Born Fabulous Podcast Blog Post #4 – Disability History: “There’s a lot more that needs to be done….”

In episode four, the last of my series with Steve and Laura Riggio, I ask them what they think of the state of the disability world today. Laura responds, “We’ve done a lot of work, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done. I hope and ask younger parents to pick up the torch, and make their marks and inroads for people with disabilities. We can’t stay still. We need to keep going.”


Later in the conversation, after talking about Melissa’s gift for writing, Laura says. “When I think back to Willowbrook…what a loss for the world, and to humanity. They were shut away and had so much to express and do. Who knows what talents they had.”


In those two quotes Laura Riggio touched on just some of the reasons students in high schools and colleges should be learning about disability history.


 1) To keep making progress. I say this in a time where I see regression happening right now, in 2019, in many facets of life that affect people with disabilities.


2) To learn from history, so we do not repeat its horrible stories of experiencing the worst of humanity.


3) To reduce, and eventually eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities.


4) To help remind younger parents and generations of those who paved the way for them.


5) To learn about how disability history is intertwined with the Holocaust. slavery, the American presidency, British royalty, and so much more.


6) To celebrate leaders, heroes, and pioneers like Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, Judy Heumann, Wade Blank, Fred Fay, Lex Frieden, Temple Grandin, Gail Williamson, Dan Habib, and Melissa Riggio. That is just a sampling, a mosaic of names that need to be recognizable.


Notice I mentioned Melissa Riggio. Why? For starters she is in history books in South Korean schools! Not here in the US, in South Korea! That blows my mind. I love the Riggios story about how they found out. And it leads me to think…why there and not here? Those of you listening to this podcast are now aware of Melissa’s, and the Riggios, role in history. But think of the impact of every single student learning about the people just mentioned? Think of how many more teachers, administrators, doctors, religious leaders, politicians and so many more people would be touched?


I do realize that some of our newer general education teachers do receive some disability awareness, IEP, differentiation and accommodations training in college. But that depends on the program, and it is still usually just a beginning. We can do better. And quite frankly, I see a younger generation that would welcome that with open arms.


The rock and roll legend, songwriter, singer, and guitarist Pete Townsend said these words to Steve Riggio, former CEO of Barnes & Noble, about Melissa’s writing. “You have to nurture this, because it’s something that can flower.” He recognized talent, and the need to encourage development of that talent. Let’s build a world where everyone looks at each other as people first. Let’s build each other up. If we can start there…with disability history standardly being taught in our schools, we will see a kinder, gentler, and more aware society.


Thank you for caring.


From my heart,


Greta Harrison


To hear the first four podcasts, which tell Melissa Riggio’s story, click on the link below. You can also access them on iTunes or any podcast directory. Please like Born Fabulous on Facebook, and Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. (No copyright infringement intended using this photo of Melissa and Steve Riggio.)