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UTA earns NEH grant to develop online portal for disability history

Leading U.S. disability history scholars and practitioners will converge at The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries in July to formalize a consortium committed to developing an online portal for disability history resources.

The Disability History Portal will provide online resources for the study of disability history such as images, archives, data sets, videos and more.

The meeting is supported in part by a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded to Brenda McClurkin, project director and department head of UTA Libraries Special Collections, and to Sarah Rose, project co-director and associate professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts.

“We are excited to host leaders representing many facets of the field of disability history and archives on the UTA campus this summer,” McClurkin said. “When implemented, this portal will create a single point of access to a wide-ranging number of websites representing collections from archives, museums, colleges and universities, and nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. featuring historical materials on disability history.”

Development of the Disability History/Archives Consortium and portal is representative of UTA’s increasing expertise focused on exploring the social context of health and the human condition under the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

"We are grateful to the NEH for supporting this extraordinary opportunity to bring colleagues from institutions like UC Berkeley, Drake University, and Gallaudet University to UTA,” Dean of Libraries Rebecca Bichel said. “Together, we can increase the visibility and resonance of these important and often overlooked collections."

UTA Libraries received a $25,000 grant in August to digitize and publish disability history relating to UTA and Texas. The ongoing digitization project, called Digitizing for Accessibility, is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act. Scanned items will be included in the Portal.

Brenda McClurkin, l, project director and department head of UTA Libraries Special Collections, and Sarah Rose, r, project co-director, associate professor and director of the minor in Disabilities Studies Program.

McClurkin noted that researchers, whether students, scholars, people with disabilities, individuals providing services to those with disabilities, or interested persons, will be able to search across a multitude of in-depth resources all with a click of a mouse.

Planning will continue through April 2017. Afterward, the consortium will apply to the NEH for an implementation grant to fund the creation of the portal. The proposed Disability History Portal will serve as a gateway to the widest possible range of online resources for the study of disability history such as images, archives, data sets, videos, and more

UTA has a long record of serving people with disabilities as evidenced by the adoption of curb ramps on campus in 1970, establishment of an Office for Students with Disabilities in the 1980s and adaptive sports programs offering full scholarships to student-athletes.

In 2013, the University established the first disability studies degree program in Texas, which is offered through the College of Liberal Arts.

“The program and the relationships that we are building with the Libraries, other colleges, and external organizations, speak to our commitment to all students,” said Elisabeth Cawthon, acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We remain steadfast in equipping people with disabilities and a different perspective for the workplace, but also in equipping others with a better understanding of how to meet the needs of people with disabilities.”

Rose, who serves as director of the Minor in Disability Studies Program, said historians and archivists are increasingly recognizing the importance of preserving disability history.

As a result of their dominance, President Bill Clinton in 1993 invited the Movin' Mavs and coach Jim Hayes to visit the White House. Photo from the Libraries' "Building a Barrier-Free Campus" exhibit.

“As such, we are proud to be a national leader in this area, and we will continue to preserve UTA’s disability history as well as oral histories and papers from adapted sports pioneers, disability rights activists, and disability policymakers in Texas,” Rose said, noting that UTA Libraries and Disability Studies have partnered on an upcoming exhibit that will explore UTA’s pioneering role in making higher education accessible and driving disability rights and adapted sports in Texas.

Building a Barrier-Free Campus” opens during the Barbara Jordan Media Awards at UTA’s E. H. Hereford University Center on April 23, and formally at the Sixth Floor Library Parlor during a May 4 roundtable discussion. The exhibit is free to the public and ends Sept. 16.

Aaron Bangor, chair of the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, commended UTA for its dedication to educating and providing resources to people with disabilities, who make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population and over one billion people worldwide.

“Texas has long been a leader in the disability rights movement and UTA’s newest programs continue that commitment to be a champion to educate society about the achievements, abilities, rights, and needs of Texans with disabilities,” said Bangor, who noted the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act Texas Trailblazers Awards that recently recognized Coach Doug Garner for his work with the UTA Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team.

“We are proud to partner with such an influential institution to recognize contributions made by and in support of people with disabilities.”

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of more than 52,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at