University of Texas at Arlington

TexTreasures Grant Funds Digitizing Materials for Disability History Portal

A close-up of a boy holding a chick in his hand.
TexTreasures Grant Funds Disability History Portal

The Texas State Library and Archives (TSLAC) awarded University of Texas at Arlington’s Library $25,000 to digitize thousands of materials for inclusion in the Texas Disability History Collection (TDHC) web portal. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). 

“The TDHC highlights UTA’s half-century commitment to making college accessible for students with disabilities," said College of Liberal Arts Dean Elisabeth Cawthon. “UTA was the first school in the country to offer full-ride scholarships for adapted sports—only one of the many ways Texas has helped to lead the nation in disability rights.” 

The TDHC was established in 2013, a partnership among the UTA Disability Studies Minor, the UTA Libraries, and the Public History graduate program. One of just five such dedicated repositories in the country, TDHC contains maps, material objects, personal papers, organizational records, photographs, audio and video recordings, and oral histories. TSLAC and IMLS helped fund the 2016 launch of The TDHC web portal and the digitization of hundreds of items. In keeping with the Collections’ mission, subjects, and audience, the project team included as many accessibility features as possible to accommodate site visitors with a variety of disabilities. 

“UTA Libraries’ partnership with the Disability Studies Minor and Department of History creates tremendous momentum in moving the Texas Disability History Collection forward,” said Brenda McClurkin, UTA Libraries’ Special Collections Department Head and principal investigator for this project. “This Tex-Treasures digitization grant allows us to continue to tell the story of Texans with disabilities and provide broad access to these materials.” 

The collection highlights Texas’s key place in the disability rights movement and reveals the impact of disability rights on ordinary people’s lives.  “Texans have played central, even outsized, roles in driving the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the development of assistive technology, and the growth of adapted sports nationally and internationally,” said Sarah Rose, associate professor of history, director of the UTA disability studies minor, and faculty advisor for the TDHC. “We’re trying to get at stories that haven’t been told yet, such as why Texans such as Lex Frieden, Bob Kafka, and Justin Dart claimed such a preeminent place in disability rights, but also the experiences of transgender Texans with disabilities, patients in tuberculosis sanatoriums, and grassroots accessibility activists.” 

The 2018 TexTreasures grant will fund the digitization of thousands of newly acquired items, providing accessibility to materials for historians, disability professionals, and people with disabilities across the globe, including oral histories and records from leading national disability rights activists such as Bob Kafka and Stephanie Thomas of ADAPT and Pat Pound and Larry Johnson of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.  This project will also fund digitization of relevant materials from already existing collections, including the papers of Texas politicians who had disabilities, such as James Sewell, Warren C. Cohen, and Sanford Thomas.  

Also scheduled for digitization are records from Student Congress and Office of the President that reveal the process of making the campus more accessible, along with the papers of Jim Hayes and Movin’ Mavs records. 

“Movin’ Mavs and Jim Hayes records show how what was happening at UTA was driving adaptive sports nationally and internationally,” Dr. Rose said. “Something like 37 Paralympians have come out of UTA.” 

Another goal of the 2018 project is to provide more accessibility features on the TDHC website. Metadata will be enriched, such as the alternative text that provides image information to visually impaired site visitors. Another addition will be a project with the Disability Studies Minor and UTA Theatre Arts faculty to provide audio description for videos like Movin’ Mavs basketball games, so that viewers with visually impairments will be able to follow along with the action. 

Rose said that disability history is important for everyone, because most people have at least one family member with a disability. 

“Disability is a normal part of human life,” Rose said. “One in five people have a disability; it’s the only minority that everyone can join.” 

Image credit:  Fort Worth Star-Telegram Photograph Collection
Richard Johnson, age 11, was one of 32 visually impaired children to interact with animals at the Stock Show in Fort Worth (1983).