Thursday October 19, 2006

No Pity

NPR correspondent Joseph Shapiro will address the disability movement, what he calls "the overlooked civil rights movement," in the Diversity Lecture Series on Nov. 8.

Disabled people have created an important, but little known, American civil rights movement, contends Joseph Shapiro, an NPR (National Public Radio) correspondent who wrote the book, NO PITY: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement.

"It's a real civil rights movement," said Shapiro, "and it's helping all of us, especially in a country where the aging population is growing."

Shapiro will address "The Overlooked Civil Rights Movement: How Heroes of the Disability Movement are Improving Life for All of Us" at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the Kennedy Union Ballroom at the University of Dayton. Part of UD's Diversity Lecture Series, the talk is free and open to the public. An interpreter for the hearing impaired will be provided. Call 937-229-2545 or write to for other special needs.

The ranks of the disabled are growing daily with the graying of America, but older people (with potentially disabling conditions) have grown up with "prejudices about a disabled life being a sad and worthless one," Shapiro writes in his 1993 book, hailed by the Chicago Tribune as "the primer for a revolution."

Disability "is the one minority anyone can join at any time, as a result of a sudden automobile accident, a fall down a flight of stairs, cancer or disease," he writes.

Shapiro, who covers health, aging, disability, and children and family issues for NPR, argues that nondisabled Americans do not understand disabled ones. A friend at the funeral of Timothy Cook, a disabled attorney who won landmark disability rights cases, paid tribute to him with these words: "He never seemed disabled to me."

That's not a compliment, Shapiro writes. "It was as if someone had tried to compliment a black man by saying, 'You're the least black person I ever met,' as false as telling a Jew, 'I never think of you as Jewish,' as clumsy as seeking to flatter a woman with 'You don't act like a woman.'"

Before joining NPR in November 2001, Shapiro spent 19 years at U.S. News & World Report, where he wrote about health care and medicine, aging and long-term care, disability and chronic illness, children and families, poverty, civil rights, and other social policy issues. He has won numerous awards, including honors from the Society of Professional Journalists for public service, the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families for coverage of disadvantaged children, Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy for investigative journalism, the National Easter Seal Society and the Education Press Association. Shapiro's book has won awards from several major disability organizations. In 1997, he completed a yearlong Kaiser media fellowship in health to study long-term care, chronic care and aging issues. In 1990, he won an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship to spend a year exploring disability issues.

Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, kicked off the 2006-2007 Diversity Lecture Series in September. Upcoming talks include:

  • Educator and humanitarian Johnnetta Betsch Cole, 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 15, venue to be announced. Cole will keynote the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Holiday Celebration and Presidential Banquet, co-sponsored by UD and the Dayton Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Cole also will headline UD's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, in the Kennedy Union Ballroom.
  • Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, 7:30 p.m., Feb. 20, Kennedy Union Ballroom. Free and open to the public.

UD is sponsoring a number of other free talks by diverse speakers this year. Sister Mary Antona Ebo and filmmaker Jayasri Hart will speak following a preview screening of the documentary Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 in Sears Recital Hall. An African-American Catholic nun, Sister Ebo was at the forefront of sisters who demonstrated for civil rights in Selma, Ala., in 1965. The Distinguished Speaker Series will host Pulitzer Prize-winning Leonard Pitts at 8 p.m. on Feb. 7, and former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani, author of Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman's Struggle, at 8 p.m. on March 6 in the Kennedy Union Ballroom.

The Diversity Lecture Series -- part of a larger strategic plan to foster inclusion and diversity on campus and prepare students, faculty, staff and the Dayton community for success in a global society -- is co-sponsored by the offices of the president and provost with support from corporate partners, including the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), Dayton Daily News, WDTN, WDAO-1210 AM and Markey's Audio Visual. Previous Diversity Lecture Series speakers included Andrew Young, Coretta Scott King, Clarence Page and Nikki Giovanni.

Contact Lynnette Heard, executive director of the president's office, at 937-229-4122. To request a phone interview with Joseph Shapiro, call Jennifer Pearl, publicity and events coordinator for NPR, at 202-513-2310.