|About the Author: Michael Sugarman, MSW. Attended peer support groups for people with disabilities at the Center for Independent Living, Berkeley California, in the late 1970’s and saw the stuttering community movement and disability rights movement together to argue for human rights (Americans with Disabilities Act) and remove stigma of being “stupid, nervous”, or seen as “less than whole.”
In the second grade I was transferred from a regular class to a special education class. Fortunately, a student teacher from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) asked me to read a book to myself and then write down what I read and answer five questions. After giving the correct answers I was sent back into regular class. I was in my third reading group and had never graded higher than a “D” in reading. After going back to regular class, I changed my mindset into “I stutter and am a Proud activist”.
I was fortunate to work in the AIDS community when December 1st was designated World AIDS Day in 1998. I worked for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in the early 1980’s. I continued to support the Disability Rights Movement and was with them when December 3rd was designated as World Disability Day in 1992.
At the World Congress of People who Stutter in San Francisco 1992, people spoke about setting up an international organization for people who stutter, and some of us talked about a stuttering awareness day. By 1997 John Ahlbach was considered to be Consumer Chair for International Fluency Association (IFA). However, due to internal conflicts within NSA, Gene Cooper, Chair of IFA asked if I could step in. I proposed the last day of the IFA San Francisco Conference August 1997 be consumer day. Consumer day focused on a range of topics, from parents of children who stutter, to stress management.
I was on the closing ceremony panel. Earlier in the day I met with Thomas Krall, Chair of the International Stuttering Association (ISA), on the San Francisco embarcadero. At the closing ceremony we proposed the International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD), to recognize the relationship between professionals and consumers. Fortunately I had a very good relationship with Dr. Gene Cooper who was Chair of IFA and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) specialty division. We negotiated a better day for speech language professionals and returning students in stuttering classes to participate in these activities. October 22nd was recognized by stuttering organizations as International Stuttering Awareness Day.
I attended workshops at different AIDS conferences and participants would email questions to speakers who answered the audience, while someone emailed his response to others. I asked our good friends Joan and Wes, who founded Moveon, if it’s possible to provide an interactive web-based forum between author and reader. Wes said Yes.
Fortunately for all us, we met Judy Kuster giving a workshop on the internet. We spoke to her and the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference was created in 1998. A huge thanks to Judy, and to the present cast and all of us who have shared our inner thoughts on stuttering with others.
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