When Did The Disability Rights Movement Start


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Americans With Disabilities Act

A Brief History of the Disability Rights Movement

In the 1980s, disability activists began to lobby for a consolidation of various pieces of legislation under one broad civil rights statute that would protect the rights of people with disabilities, much like the 1964 Civil Rights Act had achieved for Black Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or gender, but people with disabilities were not included under such protection.

After decades of campaigning and lobbying, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, and ensured the equal treatment and equal access of people with disabilities to employment opportunities and to public accommodations. The ADA intended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in: employment, services rendered by state and local governments, places of public accommodation, transportation, and telecommunications services.

Under the ADA, businesses were mandated to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities , public services could no longer deny services to people with disabilities , all public accommodations were expected to have modifications made to be accessible to people with disabilities, and all telecommunications services were mandated to offer adaptive services to people with disabilities. With this piece of legislation, the US government identified the full participation, inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in all levels of society.

The End Of The Second World War

As the Second World War ended in 1945, many horrors emerged. They included the mass killing of disabled people in Germany.

In reaction to Nazi abuses the pre-war ‘eugenicist’ theories which had argued for the isolation and sterilisation of people with disabilities became increasingly reviled.

In England, public concern shifted to the 300,000 ex-servicemen and women and civilians who had been left disabled by the war.

The 1970s: Growth Of Consumer Groups

On 9 December 1975, the United Nations issued the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons. The declaration outlined key rights for disabled people and encouraged member countries to enact legislation and promote initiatives to safeguard these rights and opportunities. The declaration was hailed by growing numbers of disability rights activists who advocated for new legal rights to support the advancement and protection of disabled persons in all areas of civic life, including economic security and self-reliance. New offices, councils and committees were established at all levels of government to liaise with disability rights lobbyists and incorporate their concerns into the political decision-making process. At the federal level, the Bureau on Rehabilitation was established in 1979 to coordinate national efforts to promote the interests of disabled people. In 1975, the Ontario government created the disabled-led Ontario Advisory Council for the Physically Handicapped to consult with disabled Ontarians and make recommendations to government. In 1978, for example, the Québec government established the Office des personnes handicapées following the enactment of provincial legislation promoting the social and vocational integration of disabled people.

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Education For All Handicapped Children Act

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed to guarantee equal access to public education for children with disabilities. This act of legislation specified that every child had a right to education, and mandated the full inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education classes, unless a satisfactory level of education could not be achieved due to the nature of the childs disability.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was renamed in 1990 to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , which further elaborated on the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular classes, but also focused on the rights of parents to be involved in the educational decisions affecting their children. IDEA required that an Individual Education Plan be designed with parental approval to meet the educational needs of a child with a disability.

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The PARC Decree and the most under utilized disabilities resource in PA.

As with every other civil rights movement, the fight for disability rights is one that challenges negative attitudes and pushes back against oppression. But it is also more complex.

Often the movement has diverged into a constellation of single-issue groups that raise awareness of specific disabilities. It has also converged into cross-disability coalitions that increasingly include intersections of race, gender and sexual orientation.

Regardless, the prevailing demands of the movement are the same: justice, equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations.

Though it is difficult to distill modern disability history in one thread, here are a handful of moments that have stood out in the collective memories of disability advocates.


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Milestones And Future Collaboration Opportunities For Disability Rights Activists

Disability rights groups in the US such as the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the National Disabilities Rights Network are awaiting further analysis of the full impacts of the EDs rescindment of the 72 policy memos. During this time, it is essential that the ED consults these advocacy groups to guarantee the 72 policy memos are revised and rendered up-to-date, necessary, and effective. The rescindment of the memos provides the ED with a great opportunity to make improvements to those memos through seeking advice from disability rights activists. Effective collaboration between disability rights advocates and the ED will ensure the memos protect the dignity of and endorse equitable lives for people with disabilities.

We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.

Professor Stephen W. Hawking

Valencia Lyle is a 20172018 Global Health Corps fellow in Rwanda.

