History Of Disability In America


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Ala And Knology Explore Disability And Accessibility In Accessibility In Libraries: A Landscape Report

The History of Disability Awareness in America

CHICAGO The American Library Association , in collaboration with the non-profit research organization Knology, has published a review of the literature and best practices around libraries and accessibility.

The free report, Accessibility in Libraries: A Landscape Report, is created as part of ALAs longtime Libraries Transforming Communities initiative.

In its 31 pages, the report explores:

  • the different ways disability has been understood and defined over time
  • the history of accessibility in U.S. libraries, dating back to the 19th century
  • the current landscape of accessibility and its different applications in library settings today
  • the resources that are available and most commonly used to include people with different kinds of disabilities into library programs and services

Libraries have a long history of working toward creating accessible spaces and materials for their disabled and neurodivergent patrons as early as the mid-1800s, U.S. libraries were producing print materials for the blind. However, libraries today face a number of challenges when it comes to incorporating accessibility into their services and spaces, including limited resources and time, lack of awareness, and lack of training.

In March 2022, ALA announced plans to distribute more than $7 million in grants to small and rural libraries to increase the accessibility of facilities, services and programs to better serve people with disabilities.

About Knology

Introduction To The Ada

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities.

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

Reviewed By Jeffrey A Brune Assistant Professor Of History Gallaudet University

As the first broad survey of its topic and the first work to lay out a complete periodization of American disability history, Kim Nielsen’s A Disability History of the United States marks a milestone for the field. Going beyond the usual expectations for a survey text, this book makes a significant scholarly contribution, especially in its opening chapters on early American disability history. Its compelling prose and clear arguments also make it an excellent resource for students and general readers seeking to understand how disability in America has changed over time and the important role disability has played in US history.

The quality of the chapters covering the modern era is excellent, and people unfamiliar with disability history may find this part of the book even more compelling than the early chapters. This is because most of US disability historiography focuses on the period since the late nineteenth century, which gives Nielsen better source material to utilize. However, while she does an excellent job synthesizing modern disability history, disability historians will, understandably, find these chapters more familiar and less groundbreaking than early parts of the book.

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A Growing Spirit Of Independence

The earliest disability law in the United States dates from pensions guaranteed for men wounded in the Revolutionary War.

You tend to have a grateful nation that wants to figure out how to help them reincorporate themselves to society, said Heather Ansley, the associate executive director of government relations for Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Summer camps and rehabilitation centers were established to provide nurturing environments. In the 1960s and 70s, friendships were cultivated among a generation of people who would go on to become some of the foremost activists of the modern civil rights movement.

Ed Roberts was among those top activists. He was the first student who used a wheelchair to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Because there were no accessible dormitories, he lived in Cowell, the campus hospital. He inspired the blueprint for the first Center for Independent Living. There are now 403 C.I.L.s that are run by and for people with disabilities who live independently of nursing homes and other institutions.


Creating Space For Community

Poster child, 1950s

Throughout the disability rights movement, the merging of communities has been the driving force behind major changes.

Organizations like the Harriet Tubman Collective and Sins Invalid have created space for art and collective liberation.

Disability justice is about political organizing and legal change and all of that, Ms. Piepzna-Samarasinha said, but its also about creating communities where we can be all of ourselves without shame, and with joy.

In 2016, the #CripTheVote Twitter campaign was created by Alice Wong, the founder of the Disability Visibility Project Andrew Pulrang, a contributing writer for Forbes.com and Gregg Beratan, the director of advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights.

In the past four years, they have organized 64 Twitter chats or live-tweets of events, which are all archived.

As with most branches of disability culture, Mr. Pulrang said, it also helps disabled people discover that they are not alone, and that their experiences are usually not unique or strange.

People of color and L.G.B.T.Q. voices have asserted themselves in the movement, raising awareness with hashtags like #DisabilityTooWhite.

To me, disability justice means that were taking into account people of color, and people that are marginalized within the disability community, said Mr. Moore, the founder of Krip-Hop Nation, adding, were taking these principles and really living by them, not only in organizations but in our own lives.

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The Rise Of Representation

Portrayals of disabilities in the mainstream media have often been negative, said Adela Ruiz, a sociology professor at Monroe College. Take villain archetypes: Captain Hook was an amputee, Maleficent used a staff and the main character in the film Joker is depicted as a mentally ill loner.

But there was also Ray Charles, who played a big part of my growing up, said Leroy Moore Jr.

