A selection of events which influenced the progress of the movement for equality for disabled people.
Created by itvs on Sep 20, 2011
Last updated: 10/20/11 at 05:44 PM
A coalition of disability rights advocates and organizations holds the first Disability Pride Parade. Organizers expect 500-600 people to attend the event, which is designed to "change the way people think about and define disability, to break down and end the internalized shame among people with disabilities, and to promote the belief in society that disability is a natural and beautiful part of life." Almost 2,000 attend.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by George W. Bush. The Act provided comprehensive civil rights protection for people with disabilities. Closely modeled after the Civil Rights Act and Section 504, the law was the most sweeping disability rights legislation in history. It mandated that local, state and federal governments and programs be accessible, that businesses with more than 15 employees make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled workers and that public accommodations such as restaurants and stores make “reasonable modifications” to ensure access for disabled members of the public. The act also mandated access in public transportation, communication, and in other areas of public life.
Students, faculty, and the community at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. organize a week-long protest on campus demanding the selection of a deaf president for the university. The protest is called "Deaf President Now" and the Dr. I. King Jordan is named.
Toward Independence, a report of the National Council on the Handicapped, outlined the legal status of Americans with disabilities and documented the existence of discrimination. It cited the need for federal civil rights legislation (eventually passed as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).
The Reagan administration threatened to amend or revoke regulations implementing Section 504 of the (American) Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Disability rights advocates Patrisha Wright, (DREDF), and Evan Kemp, Jr. (Disability Rights Center) led an intense lobbying and grassroots campaign that generated more than 40,000 cards and letters. After three years, the Reagan Administration abandoned its attempts to revoke or amend the regulations. However, the Reagan Administration terminated the Social Security benefits of hundreds of thousands of disabled recipients. Distressed by this action, several disabled people committed suicide. A variety of groups including the Alliance of Social Security Disability Recipients and the Ad Hoc Committee on Social Security Disability fought these terminations.
Justin Dart, a wealthy, influential, and disabled personal friend of Reagan's fought hard against the plan.
Americans with Disabilities for Accessible Public Transportation, now known as ADAPT, began its national campaign for lifts on buses and access to public transit for people with disabilities. For seven years ADAPT—under the leadership of Bob Kafka, Stephanie Thomas, and Mike Auberger—blocked buses in cities across the U.S. to demonstrate the need for access to public transit. After the passage of the ADA (and transit measures gained by ADAPT's hard work), ADAPT began to focus on attendant and community based services, becoming American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today.
The United Nations General Assembly adopts "The World Program of Action Concerning the Disabled" in 1982 to encourage full participation and equality for people with disabilities around the world.
The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) gives the Department of Justice power to sue state or local institutions that violate the rights of people held against their will, including those residing for care or treatment of mental illness.
Frank Bowe, published Handicapping America, about the policies and prejudices that further disable Americans with disabilities. The book quickly becomes the handbook of the disability rights movement. In it he says "America handicaps disabled people. And because that is true, we are handicapping America itself".
American Disabled for Public Transit (ADAPT) was founded. It held a transit bus hostage in Denver, Colorado. A yearlong civil disobedience campaign followed to force the Denver Transit Authority to purchase wheelchair lift-equipped buses.
In April, 1977, after years of waiting for federal guidelines, disability activists lost patience with the government’s delaying tactics and staged protests around the country. The 504 Sit-In demanded enforcement of the first major law to bar discrimination against the disabled. A dramatic twenty-five-day occupation of the federal office building in San Francisco galvanized people and created a strong sense of purpose and pride.
The protests drew national attention, and on April 28, 1977, the government finally released the regulations.
Section 504 requires federal grantees to make their programs and jobs accessible to qualified people with disabilities.
The Federal Communications Commission authorizes reserving Line 21 on television sets for closed captions.
The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) was, in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, a national consumer-led disability rights organization called, by nationally syndicated columnist Jack Anderson and others, “the handicapped lobby”. Created, governed, and administered by individuals with disabilities – which made it a novelty at the time—ACCD rose to prominence in 1977 when it mounted a successful 10-city “sit in” to force the federal government to issue long-overdue rules to carry out Section 504, the world’s first disability civil rights provisions. ACCD also earned a place of honor in the disability rights movement when it helped to secure federal funding for what is now a national network of 600 independent living centers and helped to pave the way for accessible Public Transit in the U.S. After a brief and often tumultuous history, ACCD closed its doors in 1983.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed. Sections 501, 503 and 504 prohibited discrimination in federal programs and services and all other programs or services receiving federal funds. Key language in the Rehabilitation Act, found in Section 504, states “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Ed Roberts and his associates establish a Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Berkeley, CA for the community at large. The center was originally in a roach-infested two-bedroom apartment until the Rehabilitation Administration gave them a $50,000 grant in 1972.
Ed Roberts, "father of the independent living movement," contracts polio in 1953. In 1970, he and and his peers at Cowell (UC Berkeley Health Center) formed a group called the Rolling Quads. The Rolling Quads form the Disabled Students' Program on the U.C. Berkeley campus.
He says "I'm tired of well meaning noncripples with their stereotypes of what I can and cannot do directing my life and my future. I want cripples to direct their own programs and to be able to train other cripples to direct new programs. This is the start of something big -- cripple power. "
Eunice Kennedy Shriver founds the Special Olympics in 1962 to provide athletic training and competition for persons with intellectual disabilities. The organization grows into an international program enabling more than one million young people and adults to participate in 23 Olympic-type sports events each year. The first International Special Olympics Games are held in Chicago, Illinois in 1968.