All GHC fellows, partners, and supporters are united in a common belief: health is a human right. There is a role for everyone in the movement for health equity. Join the movement applications for our 20182019 class open December 6.

Brief History Of The Americans With Disabilities Act

The history of the ADA did not begin on July 26, 1990 at the signing ceremony at the White House. It did not begin in 1988 when the first ADA was introduced in Congress. The ADA story began a long time ago in cities and towns throughout the United States when people with disabilities began to challenge societal barriers that excluded them from their communities, and when parents of children with disabilities began to fight against the exclusion and segregation of their children. It began with the establishment of local groups to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. It began with the establishment of the independent living movement which challenged the notion that people with disabilities needed to be institutionalized, and which fought for and provided services for people with disabilities to live in the community.

The ADA owes its birthright not to any one person, or any few, but to the many thousands of people who make up the disability rights movement people who have worked for years organizing and attending protests, licking envelopes, sending out alerts, drafting legislation, speaking, testifying, negotiating, lobbying, filing lawsuits, being arrested doing whatever they could for a cause they believed in.

Read the full article here.

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Not Dead Yet: Disability And Assisted Suicide

In the 1990s, debates surrounding assisted suicide and Dr. Jack Kevorkians campaign to assist terminally ill people to end their lives unfurled on the national stage.

The discourse led to the founding of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet.

Tucked into the polarizing conversation was an assumption that people dont want to be disabled, that they feel that being disabled is undignified, said Ms. Cameron, the director of minority outreach for Not Dead Yet. And as a person with disabilities, I totally resent that.

Many advocates link assisted suicide to the eugenics movements of the 1800s which pushed for undesirable traits to be bred out of the gene pool and the Buck v. Bell decision, which allowed doctors to sterilize mental defectives without their consent because, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously wrote, three generations of imbeciles are enough. The ruling still stands.

It comes back to that fundamental belief that some people are actually more valuable than other people, Ms. Burch said, and thats core to how ableism functions.


Freedom From Discrimination And Abuse

Disability Rights Activist Movement Documentary

Freedom from abuse, neglect, and violations of a person’s rights are also important goals of the disability rights movement. Abuse and neglect includes inappropriate seclusion and restraint, inappropriate use of force by staff and/or providers, threats, harassment and/or retaliation by staff or providers, failure to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, and/or medical and mental health care, and/or failure to provide a clean and safe living environment, as well as other issues which pose a serious threat to the physical and psychological well-being of a person with a disability. Violations of patients’ rights include failure to obtain informed consent for treatment, failure to maintain the confidentiality of treatment records, and inappropriate restriction of the right to communicate and associate with others, as well as other restrictions of rights.

As a result of the work done through the disability rights movement, significant disability rights legislation was passed in the 1970s through the 1990s in the U.S.

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The History Of Disability Activism

Looking back at how disabled people have fought for change

Who do you think of when you think about revolutionary movements?

Emily Davison?

What about Paul Hunt? Vic Finklestein? Ken & Maggie Davis?

The names of King, Milk and Davison are instantly recognisable and synonymous with taking critical roles in resisting the oppressions society inflicted upon their communities. The movements they were part of punched through the structures and institutions of oppression and transformed societies forever.

And this is exactly the same for Hunt, Finklestein and the Daviss. For many disabled people, and for disability rights activists in particular the efforts of this small group of activists revolutionised a community long held in chains by discrimination, exploitation and sheer ignorance. Their work didnt begin or end the battle for disability rights but their efforts did break the skin. Their energy collective provided the tools a political critique and a new narrative, self-organising structures, an understanding of movement building and a fearlessness in standing up to those who held power over them that future generations would develop and sharpen with incredible skill.

Before we go further into their story, which begins in the late 60s/early 70s lets take a crash course in exploring the lives for ordinary disabled people in the UK at the time.

