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Section Newsletter
Spring 2010

Message from the Chair

Dr. Stephen Gilson


As we prepare and plan for the Annual Meeting in Denver and the 20th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act, critical challenges to equality of access still face us.


These issues have become particularly evident in recent discussions and planning with APHA. One key challenge is to increase membership and administrative awareness of the meaning of access, that moves beyond merely asking the Disability Section to make its own spaces, presentations and materials available and accessible. We are currently negotiating with the APHA Executive Board to review and change policy and practice regarding accessibility of all section booths. This effort is currently under way as we ask APHA administration and staff to rethink and practice access beyond minimal ADA requirements to an expansive social justice approach. Expanding policy to all presentations, events and spaces in APHA will open the opportunity for all members to benefit from the full range of APHA activities, knowledge and initiatives.


There are two other related issues for our section to consider. First, we need to expand our interdisciplinary approach so that we are not simply preaching to the choir. Increasing awareness and meaningful response to limited access can only be done if those who are not yet knowledgeable about the issues become informed. Second, this year’s Chair’s Forum focuses on critical policy analysis and implementation. I would urge us to stretch beyond disability specific policy and use this forum to explore innovative solutions to bring disability policy within the human rights policies that govern all people.

Accessibility Update

Catherine Leigh Graham, MEBME


The APHA Annual Meeting in Denver is quickly approaching.  Marking the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this year, in conjunction with the APHA Annual Meeting theme of Social Justice has brought many accessibility issues to light. While APHA has made progress throughout the years, the Disability Section’s Accessibility Committee is continuing to work with APHA to increase their overall conference accessibility. 


We continue our attempts to foster collaboration between the deaf and hard-of-hearing community and APHA.  It is crucial for attendees with hearing impairments be able to experience all aspects of the conference from session presentations to the Public Health Expo to the Mix & Mingle Lounge in order to get equal benefit from attending as other participants. This will require changes to include the utilization of sign language interpreters. Many other large conferences have already completed the leg work to figure out how to accomplish this. Our hope is to relay this information to APHA and let them contact local support for each conference.


The Film Festival was held for the first time in 10 years at the meeting in Philadelphia. It was a big hit showcasing films and videos of interest to public health professionals. We want to ensure that all future media presented is accessible to all. Some ways film and video accessibility can be increased are through open captioning or having photo descriptions included. We have been in contact with the organizers of the Film Festival for 2010 so that some accessibility changes can be implemented in Denver.  We are hopeful that the policy can be added for the 2011 Film Festival that will require open captioning and picture description in all future media presented at APHA.


One last issue that we are working with APHA administration on is the new Section Pavillion. This is going to be a fantastic new area where all of the Section Booths will reside. Our goal is to ensure that all booths, not just the Disability Section booth, are accessible to everyone.  We realize that having a disability does not necessarily correlate with which Section booths a person may want to visit.  All of the booths should be welcoming and accessible to all attendees.


Looking forward to seeing everyone in Denver!


Awards Report

Jennifer Rowland, PhD


The 2010 Disability Section Call for Awards Nominations closed on April 30. Several nominations were received for the four awards: Lifetime Achievement, Allan Meyers, New Investigator, and Student Member. The award winners will be honored during the annual Business Meeting and Awards Ceremony in Denver on Monday evening, Nov. 8. Additional details regarding the award winners and awards ceremony will be available in later newsletter editions. For questions about the awards, please contact Awards Chair Jennifer Rowland

Communications Update

Roberta Carlin, MS, JD


The Communications Committee wants to ensure that all Disability Section members are on the APHA Disability Section Listserv.  If you have not been receiving posts from the APHA Disability Section, please contact Roberta Carlin at and we will add your name to the Disability Section listserv. 


The April 2010 issue of the Disability and Health Journal is available to subscribers and members of American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD). The April issue has abstracts from the 2009 APHA Disability Section meeting in Philadelphia. Please visit to view the Disability and Health Journal.  If you are interested in receiving the Journal at a discounted rate for APHA members, please visit and on the membership form indicate you are a member of APHA.

