ROHO interviewer and project director Ann Lage retired in 2011. Ann joined the ROHO staff in 1978 and has been responsible for so many interviews in the ROHO collection, as an interviewer and as a project director, that it would be impossible to overstate the importance of her contribution to oral history in general and to the Regional Oral History Office and The Bancroft Library in particular.
Among other things, she organized a pioneering project on the disability rights and independent living movement, which had Berkeley as one of its epicenters but quickly spread around the globe. This series of interviews provided the prototype for ROHO?s use of the web as an oral history resource for students, scholars, and activists. She also organized a project documenting the history of the Sierra Club.
In the spring, for Bancroft’s first-ever “Friends and Family” open house, we invited staff members to share their thoughts about particular interviews in ROHO?s collection of thousands of oral histories. Here is one of Ann?s reflections:
Paul’s polio at age seven left him with a significant physical disability. He relied on a wheel chair for mobility, a ventilator to breathe, and personal assistants for many tasks of daily living. His oral history explores his paths to understanding disability, first as a personal experience; then as the product of societal barriers comparable to the discrimination and stigmatization faced by members of other minority groups.
Paul was on the advisory committee of our Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement documentation project, which has recorded more than 150 in-depth oral histories with leaders of the movement nationwide and collected historical papers from movement organizations and participants.
As an oral historian, I have learned from each one of my interviewees, and Paul Longmore was no exception. I especially like Paul’s words in the last interview of this oral history, where he reflects on the positive contributions of disability to society (pp. 159-160):
There’s a really valuable insight there in the notion that in many respects most disabilities are just different, a different way of being in the world, a different way of experiencing your body, a different way of accessing reality, a different way of operating, that?s not inherently inferior. . . .
[Disability helps us] think about alternative ways of being a part of society . . . ways of looking at the world, looking at society, critiquing society, rebuilding society, building community, experiencing community, all that as things that we can positively offer to the rest of society.
by Linda Norton