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A Brief History Of The Disability Rights Movement

For centuries, people with disabilities were on the fringes of mainstream society. As a class of individuals, they were economically disadvantaged, socially segregated, politically excluded, and almost universally regarded as being less capable than others. In fact, the term handicap is said to have originated from the old practice of people with disabilities holding cap in hand as they begged for a pittance just to survive from one day to the next. For more information about the impact of how we talk about people with disabilities, read Language Matters: Handicapping An Affliction. Those who were not on the streets and who were not cared for by family or other loved ones were placed in institutions. Many spent their lives in such settings where conditions would be considered inhumane by todays standards. You may want to read Rosewood Center: A Demand for Closure, a report about the flawed, illegal and inhumane conditions in a state institution in Maryland. As the result of a series of documented events that date back to 1817, people with disabilities and their families eventually built what is collectively known today as the disability rights movement. For a general timeline of pivotal events that led to the rise of the disability rights movement, which itself includes those with physical, developmental/intellectual, and psychiatric disabilities, read, Disability History: The Disability Rights Movement.

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Timeline Of Disability Rights In The United States

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.

Disability Rights In The 1960s And 70s

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The disabled rights movement intensified. It reached its first pinnacle with the passage of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Act, twice vetoed by President Nixon in 1971 and 1972 for primarily fiscal reasons, was signed by the President in 1973 after significant amendment. However, it was Section 504 , that contained the language that, for the first time, prohibited discrimination of and created rights for disabled persons. Section 504 provides that any program funded by the federal government is prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities.

In 1975, The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities was founded. It was the first disability rights group that was created, governed and administered by disabled individuals, and the first ever national group that pulled together disability groups representing different populations of the disabled.

Library Resources

  • Andrew J. Ruzicho, Handicap Discrimination: How to Comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, KF3738 .R89 1977
  • Anne Marie C. Hermann and Lucinda A. Walker, Handbook of Employment Rights of the Handicapped: Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, KF3469 .H47 1978
  • Fred Pelka, What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, KF480 .P45 2012
  • Ruth Colker, Federal Disability Law in a Nutshell, KF480.Z9 T83 2019

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The Disability Rights Movement

The Disability Rights Movement is a global movement for equal opportunities and rights for people across the disability spectrum.

It includes access and safety in physical environments, buildings and transportation equal opportunities in independent living, employment equity, education, and housing and freedom from discrimination, abuse, neglect, and other violations.

The Disability Rights Movement started in the 1960s in the United States encouraged by the civil rights movement. Through nonviolent protests, sit-ins and silent armies that worked behind the scenes, Americans with Disabilities Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were created, then Section 504 of the ADA was enacted.

Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was the first disability civil rights law to be enacted in the United States. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance, and set the stage for enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Section 504 works together with the ADA and IDEA to protect children and adults with disabilities from exclusion, and unequal treatment in schools, jobs and the community. DREDF

Section 504 essentially gives teeth the ADA. It was won through protest, and these videos below are wonderful tools in understanding both how important Section 504 is for people with disabilities, and how hard-won it was.

The Independent Living Movement

Historical Roots Of Discrimination

Many cultures of the world have treated persons with disabilities as having less worth than able-bodied people have. The Spartans left deformed babies to die on the hillsides. Lunatic asylums in Europe, in centuries past, imprisoned people with psychiatric disabilities in appalling conditions. The Nazis systematically killed children and adults with mental retardation, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities.

The United States also has a long history of discrimination against persons with disabilities. In colonial days, when the focus was on survival and building new communities in the wilderness, physical stamina and moral worthiness were considered essential. Dependency of any kind was considered a financial burden. As early as 1751, states began opening almshouses, workhouses, insane asylums, and other institutions for the support and maintenance of idiots, lunatics, and other persons of unsound minds. In Illinois today, institutional care still takes the lions share of state funding for services to persons with developmental disabilities.

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Nothing About Us Without Us

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.

The Road To Equal Access And Equal Treatment

History and Philosophy of the Disability Rights Movement

Disability rights activists mobilized on the local level demanding national initiatives to address the physical and social barriers facing the disability community. Parent advocates were at the forefront, demanding that their children be taken out of institutions and asylums, and placed into schools where their children could have the opportunity to engage in society just like children who were not disabled.

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