UTA Leading Effort to Develop Disabilities History Portal



The University of Texas at Arlington long has been a state leader in disability issues, and in July, the UTA Libraries will host a consortium to develop an online portal for disability history resources.

It will attract leading U.S. disability history scholars and practitioners, the university said in a release. A $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will partially support the consortium. It was awarded to Brenda McClurkin, project director and department head of UTA Libraries Special Collections, and to Sarah Rose, project co-director and associate professor of history.


Brenda McClurkin

The portal will be a major asset in studying the history of disabilities and how they have been a part of our society.

“When implemented, this portal will create a single point of access to a wide-ranging number of websites representing collections from archives, museums, colleges and universities, and nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. featuring historical materials on disability history,” McClurkin said.


The portal will give easy access to online sources for the study of disabilities including archives, data sets, images and videos, among other things, the university said.

“We are grateful to the NEH for supporting this extraordinary opportunity to bring colleagues from institutions like UC Berkeley, Drake University, and Gallaudet University to UTA,” Dean of Libraries Rebecca Bichel said. “Together, we can increase the visibility and resonance of these important and often overlooked collections.”


Sarah Rose

It’s also an example of UTA’s growing expertise in the field.

The university said that UTA Libraries received a $25,000 grant last year to digitize and publish disability history that relates to Texas and the university.

That project, Digitizing for Accessibility, is ongoing and supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.  Items scanned under the project will be included in the portal, the university said.


Planning for the portal will continue through April 2017, the university said. Then, the consortium will apply to the NEH for an implementation grant to fund the portal’s creation.

The portal could serve a large, and ever-growing community.

Penny Acrey, director of the Office for Students with Disabilities, said that her office has roughly 1,050 registered, active students. There likely are many more on campus or taking online courses, since disabled students are not required to register with the office.

Those students are among a large disabled community in North Texas.

In Tarrant County where UTA is located, for example, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 7.3 percent of the county’s 2 million residents have a disability. In Texas, roughly 9.1 percent of the population —about 3 million people — report having a disability.

Nationwide, 12.6 percent of the country’s 320 million residents say they are disabled.

UTA, the second largest institution in the University of Texas System with more than 55,000 students, is the home of the first disabilities studies program in Texas.

Its commitment to the disabilities community is longstanding, with the adoption of curbside ramps in 1970 and the establishment of an Office for Students with Disabilities in the 1980s. UTA also offered adaptive sports programs offering full scholarships to student-athletes.

UTA’s men’s Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team, for example, has won seven national intercollegiate championships.

Photos courtesy the University of Texas at Arlington

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