Rights and Responsibilities

History of Disability Rights

People with disabilities formed a civil rights movement inspired by that of the 1960s, arguing that their isolation and segregation was not a natural result of disability, but rather of physical and attitudinal barriers. They said inaccessible spaces and people’s assumptions about their abilities were the problem. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 now ask us to think of disability discrimination as we do race or gender discrimination.

“Access is a Civil Right”

Photo: Rally for passage of the ADA

—Photo courtesy of Tom Olin

In a rally in Washington, D.C., before the passage of the ADA, demonstrators extend the frame of civil rights by incorporating slogans from the civil rights movement.

I can’t even get to the back of the bus!

Photo: Protest for public transit accessibility

—Photo courtesy of Tom Olin

A demonstrators sign at a New Jersey public transit accessibility protest illustrates the core civil rights issue for people with impairment accessibility.

Disabled and Proud

Photo: Man holding a sign that says Disabled and Proud at a protest

—Photo courtesy of Tom Olin

The development of a minority group consciousness has given rise to a disability movement which seeks to promote pride in the history, activities, and cultural identity of people with impairments throughout the world.