Tuesday, July 28, 2020

By Emilyn Linden

The 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act was on July 26. The ADA has profoundly changed the lives of many Americans for the better. My own family has benefitted from the act and the accommodations it mandated. My sister has a hearing loss in both ears; closed captioning meant she was able to enjoy movies with the family without the rest of us being blasted out by the volume level. 

Now, many of us are benefitting from the act in ways we probably don’t realize. During the pandemic, while we’re physically distancing and accessing more resources online, we’re benefitting from the fact that websites are required to be accessible under the ADA. This not only means websites need to be navigable with a screen reader, it also benefits people using different sizes of screens, different input methods, people who are older who need larger text, people with temporary disabilities like a broken arm and so many other differences that give people choices with how to interact with technology.

As a friend of mine from high school said on the anniversary, “As you walk up the ramp or cutout and take the elevator while talking into your phone to text someone and watching the closed captions on the TV before your meeting about equity in the workplace, remember, one day we will all have some kind of disability. Some of us just get more practice.”

We have a number of different books at the library about living with a disability. Here are just a few that explore different types of disability, including mental and physical disabilities.


The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. Stella Lane is a 30-year-old econometrician who is autistic. After prodding from her mother and realizing that she wants a partner, she decided to hire an escort to teach her how to be intimate. She hires fashion designer and sometime-escort Michael Phan for her lessons, and their lives quickly become more entangled than either of them planned.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. Main character Chloe Brown has lived a sheltered and privileged life, though she’s chronically ill with fibromyalgia and all the physical and mental pain that goes with it. After a near-death experience, she decides she needs to break away from her family and start experiencing life. She concludes she needs some help in her rebellion, though, and works to enlist handyman and artist Redford “Red” Morgan.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. Two very different co-pastors and their very different wives meet in 1960s Greenwich Village. This novel follows them through the upheaval of 1960s New York and through subsequent decades as the couples struggle with faith, marriage, commitment and adjusting to how their families turn out versus how they thought their families would be. 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Alice Howland is a Harvard professor, happily married with three grown children. She receives the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s after she starts to notice herself forgetting things and dealing with confusion and memory problems. Written by a doctor of neuroscience.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. Margaret Jacobsen has worked hard for years and now everything seems to be coming together for her. She’s done with her MBA, is about to start her dream job and her boyfriend seems like he’s ready to propose. Then an accident turns her life on its head and she has to figure out how she’s going to move forward.


The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. Everyone who’s taken an introductory psychology course has heard of Dr. David Rosenhan’s 1970s study in which eight sane, healthy people went undercover in asylums and had to remain inside until they’d “proven” themselves sane. Cahalan’s book dives deep into that original study and comes away with many unanswered questions.

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma. Haben Girma was born with deaf-blindness. Her senses allowed her to see someone close in front of her and hear someone standing right beside her. Haben has spent her life advocating for herself and for others with disabilities and continues that work as a lawyer advocating for the deaf and blind communities.

Enabling Acts: The Hidden Story of How the Americans with Disabilities Act Gave the Largest US Minority Its Rights by Lennard Davis. This history was published five years ago on the 25th anniversary of the ADA. It contains the stories of many disability-rights activists, interviews with the major players in the activist community who worked to get the ADA passed and the narrative of how liberals and conservatives worked together to bring about this far-reaching bipartisan law.

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me by Keah Brown. Keah Brown loves herself, but it took a lot of work to get to that place when she’s black and disabled in a world built for white and able-bodied people. Brown was born with cerebral palsy and uses this collection of essays to explore her relationship with her able-bodied twin sister, her romantic life, her love for all things pop culture and her experiences navigating the world as a disabled woman.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey by Stephen Kuusisto. At 38, blind poet Steve Kuusisto got his first guide dog, a yellow lab named Corky. Kuusisto discovered a love of exploration and wanderlust as well as a deep connection to another living thing. Have Dog, Will Travel explores guide-dog training, how owners establish trust with their dogs and how having a guide dog can transform a blind person’s life.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. Elisabeth Bailey becomes bedridden by an unexplained illness that leaves her too sensitive to the sights and sounds around her for any companion other than a woodland snail. Bailey beautifully and engagingly describes her intimate observations of the snail and her own experiences with chronic illness. Check out the book trailer to hear the sound of a snail eating.

Emilyn Linden is a librarian in the Information Services department.