National Disability History

Disability Rights Movement by the Smithsonian National Museum of History

Disability History Week information States are taking an important step in the promotion of further understanding and awareness of disability history and the disability rights movement by designating a week (or more) to acknowledge the role and contributions of individuals with disabilities in our society. During an established Disability History Week, states will require their public schools to infuse instruction and activities related to disability history into the existing school curriculum.

Fun Facts

The Huddle

The football huddle was invented at a college for people who are deaf—Gallaudet University in Washington DC—as a means of hiding signals from other deaf teams.

"When Gallaudet played nondeaf clubs or schools, [quarterback Paul] Hubbard merely used hand signals—American Sign Language—to call a play at the line of scrimmage, imitating what was done in football from Harvard to Michigan. Both teams approached the line of scrimmage. The signal caller—whether it was the left halfback or quarterback—barked out the plays at the line of scrimmage. Nothing was hidden from the defense. There was no huddle.

"Hand signals against nondeaf schools gave Gallaudet an advantage. But other deaf schools could read Hubbard's sign language. So, beginning in 1894, Hubbard came up with a plan. He decided to conceal the signals by gathering his offensive players in a huddle prior to the snap of the ball. ... Hubbard's innovation in 1894 worked brilliantly. 'From that point on, the huddle became a habit during regular season games,' states a school history of the football program. ...

"In 1896, the huddle started showing up on other college campuses, particularly the University of Georgia and the University of Chicago. At Chicago, it was Amos Alonzo Stagg, the man credited with nurturing American football into the modern age and barnstorming across the country to sell the game, who popularized the use of the huddle and made the best case for it. ...

"At the time, coaches were not permitted to send in plays from the sideline. So, while Stagg clearly understood the benefit of concealing the signals from the opposition, he was more interested in the huddle as a way of introducing far more reaching reforms to the game.

"Stagg viewed the huddle as a vital aspect of helping to teach sportsmanship. He viewed the huddle as a kind of religious congregation on the field, a place where the players could, if you will, minister to each other, make a plan, and promise to keep faith in that plan and one another."
Quotes from How Football Explains America by Sal Paolantonio, published by Triumph Books, 2008

Guide Dogs

Many people associate the use of trained guide dogs, particularly by people who are blind or visually impaired, with the story of Morris Frank, a young man from Nashville who was blind. In the late 1920s, Frank agreed to start a guide dog training program in the United States in gratitude for receiving his first guide dog from Dorothy Eustis, a wealthy American who was training and breeding dogs for the customs service, army and police in Switzerland. However, the history of trained dogs to assist people who are blind goes much deeper into history.

There is convincing evidence that people with vision loss have been working with canine companions, protectors and guides for centuries. The ruins of the Roman city of Herculaneum, which was buried in volcanic ash in AD 79, contain a mural showing a blind person being guided by a dog. There are also pictures from the Middle Ages showing people who appear to be blind walking with a dog on a leash.

 The first verified attempt to train guide dogs happened at a hospital people who were blind in Paris in 1780; by the early 19th century, a textbook describing techniques for training guide dogs was published in Vienna by Johann Wilhelm Klein.

Today, guide dogs are commonly used across the globe by people who are blind or visually impaired, but also by people with a variety of other disabilities. Currently, about 10,000 people use trained guide dogs in the U.S. and Canada.

Adapted from:The Extraordinary History of Guide Dogs: http://mymagicdog.com/the-extraordinary-history-of-guide-dogs/

CNIB: A History of Guide Dogs: http://www.cnib.ca/en/living/safe-travel/Pages/history-dogs-0807.aspx

New! RALPH TEETOR: Inventor of Cruise Control

Ralph Teetor (1890 – 1982) was a noted engineer and inventor, best known for his invention of Cruise Control for automobiles. An accident at the age of five left him totally blind, and he developed a keen sense of touch. In 1912, Teetor graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in mechanical engineering. In 1936, Teetor was elected as president of the Society of Automotive Engineers. He was also made a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the planetarium and one of the residence houses at Earlham College are named in Teetor's honor. One of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ most prestigious awards is named in Teetor's honor. His career as an engineer, manufacturing executive and entrepreneur led to the invention of many helpful products, including an early version of the powered lawn mower, lock mechanisms and holders for fishing rods.

But Teetor is best known for his invention of Cruise Control for automobiles, which he was inspired to invent one day while riding with his lawyer. The lawyer would slow down while talking and speed up while listening. The rocking motion so annoyed Teetor that he was determined to invent a speed control device. In 1945, after ten years of tinkering, Ralph Teetor received his first patent on a speed control device. Early names for his invention included "Controlmatic,” "Touchomatic,” "Pressomatic" and "Speedostat." The name finally chosen was "Cruise Control.” The device wasn't used commercially until Chrysler introduced it in 1958.

In 1988, Teetor was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, for his numerous contributions to the automotive industry.

Attributions: