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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 2, 2003

Disabilities In Global Perspective Conference Scheduled Oct. 10-12

According to United Nations figures, more than half a billion people worldwide are disabled as a result of one or more mental, physical or sensory impairments. "Disabilities in Global Perspective," a weekend conference at the Iowa Memorial Union from Friday, Oct. 10 to Sunday, Oct. 12, is designed to help University of Iowa students, faculty, staff and interested community members understand new and emerging concepts regarding disabilities.

The conference is organized by the UI Global Health Studies Program and International Programs.

The keynote speaker for the conference is Anne Finger, president of the Society for Disability Studies, a group that fuses an academic approach to the issue of disability with activism. Finger will deliver the keynote address at 1:15 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 in the Terrace Room of the IMU.

Finger has long been active in social movements and writes fiction and creative non-fiction. She has published a collection of short stories "Basic Skills, a Book Past Due: A Story of Disability, Pregnancy and Birth," and a novel, "Bone Truth." Her work has also been published in Germany and in the United Kingdom and has been featured in a number of journals. She has taught creative writing at Wayne State University in Detroit and at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as guided workshops in the community at the San Francisco Independent Living Resource Center and schools. Finger, as well as other conference participants, will read from their works at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11 in Room 101, Becker Communication Building during a specially produced program, co-sponsored by Prairie Lights.

Although the conference is free and open to the public, donations are always welcome. For those who wish to meet and visit with the speakers or other conference attendants during the Saturday luncheon, tickets are available for $15. Lunch tickets can be reserved by calling 319-335-0370 no later than Wednesday, Oct. 8.

"Disabilities in Global Perspective" is both a course and conference. Those students who wish to attend for credit should register with ISIS (152:152), and they will be charged a course fee of $25. The conference is free for students not registered for the course.

Other conference panelists will focus on defining disabilities, analyzing gender, culture, age and ethnicity as they inform disability issues, addressing economic impacts on the lived experiences of people with disabilities, discussing disability law around the world and delving into the modern search for genetic perfection. A dozen distinguished speakers from many different countries will help bring forth local, national and international perspectives on disabilities. The roster of speakers includes well-known and dynamic personalities from the United States, Europe, India and New Zealand.

The conference will also feature readings by several speakers on Saturday evening as well as an exhibit hall for local disability related organizations, programs and services.

"This is a truly global issue because it touches everyone and transcends countries and languages, " said Maureen McCue, M.D., coordinator of the conference and adjunct professor in the Global Health Studies Program, "because even if we don't realize it, all of us are 'temporarily abled' -- we all have certain limitations. But a person categorized as disabled often faces a lot more discrimination. And it not only affects the disabled individual, it also extends to their families."

One of the major goals for this conference, McCue said, is to encourage Iowans and people from all over the world to search for appropriate responses and solutions to the many challenges experienced by this diverse population.

The conference will provide ample opportunities for networking among interested students, faculty and guest speakers. Activists in the local disability community will be available to provide educational materials and poster displays about their programs to interested participants. Amenity Hospice, Mayor's Youth Employment Program and Systems Unlimited will have tables and educational displays.

On Oct. 6, Project Art will open an exhibit, in conjunction with the conference, titled "Overcoming Obstacles: Artists with Disabilities" in the east wing of the Patient and Visitor Activities Center, located on the eighth floor of the John Colloton Pavilion at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The exhibit will display the work of four artists: Watercolors by Kevin Bunch of Albia, Iowa; drawings by Mary Mitchell of Des Moines; acrylic paintings by Bonny Thayer of Burlington, and artwork by the late Alva Gene Dexheimer of Missouri. The exhibit will run through December 31.

Additional sponsors, contributors of $500 or more, include the following: Professor Mark Priestley, University of Leeds, Britain; University of Iowa Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Pharmacy, Nursing and the Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine; University of Iowa Office of the Associate Provost for Health Sciences; and the University of Iowa Office of the Provost: Ida Beam Fellowship.

Supporters include the following: Amenity Hospice of Cedar Rapids, Sherry Cogswell, Paul Ingram and Prairie Lights, United Nations Association Iowa Division, UI Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, University of Iowa Center for Human Rights and the UI departments of history and speech pathology.

For a complete listing of the schedule and speaker profiles please, visit

For more information or special accommodations to participate in this conference, contact Blythe Burkhardt, International Programs, at 319-335-1436.

International Programs consists of a number of offices, centers, degree and academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost for academic programs and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and service.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, International Programs, 319-335-2026,; Conference: Blythe Burkhardt, International Programs, 319-335-1436,; Writer: Mansi Bhatia