Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is another product of 1960s and 70s movement building (an oral history and archive is fittingly hosted by UC Berkeley). There’s too much history to telescope into a short post, but the dimensions of what the movement was fighting against are shown in a few examples. Through much of the 20th century it was legal for states to forceably sterilize disabled people. Lack of curb cuts made basic movement impossible. Policies pushed the vast majority of disabled people into institutions like nursing homes and made it impossible for them to use public benefits to live even semi-independently.
Whether someone is temporarily or permanently disabled, physically or developmentally, the protections created by the ADA are crucial to full participation in society. This became starkly clear to me after my father’s massive stroke in October. I spent time with him at Magee Rehab Hospital, and being in a space focused on allowing people to be recognized as full, functional people, regardless how severely their bodies are compromised, was completely radical and sadly uncommon. continue reading>>