Ugly Law- PSU May 2013

Posted: May 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
Susan Schweik gave a lecture called “Ugly Laws Then & Now,” which explored “developments in Portland in which a new and cynical manipulation of the Americans with Disabilities Act pits disability rights against homeless rights.” The City of Portland enacted its Ugly Law in 1881:
 

“Sec. 23. If any crippled, maimed, or deformed person shall beg upon the streets or in any public place, they shall upon conviction thereof before the Police Court be fined not less than twenty dollars nor more than two hundred dollars.”

 
A 1917 LA Times article quoted Mother Hastings telling the reporter that authorities in Portland “said I was too terrible a sight for the children to see — they meant my crippled hands, I guess — and said I would either have to get off the streets or go to the country farm. They gave me money to get out of town.” As late as 1972, Vietnam veteran and noted disability rights activist Richard Pimantel and his friend Art Honeyman, confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, were arrested trying to have breakfast in a Portland restaurant for violating the Ugly Law. The Americans With Disabilities Act finally ended this kind of blatant discrimination for many. Today in Portland the latest manifestations of these exclusionary laws go by names like the Sidewalk Management and Anti-Camping ordinances — laws that do not attempt to address the problems of homelessness and poverty, but seek to make them invisible.
 
Schweik is Associate Dean of Arts & Humanities at U.C. Berkeley and the author of The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public.
 
Susan Schweik is Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities and a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence. A former Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education for Disability Studies at U.C. Berkeley, she has been involved with the development of disability studies at Berkeley for fifteen years. She was co-coordinator of the Ed Roberts Fellowships in Disability Studies post-doctoral program at Berkeley (coordinated by the Institute for Urban and Regional Development). She has taught and co-taught undergraduate courses in Disability and Literature, Discourses of Disability, The Disability Rights Movement, Disability and Digital Storytelling, Psychiatric Disability, Literature and Medicine, and Race, Ethnicity and Disability, among others, and graduate courses in Body Theory and Disability Studies and Advanced Disability Studies. Her other teaching and research interests include twentieth century poetry, late nineteenth century American literature, women’s studies and gender theory, urban studies, war literature and children’s literature. She is a recipient of Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Her proudest honor is the name sign given to her by students at Gallaudet.
 
 
 

 

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