Student speaks on intersection of politics, disabilities

Donovan Roudabush
Staff Writer

A student shared stories of notable men and women of history who had disabilities at a talk about politics and disabilities in the International Lounge Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

Camden Flater, a junior studying political science and history, has had 27 surgeries and gave his talk from a wheelchair.

Flater began his talk by asking if anyone in the room could name any disabled politicians or activists. Someone mentioned Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but otherwise the room was silent.

Flater said people don’t know about politicians or activists with disabilities. He listed several famous political leaders whom no one would suspect were disabled including Julius Caesar, who had epilepsy; Peter the Great, King of Russia, who had severe asthma; and George Washington, who had a learning disability.

Flater said that in order to look powerful, people in high positions have to hide their disabilities because having a disability is traditionally associated with weakness. Not all disabilities are physical and apparent, he said.

Flater said the history of legislations that protect the rights and needs of those who are disabled acts as a cultural shift for perceptions of the disabled. The earliest legislation dates back to 1916 with the National Defense Act, which only provided rights for disabled veterans.

It wasn’t until the 1970s when the Urban Mass Transit Act and Education for All Handicapped Children Act were instated that all disabled people were given the general right to be educated and use public transit. Discrimination was curtailed with the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Flater said as time has advanced, people have moved closer to treating people with disabilities better.

The talk was hosted by the Franciscan University of Steubenville Breaking Barriers club.