This Month in Disability History
November 2014

By
Mike Reynolds
Ability Maine Staff

11/13/1956 - James Troesh born - Jim Troesh was born on this date in 1956. As a teenager he suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of a swimming accident, which left him a quadriplegic. His entertainment career took off when he landed the recurring role of the quadriplegic attorney on Highway to Heaven starring Michael Landon. The lead role catapulted him into appearances on several other series, TV movies, and films. But, when Highway to Heaven ended, work slowed down, andJim quickly learned that earning a living as a quadriplegic actor was a difficult road.  Mr Troesh became an highly skilled graphic designer and won the prestigious ABC Disney writing Scholarship. His first script, "Color of the Cross"was made into a film in 2006. He died in October 2011 of a stroke.


11/23/03 - "The Disability Gulag" by Harriet McBryde Johnson is published in the New York Times - Harriet Johnson won widespread praise for her first groundbreaking  essay about her dealings with famed controversial ethicist Peter Singer. In that essay she discussed her visit to Princeton to debate Singer over his view that a parent should be able to kill their children up to 28 days old. In "The Disability Gulag" Johnson discusses her disabillity activism and how close she would be to living in a nursing home, based on her physical disability. A lawyer who fought tirelessly for the rights of people with disabilities, and against Jerry Lewis, Johnson published two books before passing away in June 2007.


11/25/50 - Janine Bertham Kemp was born on this date in 1950 - She became famous in the sixties as a member of the radical anti-war group the George Jackson Brigade, George Jackson Brigade formed in thecrucible of prisoners' rights organizing which came out of the civil rights movement and mass anti-war protests of the '60s. In itsthree-year existence, it claimed 11 bombings, as many bank robberies, and one prisoner liberation. Targets included the Department of Corrections, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as different corporate offices. The chemistry present in the group was the same that had been combusting across the country: society's most oppressed members allied with college educated youth who refused to continue their class and privilege. In the case of the Brigade, women took center stage, queers challenged straights, convicts communicated with college students, and a black man enthusiastically aided whites. Bertham Kemp was convicted of committing bank robberies and served time in federal prison before meeting her husband, Evan Kemp, who became the head of the EEOC in the 80's. Kemp was considered the "Father of the ADA" and Bertham would be a fixture at disability rights actions nationally. Never straying from her activist roots, Bertham continues to be is a tireless advocate for the rights of the people with disabilities.


11/26/86 - Susan Sontag's story "The Way We Live Now" published in The New Yorker - The Way We Live Now is a short story by Susan Sontag which was published to great acclaim on November 24, 1986 in The New Yorker. The story describes the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, as the disease began to claim members of the New York cultural elite. The story is told entirely in the form of fragments of conversation, mentioned and whispered by numerous friends of anunnamed man who lies sick in a hospital bed. Although AIDS was new to many who read the story when it first appeared, "The Way We Live Now"
remains a signature work in the literature of the epidemic. Sontag borrowed her title from an 1875 novel by British writer Anthony
Trollope called The Way We Live Now. "The Way We Live Now" is notabout the unnamed main character, but his friends. This short story uses narrative summary, and although it may lead one to believe that the man has AIDS, it is completely irrelevant to the narrative development. When reading the story, one might think that it has a spastic, multi-layered voice. The different characters keep rambling on about their personal lives, and there are quite a few of them, as most go unnamed. The central character is also unnamed because it doesn't matter what his name is; the story essentially isn't about him at all, rather the ravages of the illness and its impact on the protagonist's circle of friends.