The Disability Rights Movement is an integral part of US American history. This post is a very, VERY short summary of what it was/is, with the best videos out there on it, and some suggested resources for more information.
Read more and investigate the links at the end of the post!
*Note: this post was originally published in 2018
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.” (wikipedia)
The Disability Rights Movement started in the 1960’s in the United States; encouraged by the civil rights movement. Through nonviolent protests, sit-in’s and “silent armies” that worked behind the scenes, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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 videos speak to the power and resourcefulness of the disability community:
The Independent Living Movement
The Independent Living Movement also came out of California in the 1960’s. It was led by a group of students from UC Berkeley, “The Rolling Quads,” of whom Ed Roberts was a leader. This movements speaks to the fact that people with disabilities know their own needs best, “and therefore they must take the initiative, individually and collectively, in designing and promoting better solutions and must organize themselves for political power. Besides de-professionalization and self-representation, the independent living movement’s ideology comprises de-medicalization of disability, de-institutionalization”; it is cross-disability, that is, it goes across the disability spectrum. (wikipedia)
Many organizations which are fundamental to the ongoing Disability Rights Movement begin with the Independent Living Movement – Center for Independent Living being chief, and giving birth to the World Institute on Disability. Today, many of these organizations are found in the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, California, a stunning center dedicated to disability rights and universal access.
For more information:
- Fading Scars, by Corbett O’Toole
- The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation
- What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement
- No Pity, by Joseph Shapiro
- The Oral History Project on Disability Rights and the Independent Living Movement
- Patient No More – magnificent virtual and real-life exhibit created by the Longmore Institute of San Francisco
- The Right to Live in the World
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.