Ginevra Ralph received her bachelor's degree in history Honors College and her master's degree in special education from the University of Oregon. She taught students with severe cognitive and physical disabilities and later served on the UO College of Education faculty from 1992 to 2001. She was a trustee of the UO Foundation from 2006 to 2013. She was a founding board member of the Eugene Ballet and Eugene Opera companies and past board president of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
Ginevra co-founded Eugene’s John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts in 1991 with her husband Jim. The Ralphs received the Governor Arts Award in 2005. She has served on many civic committees and is currently a trustee of Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, a director of the Reed Family Foundation, and is Vice Chair of the Governing Board of the University of Oregon. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum and was named Eugene’s First Citizen for 2015. In 2020 the Hearing Loss Association of America gave her the national “Get in the Hearing Loop” award for her advocacy.
In a a very real sense, I have been an advocate for an inclusive society from grade school. A classmate had severe vision impairments due to over oxygenation in an incubator. Her family ordered blown up versions of our textbooks. She used strong eyeglasses, plus a magnifying glass, and had a full time aide. But to us, she was Anne – she asked great questions, played with dolls, and swam in the pool. She was always included in everything we did in class. Our neighbors had a large family, one of whom had Downs Syndrome. But he was just Charley, because we grew up playing together and figured out how to communicate with him and what he liked to do.
In the 1960s my mother-in-law taught me deep disability rights activism. She had had a very severe case of polio, but nevertheless she raised 2 very active sons, remodeled their house to accommodate her wheelchair, maintained a professional medical career, and was apolitical activist. She sewed her own unique clothes using snap tape and velcro, had a hydraulic lift on their car so that anyone could help her transfer, and modified her house as needed. In addition to creating her own support strategies, she boycotted stores where she could not get down the aisles, wrote strong letters demanding equal access on public transportation, and testified at the legislature.
These sorts of experiences led me to my professional work in education and advocacy for students with profound cognitive and physical disabilities with the goal that we develop supports to include everyone in our community activities.
This history explains why I care deeply about the dramatic enhancement of community accessibility that I see hearing loops provide for my friends and colleagues. They are not the only tool those of us with hearing loss will require in order to stay included in community, but they are so universal, and fluid across situations and venues of all sizes that I believe they should be the fundamental, requisite hearing assist system available for all hearing aid and cochlear implant users.