The New Paradigm of Disability

A Bibliography

It has been forty years since the beginning of the contemporary Independent Living Movement. It was a time when the previously separate groups of people with disabilities began to collectively fight for the respect, and demand the civil rights, enjoyed by mainstream America. There are now the first generation of laws protecting the rights of disabled people. Access to employment, transportation, education, and public accommodations is now mandated by Federal law for disabled people. More than ever people with disabilities are participating in American life. But, the mainstream media barely recognizes that disability is an inherent, integral, and inevitable component of the human experience. Nor do newspapers, television, and movies portray the role that society plays in marginalizing and stereotyping disabled people. More often the antiquated myths and stereotypes about people with disabilities are the norm.

From disabled activists using civil disobedience for social justice to university professors with disabilities researching and teaching disability studies, a new, clearly articulated analysis of the disability paradigm has emerged and is taking root throughout the nation and around the world. This new perspective on the human condition needs to be integrated into mainstream media.

Following on the successful Disability Messenger project of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities this bibliography is intended as a catalyst to further articulate, amplify, and promote this new perspective of disability to allies, potential allies, academics, and policy makers and the media. This bibliography is further demonstration of the power of a community defining itself and articulating its members own collective and individual identity.


This is an annotated bibliography of books organized by categories: Community/Culture, Disability Studies, Family, Children, & Relationships, History, Identity, Policy/Civil Rights, Children/Young Adults, and separate categories for Radio, Movies, WWW (Internet), Publications and Videos. The list is a compilation of recommendations from a diverse group of disability scholars and activists and other bibliographies. All of the entries illustrate an authentic view of disability using the new paradigm. Included is disability experience, identity, pride, passion, intellect, and community as we define it. The focus is on disability in the United States, but it also includes international perspectives.

Far too many of the books are no longer in print. Larger university libraries have many of these books in their collections. Also, you can use inter-library loan through most libraries to borrow them.,, and other on-line sources for used books are possibilities, as well.

This bibliography is updated regularly.



Disability Studies


Family, Children, & Relationships






Policy/Civil Rights






World Wide Web & Internet





Able to Laugh (1993) Dougan, Michael J., Fanlight Productions (use search box),
Six disabled comics are featured interpreting the disability experience.

Breathing Lessons: The Life and Times of Mark O’Brien (1996) Yu, Jessica, Fanlight Productions (use search box),
The Academy Award winning documentary of the late disability poet and author Mark O’Brien. Mark’s passionate and incisive poems are highlighted. (Open captioned)

The Collector of Bedford Street (2002) Elliott, Alice, New Day Films
An engaging example of how community support and resources made it possible for Larry Selman, a man with an intellectual deficit, to remain in his neighborhood.

Disability Culture Rap: Disability Identity and Culture (2000) Wade, Cheryl Marie & Smith, Jerry, Tools for Change
Cheryl Marie Wade’s expanded version of her ground-breaking and celebratory "Disability Culture Rap" paired with images from disability history and the disability rights movement. Includes facilitator's manual. (Closed captioned)

Freedom Machines (2005) Stobie, Jamie, New Day Films
A broad look at people with disabilities in the work force and how technology, mostly high tech, makes independence possible. The realities of inadequate funding and civil rights issues are also shown. There is an accompanying Web site, Freedom Machines.

If I Can’t Do It… (1998) Brock, Walter, Fanlight Productions (use search box),
This is an unflinching portrait of a complex and cantankerous disabled man, Arthur Campbell, as he pushes for independence and an equal slice of the American pie.

King Gimp (2000) Hadary, Susan Hannah, HBO
An extensive look at the commitment, passion, and struggles of a disabled artist. An Academy Award winner.

Lives Worth Living: The Great Fight for Disability Rights, Neudel, Eric, ITVS
An essential video that tells the story of the modern day Disability Rights Movement and the passage of the ADA. Shown on PBS, it has a companion website with links and more information.

My Country: The Civil Rights Movement That Created the Americans with Disabilities Act, Ward & Associates, Program Development Associates
A powerful video on the parallels between the Disability Rights Movement and the African American civil rights struggle of the 1960s. out of print

Storm Reading (1996) Marcus, Neil
Written and performed by Neil Marcus, this one man show (with two aides) shows the expressiveness of his atypical body and intellect. out of print

Tell Them I’m a Mermaid (1983) Daley, E., & Kaplan, C., Embassy Telecommunications, 1901 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067
A documentary of Victoria Lewis’ ground breaking theatrical troupe exploring disabled and women’s identity.

Twitch and Shout, a New Day film, Chiten, Lauren, Fanlight Productions (use search box),
Humor and gritty reality highlight this documentary on people living with Tourette’s.

Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back (1995) Mitchell, David T. and Snyder, Sharon L., Fanlight Productions (use search box),
Disability culture is highlighted by some its prime exponents. Theater, monologues, humor, and stories help to illustrate disability pride and culture. (Open captioned)

When Billy Broke His Head...and Other Tales of Wonder (1994) Golfus, Billy and Simpson, David E., Fanlight Productions (use search box),
One man’s search for his new disability identity. Many of the leading disability activists are profiled. (Closed or open captioned)

April 26, 2013

Edited by Anthony Tusler with Betsy Bayha, Elaine F. Brodey, Steven E. Brown, Melanie Fry, Tari Susan Hartman, Edward J. Heaton, Kathlene McCarthy-Barnett, Zara Buggs Taylor, Greg Smith, and Linda Wall.