UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Tom Olin, September 23, 2015

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:41 - Early Life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Segment Synopsis: Olin describes moving around Michigan while his father searched for coaching jobs. He mentions being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, having difficulties in school due to dyslexia, and his parents' ambivalent attitude toward his disability.

Keywords: Michigan; Vietnam War; family; father

00:10:19 - Mary Free Bed / Ozarks and Brazil

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I wanted to go back- so you're in Vancouver. You're about to, I guess, get kicked out...

Segment Synopsis: Olin talks about dodging the draft, getting caught, and completing his community service requirement at a rehab hospital, where he was exposed to people with a variety of disabilities. He discusses moving to the Ozarks with some friends and later living in Brazil, where he meditated and eventually decided to pursue disability activism.

Keywords: Brazil; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Mary Free Bed Occupational Rehab Hospital; Ozarks; draft dodging; parents

00:25:28 - Berkeley

Play segment

Partial Transcript: When I did come back it was like 'if I wanted to get into disability, where would you go?' There was only one place.

Segment Synopsis: Olin discusses moving to Berkeley, California, to get involved with disability awareness and activism after leaving Brazil. He talks about Berkeley's Disabled Students' Program and describes learning photography and videography at a community college in order to document the disability community. Olin also mentions a disability rights demonstration that jump started his career in photography.

Keywords: Berkeley; California; California association of the Physically Handicapped; Disabled Students' Program

00:42:26 - Russell Federal Building Demonstration / Photo Publications

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Over the past 30 years you've shot a lot of photographs. Is there one or two actions that sort of stand out for you as maybe the most important?

Segment Synopsis: Olin describes his participation in a demonstration for disabled persons' transportation rights at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in Atlanta, Georgia. He talks about the photos he took at the event and his publications in magazines like Mainstream Mag, The Disability Rag, and Mouth. Olin further details the types of photos he generally likes to take at other activist events.

Keywords: ADA; ADAPT; American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit; Americans with Disabilities Act; demonstrations

00:55:48 - Role in the disability movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I first became aware of you through Mark, through your photographs, and from my point of view and for a lot of people in the movement and outside of the movement, they are iconic photographs that have a lot of impact, tell a story, document the history of this movement.

Segment Synopsis: Olin ponders his photography's role in the disability rights movement and talks about receiving two President's Awards from the NCIL.

Keywords: National Council on Independent Living

01:03:47 - Going on tour / The Big White Cloud

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let's talk a little bit about the bus that's out here in front of the Richard Russell Library.

Segment Synopsis: Olin talks about several nation-wide tours he helped organize to spread awareness and support for the disability community. He chronicles the activist group's struggle to locate and maintain their bus, "The Big White Cloud," between tours.

Keywords: ADA; CIL; DIMENET; Jim Ward; Justin Dart; Legacy Tour; Road to Freedom Tour; Roland Sykes

01:26:34 - Impact and highlights of the tours

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What's the significance of getting to Houston?

Segment Synopsis: Olin discusses the impact of the Road to Freedom Tour, which helped local governments understand and prioritize the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Olin also talks about highlights of the Legacy Tour, during which he set up educational exhibits to celebrate the ADA's 25th anniversary.

Keywords: ADA; touring

01:39:35 - Memorable Legacy Tour stops

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let's talk a little bit about maybe your stop in Millersville at the university.

Segment Synopsis: Olin recalls a visit to Millersville University, where students responded to the Legacy Tour by starting a disability film series. He also talks about significant parts of the Legacy Tour, which included an exhibit at the Chicago History Museum and disability pride parades in Chicago and New York.

Keywords: Millersville; Pennsylvania; disability pride; parades

01:48:28 - Legacy Tour finale

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So you're in Philly on July 24th, and you joined some folks there, so talk a little bit about the Philly experience.

Segment Synopsis: Olin discusses travelling through Philadelphia and Delaware and visiting landmarks like the Smithsonian, the Highlander Center, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights as the Legacy Tour came to a close.

Keywords: Atlanta; Highlander Research and Education Center; events; exhibits

02:05:30 - Moving forward and preserving the past

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What's the plans now for Tom and the Road to Freedom?

Segment Synopsis: Olin discusses his plan to continue promoting disability rights among America's youth, and he emphasizes the importance of preserving the history of the disability community and other marginalized groups.

Keywords: activism; history; preservation