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Celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with these books

32 years ago today, on July 26, 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. The landmark civil rights law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

The NYS Writers Institute marks this historic date with a look back at these distinguished authors from our recent events.

Temple Grandin, autism advocate

Often called “the rock star” of the autistic world, Temple Grandin is a world-renowned animal behaviorist, college professor, inventor, bestselling author, and animal rights activist.

One of the first autistic individuals to write books about her life and experiences, Grandin has been an indispensable source of knowledge and wisdom for parents and teachers confronting the puzzle of autism.

Her bestselling books include Thinking In Pictures (1996), Animals in Translation (2005), Animals Make Us Human (2009), and The Autistic Brain (2013). Claire Danes won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her portrayal of Grandin in the 2010 HBO film, "Temple Grandin."

Temple Grandin joined us on November 23, 2021 for a conversation and book signing.

Judith Heumann, disability rights advocate

Over the course of half a century, Judith Heumann has served as one of the principal organizers of many campaigns, protests, and sit-ins that have culminated in landmark legislation to protect the rights of the disabled. She’s held office in two Presidential administrations.

She’s a star of the Oscar-nominated, 2020 documentary, "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution," and the author of two new memoirs, Being Heumann, and the YA autobiography, Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels who Helped Spark a Revolution.

Judith Heumann was interviewed for a Zoom event in June 2022.

James Odato, This Brain Had a Mouth: Lucy Gwin and the Voice of Disability Nation

Adirondack Explorer Editor James Odato, who interviewed Judith Heumann, is a former investigative journalist with an instinct for finding a good story.

“I was teaching my journalism class [at the University at Albany], and I had brought the class to the archives building at the school. We were looking at primary documents in hopes of finding a good narrative journalism story. I was doing the activity right along with them, and that’s when I came upon the name Lucy Gwin.”

Gwin was an author, advocacy journalist, disability rights activist, feminist and founder of Mouth magazine, one of the most radical and significant disability rights publications. Odato's debut book, This Brain Had a Mouth: Lucy Gwin and the Voice of Disability Nation, was published in October 2021 by the University of Massachusetts Press.

“When I discovered her in the documents, I knew I needed to know more about her, and maybe even get her story out into the world,” Odato told the Times Union.

Nadina LaSpina, Such a Pretty Girl

Nadina LaSpina's activism in the disability rights movement has led to her arrest for civil disobedience several times and she has received numerous awards, including her selection as the Grand Marshal of the 5th Annual Disability Pride Parade in New York City in 2019.

She is the author of a memoir, Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride (2019), spanning her remarkable life from her early years with polio, and her experience as an object of well-meaning pity in her native Sicily to her adolescence in America, spent almost entirely in hospitals, where she was traumatized and maltreated in the quest for a medical cures, to her subsequent rebellion, activism, and growing ability to claim and enjoy her own beauty.

Prior to the pandemic, LaSpina had been scheduled to appear at an in-person NYS Writers Institute event in Albany in April 2020. We produced an online interview with her on January, 2021.

These books are available at the local, independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.


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