UG 017 – Steven E. Brown on Creating a Disability Culture and Living One’s Purpose

    Professor Steven Brown was rejected from his first job after earning his doctorate. Why? Because he was disabled. He was totally qualified, and initially accepted, but the company didn’t want to hire someone with a disability. This rejection may have discouraged most people, but not him. It led to three decades of supporting, defending and advocating for the disabled community. He became a professor, author and co-founder of the Institute on Disability Culture. In this Unlocking Greatness interview, Steven opens our eyes to a world many people can’t even imagine, teaches us how to follow our passion, overcome challenge and demand that every human being be treated with respect.


    • Derailed by his disability (2:07)
    • Dealing with curveballs in an atmosphere of change (6:45)
    • Your disability does not define you (10:50)
    • The power of the group; writing about disability culture (15:56)
    • Stepping up when change needs to be made (19:36)
    • Negative attitude toward disability (22:47)
    • Ensuring that disabled people have human rights and are treated with dignity (25:36)
    • Starting a movement (28:39)
    • The “disability movement’ evolves (36:12)
    • Despair, moments of clarity, and embracing the pain (43:52)


    • “No one is free when others are oppressed.” SB
    • “The best definition of pain I’ve seen is that it hurts.” SB
    • “I majored in history because I wanted to learn how to do revolution right.” SB
    • “The best way to deal with pain is to not retract it, but embrace it.” CH
    • “Everyone needs to be treated with dignity, because everyone is going through something.” SB

    Tell Your Story by Steven Brown
    Institute on Disability Culture
    YouTube Video: What We Mean by Disability
    Surprised to be Standing: A Spiritual Journey by Steven Brown Movie Stars and Sensuous Scars: Essays on the Journey from Disability Shame to Disability Pride by Steven Brown CBS: Cuomo Signs Legislation Strengthening Disability Protections
    Huffington Post: The Americans With Disabilities Act Turns 25

    Steven E. Brown, retired Professor/Disabilities Scholar at the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii, earned a doctorate in history from the University of Oklahoma. He has directed an independent living center in Oklahoma, and organized numerous community coalitions and served as Training Director at the World Institute on Disability. He co-founded the not-for-profit Institute on Disability Culture, with his wife Lillian Gonzales Brown, in 1994.


    • Have you ever experienced discrimination as a minority, because of your health, religion, race, etc.?
    • Do you ever share your story with others?
    • How do you use your pain like Steve did—to create and build?
    • What is Steve’s message to you as a listener?


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