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Archive for Thursday, November 29, 1990

PROFESSOR DISCUSSES DISABILITIES

November 29, 1990

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When Jay Turnbull was born in 1967, doctors at Johns Hopkins told his parents they should institutionalize their son.

But the Turnbulls didn't follow the doctors' advice. They believed that Jay, who is mentally disabled, could make a positive contribution to society.

Jay, now 23, lives on his own.

Jay's parents, Rud and Ann Turnbull, who are special education professors at Kansas University, don't buy into the belief that disabled people are a burden to society.

"People with disabilities make a positive contribution to their families, their community and the people they come in contact with," Rud Turnbull said Wednesday during a University Forum at Ecumenical Christian Ministries. He and his wife are co-directors of KU's Beach Center for Families and Disability.

TURNBULL SAID three battles have been won in the fight for equal rights for people with disabilities. Brown vs. the Board of Education was the catalyst for change, Turnbull said.

"There's a civil rights revolution involving people with disabilities," he said. "Take the 1954 Brown versus the Board of Education decision. Substitute `person with disability' for `Negro,' and substitute `person without a disability' for `white.' That's where it started."

In 1974, Congress passed legislation that guaranteed education for children with disabilities. It was a major victory, Turnbull said.

The third victory came this year, when President Bush passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"That is a major, major piece of legislation," Turnbull said.

It prohibits discrimination in business, Congress, government, public accommodations, telecommunications and transportation.

"It is going to open up America to people with disabilities in a way that's never before been required," he said.

Turnbull urged his audience to get to know disabled people. He said the old view was to segregate the disabled. But Turnbull said the disabled must be given opportunities and choices.

"We've had an expectation for Jay," he explained.

JAY, WHO works at KU, was adopted by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, which established the "Natural Ties" program. Such interaction benefits both Jay and the people he befriends, Turnbull said.

"People prevail through friendship. They thrive on it," he said. "It's not just people with disabilities which now have opportunities; it's all of us."

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