Membership Update

George Jesien, PhD


Membership in the Disability Section has held steady at about 275 members over the last year. Two hundred and fifty members have the Disability Section as their primary Section, and 25 members have the Disability Section as their secondary or tertiary section. From one perspective this is good news in that membership has held steady as many membership organizations have been slowly losing members during these tough economic times. On the other hand, it does indicate that the Disability Section has not been growing within the overall APHA membership. The Disability Section makes up slightly more than 1 percent of the overall APHA membership. A goal set by the Membership Committee is to go over the 300 member mark by the time of the APHA Annual Meeting and to move toward the goal of 2 percent of APHA membership by the end of the calendar year. Currently 71 percent of the members are in the regular membership category, while 14 percent are students and the remainder are either retired, or are consumers or special health workers.


This is a great time to join APHA and the Disability Section. Recently passed health care reform legislation will provide new impetus for health promotion and health prevention initiatives as well as workforce development opportunities. A steady stream of new information will be become available as implementation plans are rolled out and new regulations that affect people with disabilities are promulgated. The Disability Section and APHA will serve as a great resource for information, policy developments, current research and national news. Disability Section members will benefit by participating in an informational listserv, the quarterly newsletter and access to the Disability and Health Journal at a reduced fee. To help us meet our goal of growing the Disability Section within APHA, ask your colleagues to join at:  or contact Membership Chair George Jesien at ( for an electronic version of the Disability Section Brochure.  

Program Update: Chair’s Forum

Call for Presentations/Papers on Disability and Public Health for the 2010 Disability Section Chair’s Forum at the APHA Annual Meeting in Denver – Sunday, Nov. 7, 2:00-4:30 p.m.


2010 will mark the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The past 20 years have been witness to dramatic change in terms of social, political and economic rights and opportunities for individuals with disabilities. However, the years following passage of the Act have also been marked by significant legal and social challenges to ADA, setting the basis for the passage the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The 20th Anniversary provides us with the opportunity to reflect upon and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of formulating social and civil change through population focused federal legislative policy.


Thematic topics include:

  • The role of disability policy in forging civil and social justice change.
  • The strengths and weakness of specialized rights legislation.
  • Alternatives to legislating equality.



  • Invited and submitted papers will present work in progress to the audience. Papers will be made available two weeks prior to the APHA Annual Meeting so that audience members can read and formulate responses. 
  • Work in progress will represent historical, conceptual and empirical analyses of disability policy and public health.
  • 20-minute papers will be followed by critical analysis and discussion of ideas presented. 
  • Proceedings will be published that include both the paper, a summary of the critical feedback and a response from the original authors.

Submissions cannot duplicate abstracts already submitted to the Disability Section for this year's scientific program without the permission of the Chair of the Disability Section.

Please send abstracts of 200-300 words and a brief biographical statement electronically by Friday, August 7, 2010 to Disability Section Chair Stephen Gilson at

For more information on the APHA Annual Meeting, go to

Student Update

Anjali Truitt, MPH                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Congratulations are in order, as we close another academic year.     


The Annual Meeting is just a few short months away. This year’s theme “Social Justice: A Public Health Imperative” provides a great opportunity for the Disability Section to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Chair’s Forum on Sunday, Nov. 7, will kick-off this celebration, so if you have the opportunity to attend this year’s meeting, then be sure to arrive in time.  In order to help connect new public health professionals to the field, the Disability Section will be host a mentoring event on Tuesday night, Nov. 9.  


Students and new professionals/investigators should have received an annual e-survey, regarding how membership in the Disability Section can best serve your needs.  If you did not receive a copy of the survey and would like to participate, please e-mail me (  The Disability Section welcomes your input. 


Particularly for those of you who have recently changed e-mail addresses, you can update your electronic and mailing addresses online by going to the “Member Login” on the APHA homepage at


Best wishes to those headed to new schools, new employers and new opportunities.