The Civil Rights Act is passed. While this act helps end discrimination against African Americans and women in the workplace, it does not make any provision for people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities still lack opportunities to participate in and be contributing members of society, are denied access to employment, and are discriminated against based on disability.
Ed Roberts, a young man with polio, enrolls at the University of California, Berkeley. After his admission is rejected, he fights to get the decision overturned, ultimately succeeding. Instead of a dormitory room, he lives in a converted wing of the Cowell Hospital, which can accommodate his 800 pound iron lung. medical clinic.
The 17-year-old Fred Fay.less than a year after his devastating spinal cord injury, launches his disability advocacy career by co-founding "Opening Doors," a counseling and information center.
Clemens Benda, clinical director at the Fernald School in Waltham, Massachusetts, an institution for boys with mental retardation, invites 100 teenage students to participate in a "science club" in which they will be privy to special outings and extra snacks. In a letter requesting parental consent, Benda mentions an experiment in which "blood samples are taken after a special breakfast meal containing a certain amount of calcium," but makes no mention of the inclusion of radioactive substances that are fed to the boys in their oatmeal.
Frederick A. Fay (September 12, 1944 - August 20, 2011) was an early leader in the disability rights movement in the United States. Through a combination of direct advocacy, grassroots organizing among the various disability rights communities, building cross-disability coalitions between disparate disability organizations, and using technology to connect otherwise isolated disability constituencies, Fay worked diligently to raise awareness and pass legislation advancing civil rights and independent living opportunities for people with disabilities across the United States. He won the 1997 Henry B. Betts Award for outstanding achievement in civil rights for Americans with disabilities. Fay was recognized for "flat-out advocacy" over several decades. He helped lead the nationwide efforts by disability advocates to secure passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Rosemary Kennedy Institutionalized after Failed Lobotomy
John F. Kennedy's twenty-three year old sister Rosemary undergoes a prefrontal lobotomy as a "cure" for lifelong mild retardation and aggressive behavior that surfaces in late adolescence. The operation fails, resulting in total incapacity. To avoid scandal, Rosemary is moved permanently to the St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children in Wisconsin. Her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, later founds the Special Olympics in Rosemary's honor.
A group in New York City called the League for the Physically Handicapped formed to protest discrimination by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The league's 300 people -- most disabled by polio and cerebral palsy -- all had been turned down for WPA jobs. The Home Relief Bureau of New York City was supposed to forward their job requests to the WPA, but was stamping all their applications 'PH' for physically handicapped, as a signal to the WPA not to give these people jobs. Members of the league sat in at the Home Relief Bureau for nine days; and went to the WPA headquarters and held a weekend sit-in there. They eventually generated a couple thousand jobs nationwide.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, establishing a program of permanent assistance to adults with disabilities.
The Third Reich's policy for euthanizing the mentally and physically disabled -- codenamed "Aktion T4" -- begins and continues into late 1945.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Elected President
Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the 32nd president of the United States and is re-elected for an unprecedented four terms before dying in office in April 1945. In August 1921, while vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Roosevelt contracted an illness, believed to be polio, which resulted in total and permanent paralysis from the waist down. After becoming President, he helps found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes). His leadership in this organization is one reason he is commemorated on the dime.
The Supreme Court rules in Buck v. Bell that the compulsory sterilization of mental defectives such as Carrie S. Buck, a young Virginia woman, is constitutional under "careful" state safeguards. Perhaps unbelievably, this ruling has never been overturned. In his opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes writes:
"(It) is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind...Three generations of imbeciles are enough."
In 1927 Philip Drinker and Louis Shaw develop the iron lung, a chamber that provides artificial respiration for polio patients being treated for respiratory muscle paralysis.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), a non-profit organization recognized as Helen Keller's cause in the United States, is founded.
Edgar Allen, a businessman in Elyria, Ohio, founds the Ohio Society for Crippled Children, which becomes the national Easter Seals organization. It serves as a model for many of today's charitable organizations—in its methods and, some activists say, in its exclusion of people from the community being helped.
1907: Eugenic Sterilization Law Spreads Like Wildfire
Indiana becomes the first state to enact a eugenic sterilization law—for "confirmed idiots, imbeciles and rapists"—in state institutions. The law spreads like wildfire and is enacted in 24 other states.
National Deaf-Mute College is renamed Gallaudet College in honor of deaf education pioneer Thomas Gallaudet
The American Civil War (1861 - 1865) - 30,000 amputations in the Union Army alone. The first amputee of the war was a young Confederate soldier in Churchville, Virginia.
The Braille system was introduced to America and was taught with some success at the St. Louis School for the Blind.
Louis Braille is born at Coupvray, near Paris. At three years of age an accident deprived him of his sight, and in 1819 he was sent to the Paris Blind School.
Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard establishes the principles and methods used today in the education of the mentally disabled through his controversial work with Victor, the "wild boy of Aveyron."
Phillipe Pinel writes Treatise on Insanity in which he develops a four-part medical classification for the major mental illnesses: melancholy, dementia, mania without delirium, and mania with delirium.
After seeing a group of blind men being cruelly exhibited in a Paris sideshow, Valentin Valentin Haüy, known as the "father and apostle of the blind," establishes the Institution for Blind Children to help make life for the blind more "tolerable." Huay also discovered that sightless persons could read texts printed with raised letters.
Stephen Hopkins, a man with cerebal palsy, is one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Hopkins is known for saying "my hands may tremble, my heart does not."
Thomas Braidwood opened first school for the deaf in England.