Access to resources often comes through technology
Communication, Transportation, Medicine, War



Senator Harkin Delivers Floor Speech in American Sign Language Upon Passage of the ADA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BomPo6fPOOo

ADA History Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhUAlIEq4gbqCK_3_ls2K2Rtiq6hPumHa


The ADA at 25: Promise, Progress, Opportunity U.S. Senate Bill Sponsor Hon. Tom Harkin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yToAav3qqBU

National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD): Real People, Real Stories: Celebrating 25 Years of the ADA https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwMObYmlSHaNT-gke7PoQqkc_k22dYqN5

What has changed since the ADA was passed 25 years ago? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW4hB2hcPBM