Disability History

Brief History of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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. There are far too many people whose commitment and hard work contributed to the passage of this historic piece of disability civil rights legislation to be able to give appropriate credit by name. Without the work of so many – without the disability rights movement – there would be no ADA.

The disability rights movement, over the last couple of decades, has made the injustices faced by people with disabilities visible to the American public and to politicians. This required reversing the centuries long history of “out of sight, out of mind” that the segregation of disabled people served to promote. The disability rights movement adopted many of the strategies of the civil rights movements before it.

Retrieved from: https://dredf.org/about-us/publications/the-history-of-the-ada/

Read the full article here.

Disability Activist

Brief Disability Legislation Timeline

1974 — The Rehabilitation Act Amendments included a broader definition of handicapped individuals, transferred the Rehabilitation Services Administration to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, strengthened the Randolf-Sheppard Act; and provided for convening a White House Conference on “Handicapped Individuals.”

1975 — The Education for All Handicapped Children Act ensured a free, appropriate, public education for all students with handicapping conditions; established that students have a right to receive related services that are developmental, corrective, or other supportive services including, but not limited to, speech pathology, audiology, psychological services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and medical services (for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only).

1977 — Groups of individuals with disabilities took over federal buildings across the country in protest because the rules and regulations associated with Section 504 had not been signed by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for implementation. The take-over in San Franciso last 29 days and ended only after the rules and regulations were signed to implement the provisions and protections of non-discrimination based on disability. At the same time these were signed, the rules and regulations for the Education for All Handicapped Children Act were also implemented.

1978 — The Rehabilitation Act Amendments provided comprehensive services for independent living through Title VII, including provisions for Comprehensive Services, Centers for Independent Living, Independent Living Services for Older Blind Individuals and Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights; mandated that applicants for funds under Title VII provide assurance that individuals with disabilities would be employed, substantially involved in policy, and consulted on the direction and management of independent living centers; this major focus recognized that achievement of substantially gainful activity (employment) was not the only significant outcome that could be gained from the rehabilitation system and expanded the view of the person with needs that cut across the bureaucracy; also provided VR service grants to Native American tribes.

1987 — The Code of Federal Regulations extended the services under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act to include school health services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.

1988 — The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act provided states with grants to achieve systems change so that assistive devices and services will be available to under served groups, viewing each child, adult, and older adult as entitled to equal access to opportunities achieved through assistive technology; one of the first laws to repeatedly drive home the mandate for consumer-responsive services and significant inclusion of persons with disabilities in planning, implementing and evaluating progress toward systems change. Students at Gallaudet University go on strike and close the university in protest to the appointment of another non-Deaf university president. Officials finally relented and appointed the school’s first Deaf president.

1990 — The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees the rights of persons with disabilities to equal access to, and non-discriminatory behavior based on disability, in employment (Title I), government services including transportation (Title II), public accommodations (Title III), telecommunications (Title IV), and other services such as insurance (Title V); inclusion, integration, accommodation and accessibility are the underlying premise. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act amended the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, changing its name and adding rehabilitation counseling, recreation (including therapeutic recreation), and social work services to the federal definition of related services.

1992 — The Rehabilitation Act Amendments emphasized employment as the primary goal of rehabilitation; mandated presumptive employability, meaning applicants will be presumed to be employable unless proven otherwise; state that eligible individuals must be provided choice and increased control in determining the vocation rehabilitation goals and objectives, determining services, providers of services, and methods to provide and/or secure services.

2008 — The Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reiterate who is covered by the ADA civil rights protections.  It revises the definition of “disability” to more broadly encompass impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. 

For the Full timeline: Colorado State. “Disability Legislation History.” Student Disability Center, 30 Jan. 2018, disabilitycenter.colostate.edu/awareness/disability-history/.

DISABILITY Documentary

“Jennifer Brea’s Sundance award-winning documentary, Unrest, is a personal journey from patient to advocate to storyteller. Jennifer is twenty-eight years-old, working on her PhD at Harvard, and months away from marrying the love of her life when a mysterious fever leaves her bedridden. When doctors tell her it’s “all in her head,” she picks up her camera as an act of defiance and brings us into a hidden world of millions that medicine abandoned.

In this story of love and loss, newlyweds Jennifer and Omar search for answers as they face unexpected obstacles with great heart. Often confined by her illness to the private space of her bed, Jennifer connects with others around the globe. Like a modern-day Odysseus, she travels by Skype into a forgotten community, crafting intimate portraits of four other families suffering similarly. Jennifer Brea’s wonderfully honest and humane portrayal asks us to rethink the stigma around an illness that affects millions. Unrest is a vulnerable and eloquent personal documentary that is sure to hit closer to home than many could imagine.”

The full movie can be streamed on Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, or Vimeo.