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COFAC professor’s Fulbright trip focused on improving the lives of persons with disabilities

Beth Haller, Susan Ryan, LaurenCollege of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) professor Beth Haller traveled in Australia this past February as a Fulbright Program specialist to participate in a series of speaking events to develop pedagogy and curriculum about media and disabilities.

Haller’s events revolved around how the Internet, mobile and social media has provided new ways to address social exclusion and inequality, and provide new opportunities for social participation by those with disabilities.

In Sydney, she gave a lecture titled, “The Digital Media World Redefined by and for Disabled People” (VIDEO). She spoke to a number of groups during that lecture, including faculty and students from University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, and Macquarie University; representatives from People with Disability Australia; the Spinal Cord Injury Association; the Differently Abled People Association; and Rosemary Kayess, the most important disability rights attorney in Australia.

Haller also taped an interview about her work on how media influence perception of disability for a massive open online class (MOOC) created by the Intellectual Disability Behavior Support Program at the University of New South Wales. She also met with numerous faculty, news media workers, and key people from the disability sector, including The Hon Susan Ryan, the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner for Australia.

While guest lecturing at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, she gave a lecture on “Social Media and Disability Rights Activism: Is Online Communication Finally Providing ‘Liberating Technology’?” that was sponsored by the Centre for Culture and Technology.

Following that she conducted a master class with faculty who teach media and cultural studies and want to include the topic of disability representation in their courses. Her third lecture, “Researching Media Content to Serve Disability Studies,” was for anyone interested in research and was sponsored by the Department of Cultural Studies and Human Rights and the Centre for Human Rights Education.

After her Fulbright trip, Haller stayed on in Australia to give presentations at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales and the University of Melbourne Social Equity Institute.

She did leave time for a little sightseeing as well.

“On the weekends, I had free time and went to Rottnest Island off the west coast of Australia and the Hornby lighthouse on Watsons Bay outside Sydney,” Haller said. “One weekend I visited friends who live in rural Australia and saw lots of native wildlife: kookaburra birds, wombats and kangaroos. I had seen them in a park before, but that was my first one in the wild.”

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