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Dec 03 2019 - 03:20pm
Today in History: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

In 1992 the United Nations declared December 3rd as International Day of Disabled Persons -- an annual day of observation "to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life." From the Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, which began in 2006, to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we are encouraged to "leave no one behind" as we look at inclusive strategies and how they pertain to the overall health of political, social, economic, cultural and educational life.

In fact, special education began at Teachers College with Elizabeth Farrell, lecturer in psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, from 1915 until her death in 1935. As Director of Ungraded Classes in the New York City school system, Farrell was the first to teach a class of special education (see the related NYT article, Schools Ask Help with Defectives, January 27, 1913). She spearheaded the founding of the international Council for Exceptional Children and went on to attain an international reputation for her achievements in the field of special education, contributing data and techniques to the formulation of new and ever-improved methods of teaching public school children identified as having special learning needs. 

Significant Teachers College contributors include: Leonard Blackman (mental retardation), Hsu-Min Chiang (autism), Frances Connor (physical disabilities), Jeanette Fleischner (learning disabilities), Ignacy Goldberg (mental retardation), Douglas Greer (behavior analysis), Linda Hickson (mental retardation, autism), Leta Hollingworth (gifted), Robert Kretschmer (deaf and hard of hearing), Ann Mulholland (deaf), Harry Passow (gifted), Christine Pawleski (child abuse, advocacy), Jo Shepherd (learning disabilities), and Abraham Tannenbaum (gifted, disadvantaged). 

In recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.

  • Health Board. (2013, Nov 26). The Irish Times (1921-Current File)


  • Explore an interesting range of historical dissertations on disabilities in Pocketknowledge, the digital archive of Teachers College, where you can find additional resources on institutional members, programs, experimental and demonstration schools, and other initiatives.



Need to keep current, look to the past, teach a topic? The Everett Cafe features daily postings of news from around the world, and also promotes awareness of historical events from an educational context. Be sure to check the news postings on Learning at the Library, where you can delve into history.

Posted in: Learning at the LibraryNews Cafe|By: Jennifer Govan|576 Reads