Mr. Moore noticed a lot of Black disabled musicians Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Robert Winters and many more on album covers as he rummaged through his fathers record collection. Today, he pushes for the representation of disabled musicians as a founder of Krip-Hop Nation.

Sesame Street also shed a positive light on disabled people.

Linda Bove whos a fabulous Deaf actor was playing Linda, the librarian, but there are also other disabled folks and disability topics popping up in Sesame Street across the 1970s, said Susan Burch, a professor who teaches critical disability studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. That was a big darn deal!


Events In The American History Since 1980

The three events I consider the most important in American history are the pneumocystis pneumonia report in 1981, which states the discovery of the virus known as Pneumocystis carinii as the cause of the AIDS epidemic. The discovery of AIDS brought more attention to sex education and insight is gay unions as a major cause of the spread of the virus. AIDS and gay unions are still hot topics of discussion to date. The second event is the signing of the Americans with disabilities act in 1990 which formed the basis of equality and inclusivity of persons with disabilities in society. today. The act changed most individuals attitudes towards persons with disabilities bringing acceptance and equality regardless of the physical and psychological differences. Finally, the third event is the Republicans victorious win to congress in 1994 after being in the opposition since 1954. The Republicans victory marks the beginning of Americas legislative power creating a more conservative than a liberal administrative system. These three events have shaped most of Americas significant areas of society throughout history.

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Race Disability And Police Brutality

About 30 to 50 percent of all people killed by law enforcement officers are disabled, according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation. As tensions heightened in 2014 alongside the rise of Black Lives Matter, this statistic became especially apparent.

Disability was overlooked in news reports of the deaths of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and many others, said Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, a Black disabled poet and librarian. Instead the term underlying conditions was used to refer to depression, asthma and high blood pressure a euphemism that is bent to make people feel like theyre not murdering disabled people.

Mx. Deerinwater, of Crushing Colonialism, pointed out an even more stark statistic.

The C.D.C. actually says that Native people have the highest rates per capita of police brutality, Mx. Deerinwater said. I want to say that per capita piece is always crucial when we talk about any issue related to Natives because were a little less than 2 percent of the U.S. population.

Confrontations with the police present a real concern for people like Vilissa Thompson, a social worker and the founder of the blog Ramp Your Voice!

Im someone whos hard of hearing and if I cannot hear a command thats given to me by law enforcement, that can make me appear to be noncompliant, she said.


A Brief History Of The Disability Rights Movement In America

EDUCATE-ABLE: A History of Educating Children With Disabilities in America

One in four American adults lives with a disability. People with disabilities constitute the largest minority group in the United States.

The attitudes towards and opportunities available to people with disabilities have changed dramatically over the past century. People with disabilities and their allies have led the charge to end discrimination and fight for equal rights we examine the Disability Rights movement.

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Disability History: Early And Shifting Attitudes Of Treatment

I come to present the strong claims of suffering humanity. I come to place before the Legislature of Massachusetts the condition of the miserable, the desolate, the outcast. I come as the advocate of helpless, forgotten, insane, and idiotic men and women of beings sunk to a condition from which the most unconcerned would start with real horror or being wretched in our prisons, and more wretched in our almshouses.Dorothea Dix

Detail of a stereograph, collections of the Library of Congress .

This article is part of the Telling All Americans Stories Disability History Series. The series focuses on telling selected stories through historic places. It offers a glimpse into the rich and varied history of Americans with disabilities.References: Dix, Dorothea, Memorial to the Legislature of Massachusetts. Boston: Munroe & Francis, 1843. Excerpt.

A Disability History Of The United States

Time Periods:Themes:Order online

Covering the entirety of U.S. history from pre-1492 to the present, A Disability History of the United States places the experiences of people with disabilities at the center of the American narrative.

Throughout the book, historian and disability scholar Kim E. Nielsen illustrates how concepts of disability have deeply shaped the American experience from deciding who was allowed to immigrate and establishing labor laws to justifying slavery and gender discrimination. Included are absorbing at times horrific narratives of blinded slaves being thrown overboard and women being involuntarily sterilized, as well as triumphant accounts of disabled miners organizing strikes and disability rights activists picketing Washington.

A Disability History of the United States reinterprets how we view a nations past: from a stifling master narrative to a shared history that encompasses us all.

