Oral Histories of Self Advocates with Developmental Disabilities Added to UC Berkeley Library

The University of Illinois at Chicago UCEDD and project lead Joe Caldwell, PhD, donated videotaped oral histories of leaders in the disability self-advocacy movement

May 26, 2010

The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley is pleased to announce the addition of a new collection of oral histories of leaders in the self-advocacy movement.

The self-advocacy movement is a civil and human rights movement led by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Despite its widespread existence nationally and internationally, few works have explored the rich history, culture, and significance of the movement. The new collection helps fill this void through documenting the life stories of thirteen leaders from across the country, many of whom founded the movement at local, state, and national levels.

"As a whole, the collection is perhaps the most in-depth exploration of the transformative impact and cultural meaning of the self-advocacy movement," stated Tamar Heller, President of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). "Spanning over six decades, the life stories of self advocates document how far we have come as a society while reminding us how much further we still must go."

The project was led by Joe Caldwell, PhD, Adjunct Professor within the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It was made possible with support from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, US Department of Education.  Much of the information was collected while Joe worked as a Senior Policy Analyst at AUCD.  Project participants and Caldwell donated the material for inclusion in the Bancroft Library's larger collection on the history of the disability rights and independent living movement which contains over a hundred oral histories of artists, activists, and scholars.

The entire self-advocacy collection is available online. In addition to interview transcripts, the collection contains captioned video-taped excerpts which make it more accessible to a broader audience, including individuals who may have difficulty reading. 

"While drafting Equality of Opportunity, the Making of the Americans of Disabilities Act, I was struck by how future generations would look back on the passage of the ADA as a watershed moment in public policy. This collection of oral histories continues the legacy of Justin Dart in capturing the individual stories of people with disabilities in this country," stated Jonathan Young, Chairman of the National Council on Disability.  "It is critical for youth with disabilities to have a strong sense of history, identity, and disability pride. The use of technology and social media to share these stories of self advocates will have powerful impacts on our community and the next generation of leaders, just as the ADA did for this generation."

  • Access the collection of leaders in the self-advocacy movement here.
  • Access the broader disability rights and independent living movement collection here.