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"Deputies, Vigilantes, and the New Geography of Surveillance in the Era of Disability Rights"
  • Monday, October 5, 2015 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Faculty Lounge, Fisher-Bennett Hall

In this era of disability rights, the surveillance of disabled people is more common and widespread than it has ever been. In the US, disabled people regularly find themselves monitored and even accosted when parking in a handicapped spot. They come under the watchful eye of a clerk when they enter a store with a service animal. When they request accommodations they run a gauntlet of administrators and then, if successful, become suspect in the eyes of their teachers, professors, fellow students, bosses, and colleagues. They confront leery government bureaucrats, doctors, social workers, and others when claiming financial and medical benefits, and are subjected to routine, surreptitious video surveillance by private investigators hired by insurance companies. Never has the authority to surveil disabled people been so diffuse nor has surveillance ever covered such a wide geography. Along with the better understood issue of accessibility, surveillance is one of the two major forces that have reshaped the geography of disability in the age of rights. An examination of surveillance forces a new understanding of how the geography of disability changed over the course of the twentieth century. It offers a dimmer view of recent history but also possibilities for how we might improve the future of disability.