A Role Made to Order
My role as a researcher and author of various aspects of disability can be said to have begun in childhood, since I was born physically disabled.
The treatments and understanding of the human body in the 1960s were fairly primitive by twenty-first century standards, to a considerable degree because technology had not advanced enough to enable people to observe as much of the function of living bodies as they do today. However, attitudes regarding the practice of rehabilitative treatments were changing. Particularly notable to me in the early seventies was the vast improvement in 1970s New York from 1960s Rhode Island. That was a prerequisite for the tidal wave of information, new treatments, patient participation, and the multitude of possibilities that were to manifest during the next thirty years and beyond. People wanted to read first-hand, realistic accounts about living and working with disabilities. A market that had been small and “sanitized,” with “super humans” accomplishing much by endless work and fortitude, was simultaneously opening up and growing up. The laws and policies that had begun to develop at the demand of the World War II veterans obliged the public to hear truth and facts regarding the significant integration of people with disabilities into education, housing and employment. People who were and are disabled have been telling their stories in writing. Librarians who are disabled and want to inform colleagues and others of situations that we have experienced, observed, and researched have niche markets for which to write.
Some of my publications that have my disability as one of their subjects include to date:
How to Write Persuasively Today. Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO Publishers. Santa Barbara, CA 2010
"Jumping In Tandem," Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages. All Things That Matter Press. 2009. Carol Smallwood and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, Collectors.
“The Mobile Librarian,” Thinking Outside the Book:
Essays for Innovative Librarians. McFarland Publishers, Inc. Jefferson, NC 2008. Carol Smallwood, Editor.
“Combining Careers in Research,” Info Career Trends.
vol. 2, no. 3. May, 2001.
"The International Graduate Summer School in England and Wales," Technicalities. vol. 16, no. 2. February, 1996.
"Some Experiences of an Internet Researcher," The Audio Visual Librarian. vol. 22, no.2. May, 1996.
Carolyn Davis and Rebecca Barton, Access Guide. accessguidecardiff-online.blog.com. As the facilitator of this project, I co-researched and co-authored this physical access guide to Cardiff.
Four of these publications tell of my work abroad.
My Role in Jamaica
I conducted research on agencies that provided services to people with disabilities while a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica in 1997 to ’99. The national newspaper The Jamaica Gleaner published an article about The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, where I worked, and the research results to that time. The article, entitled, “For Love of the Disabled,” appeared in March of 1998 and led to a meeting between Dr. Marigold Thorburn and myself. Dr. Thorburn was a powerhouse who had developed national programs and agencies from scratch. We felt that the development of a national coalition would answer the needs of the then-competing agencies. We began to develop forums to discuss this possibility with agency directors across the country.
In its newsletter entitled “Hearing Hands,” published by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD) www.jamdeaf.org.jm/hearing-hands, Iris Soutar, who is the Director of the Association, cited the importance of the Coalition. The Jamaica Coalition is considered to be one of the most effective of its kind, thanks to the work of the agency directors and personnel who have shaped and currently maintain it.
My Role in Wales
After my term of service in Jamaica ended I moved to Wales to conduct research in medieval Welsh history. A friend and I also began to look at physical and psychological access to public places in Cardiff for people with disabilities. I published our results on a blog at: accessguidecardiff-online.blog.com, by Carolyn Davis and Rebecca Barton (now defunct).
How to Get Published
As stated above, there are niche markets both for research in the field of disabilities and for the life experiences of people with disabilities. Since librarians have basic training in research and reference methods, we have access to professions or sub-specialties in research in a variety of fields; particularly librarians who have qualifications and experience in additional fields. I have found that the best way to begin to have my work published in Library Science, whether or not my disability was to be part of the story, was both to approach and be approached by editors of journals and anthologies. Among the people with and for whom I have worked are: Professor Anthony Hugh Thompson of Aberystwyth, Wales, who was the editor-in-chief of The Audio-Visual Librarian; Sheila Intner and her successor Peggy Johnson for Technicalities; the multi-connected Rachel Singer Gordon at www.lisjobs.com and Carol Smallwood and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, the latter at encirclepub.com, for their growing list of anthologies.
Additionally, there are many general listservs that provide access to work and publication. Check out mediabistro.com for an abundance of information.
These projects can have an impact on the quality of others’ lives. I strongly encourage anyone who is a librarian with a physical challenge to share her or his experiences with others in our profession.