The author of three books, including two on Helen Keller and one on Anne Sullivan Macy, Nielsen is a professor of history and womens studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

ISBN: 9780807022047 | Beacon Press

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Employment And Minimum Wage Exemption

Disabled citizens in the United States receive Medicare insurance and social security benefits to varying degrees. For those that seek employment for therapeutic or economic reasons, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is applicable. This act was an attempt to facilitate the large number of disabled servicemen returning from the front lines “to the extent necessary to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment”. Section 14 provides the employers with a method of paying their disabled employees less than applicable federal minimum wage. The Secretary of Labor issues certificates that align wages with the employee’s productivity.

As of 2012 there are 420,000 §14 employees being paid less than the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Administratively, the wage for disabled people was informally set at 75%. Those working in sheltered work centers have no minimum floor for their wage. The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act was proposed in 2013 to repeal §14 but was not passed.

Timeline Of Disability Rights In The United States

The New Disability History: American Perspectives (History of ...

This disability rights timeline lists events relating to the civil rights of people with disabilities in the United States of America, including court decisions, the passage of legislation, activists’ actions, significant abuses of people with disabilities, and the founding of various organizations. Although the disability rights movement itself began in the 1960s, advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities started much earlier and continues to the present.

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Crossover Themes Of Disability History

State history standards and textbooks across the U.S. commonly emphasize a similar structure of topics in history. Even in states that do not yet explicitly list Disability History as a topic to be covered, the following themes offer places where teachers can integrate key moments and concepts of Disability History.

  • Homes and Almshouses Life in Colonial America – The Early Republic
  • Founding of Schools and Asylums Antebellum Reform Movements
  • Disabled Civil War Veterans Impacts of the Civil War – Growth of the Federal Government
  • Consequences of the Industrial Revolution and Immigration – Impact of Social Darwinism and Eugenics
  • Rehabilitation of WWI Veterans and Social Security Progressive Era – Impacts of WWI – New Deal – Responsibilities of Private Sector vs Government
  • Civil Rights including Disability Rights Cold War Era Social Movements
  • Passage of the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act and Americans with Disabilities Act Contemporary Challenges

Dont Mourn For Us: Jim Sinclair And The Neurodiversity Movement

In 1993, Jim Sinclair, one of the founders of Autism Network International, spoke at the International Conference on Autism in Toronto, focusing on a sentiment that was often expressed by parents of autistic children a sense of loss upon learning their child wasnt normal.

You didnt lose a child to autism, said Jim, who prefers not to use gendered pronouns or honorifics. You lost a child because the child you waited for never came into existence. That isnt the fault of the autistic child who does exist, and it shouldnt be our burden.

Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams, Jim added. But dont mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And were here waiting for you.

The speech became a foundation for what has become known as the neurodiversity movement, a belief that cognitive differences are part of normal variations of human behavior.

Neurodiversity affirms that everyone deserves to be accepted and included for who they are, Sharon daVanport, the founding executive director of the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, wrote in an email.


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Education Rights And Parent Advocacy

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act , enacted in 1975, required federally funded public schools to provide equal access to education and one free meal a day to children with disabilities.

The law was passed after parents filed a number of lawsuits that referred to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

Legislators have also used the education law as a model for other disability laws.

If you dont have an education, we cant get you to get a job we cant have you participate in society. If you dont have transportation, you cant get back and forth to your job, said Pat Wright, a disability rights activist who co-founded the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. So each one of those things that nondisabled kids take for granted become the linchpin of people with disabilities lives.


Nothing About Us Without Us

Our History: Disability

Self-advocates have played a crucial role in disability history. The independent living movements philosophy is that people with disabilities should have the same access to opportunities, rights, and autonomy over their lives as their non-disabled counterparts. It represents a shift from the medical model to the social model of disability .

Ed Roberts is considered to be the father of the independent living movement. Severely disabled after contracting polio as a teenager, Roberts required the use of a respirator to breathe. When he was admitted to the University of California at Berkeley in 1962, the school arranged for him to live in Cowell Memorial Hospital.

With the help of College of San Mateo counselor Jean Wirth, Roberts demanded access to the university. Roberts led a group of students with physical disabilities known as The Rolling Quads, which pressured the university to become more accessible and to provide personal attendant services that would allow disabled students to live independently.

The 1978 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act provided funding for consumer-controlled CILs. Today, there are nearly 400 CILs in the United States, which provide services to people with disabilities in their communities.

The independent living movement and demands for representation encapsulate the ethos behind the disability rights slogan nothing about us without us.

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