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The Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) is pleased to present our month-long blog series that will provide a brief history of significant disability policies, developments, and figures in the United States and Massachusetts throughout the past two centuries. Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 6 Section 15LLLLL, the month of October commemorates Disability History Month.  This observance is dedicated to “increase awareness and understanding of the contributions made by persons with disabilities.”  Last week, we posted Part Two: 1900-1960.

Welcome to Part Three: 1960-1990.  The 1960s saw the disability rights movement emerge in America. The following decades brought the Independent Living movement and protests against discrimination in the form of physical and social barriers.  The tireless efforts of disability rights advocates over several decades would culminate in the passage of the most comprehensive civil rights law for persons with disabilities in history.  Further, many important Massachusetts agencies that serve the disability community, including MOD, were established during this period.

Note: The Massachusetts Office on Disability recognizes that the following Timeline includes language used to describe people with disabilities that is deemed inappropriate and insensitive today.  However, we maintain that these descriptions are being used in their historical context for educational purposes. MOD’s primary mission is to advance legal rights, maximum opportunities, supportive services, accommodations and accessibility in a manner that fosters dignity and self determination.

Timeline: 1960-1990

1960: The first Paralympic Games are held in Rome, Italy.[1]

1961: The President’s Panel on Mental Retardation is established by President John F. Kennedy with the purpose of addressing the needs of Americans with intellectual disabilities.[2] The Panel was renamed the “President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities” in 2003.[3]

The American Standards Association, known today as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), publishes “Making Buildings Accessible to and Usable by the Physically Handicapped,” the first accessibility standard.[4]

American musician, singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder signs with Motown records at age eleven.[5]

1962: The Special Olympics for individuals with intellectual disabilities is founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.[6]

1963: The Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963 provides funding for State Developmental Disabilities Councils, Protection and Advocacy Systems, and University Centers.[7]

1964: In California, Dr. James C. Marsters, a deaf orthodontist and deaf scientist Robert Weitbrecht invent the “Baudot” code for use in teletype (TTY) communication.[8]

1968: The Architectural Barriers Act orders the removal of physical barriers to persons with disabilities,  requiring that “all buildings designed, constructed, altered or leased with federal funds be made accessible.”[9]

The first International Special Olympics Games are held in Chicago, Illinois.[10]

1971: Special Olympics Massachusetts is established.[11]

1972: The Independent Living Movement is started by Ed Roberts and other University of California, Berkeley, students.[12] Roberts had quadriplegia and was denied the right to make decisions which students without disabilities were afforded.[13] The group founded the first Independent Living Center, the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, on the then radical concept of an organization for people with disabilities by people with disabilities.[14]

Ed Roberts in wheelchair. In the background a man holds a sign that reads Civil Rights for Disabled. black & white photo.

Ed Roberts, “Father of Independent Living” —Northeast Independent Living Program, Inc.

1973: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 makes it illegal for federal programs, federally funded or assisted programs, federal employers and federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of disability and also expands the Vocational Rehabilitation program.[15]

1974: The last “Ugly Law” in the country making it illegal for certain individuals with visible disabilities to appear in public is repealed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1974.[16]

1975: The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, is signed into law by President Gerald Ford, requiring public schools to provide equal access to education to students with disabilities by offering a “free and appropriate education.”[17]

1976: The first Winter Paralympic Games are held in Sweden.[18]

1977: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects Americans with disabilities from discrimination by any program or activity receiving federal assistance. The regulations are signed following large demonstrations in 10 U.S. cities, including a 150-person sit-in in San Francisco which lasted 28 days,[19] making it the longest sit-in on federal property in history.[20]

1978: The “Try Another Way” system, which endeavors to teach people with intellectual disabilities to complete complex tasks, paves the way for the Supported Employment system, which engages people with significant disabilities in meaningful work in an integrated, competitive job market with ongoing professional support.[21]

The Federal Rehabilitation Act is amended to include Title VII which provides the first federal funding for the development of a national network of Independent Living Centers.[22]

The National Council on Disability is established within the U.S. Department of Education to ensure equal opportunity, self-sufficiency, independence, inclusion and integration for people with disabilities.[23]

1979: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)- is founded by two mothers of sons with schizophrenia who shared the challenges of raising a child with mental illness.[24] Today, NAMI is the largest grassroots organization in the U.S. for the improvement of the lives of people with mental illness.[25]

1980: The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act allows the U.S. Department of Justice to sue state or local institutions, including mental health and treatment facilities, for violating the rights of people held against their will.[26]

1981: The Massachusetts Office on Disability is established under M.G.L. Chapter 6 Section 185 as the state advocacy agency that serves people with disabilities of all ages.

1982: “Baby Doe” an American newborn with Down syndrome dies in an incubator after doctors advise his parents not to opt for surgery to save his life.[27]

1983: A nation-wide movement for removal of barriers to transportation emerges with advocates heralding accessible transportation as vital to employment, education and community life.[28] The effort is led by ADAPT, originally known as American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit, a grassroots organization that uses nonviolent direct action,[29] and fights for lifts on buses across the country.[30]

1985: The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is established by Chapter 716 of the Acts of 1985 as “the principal agency in the Commonwealth on behalf of people of all ages who are deaf and hard of hearing.”[32]

1986: The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits disability discrimination by domestic and foreign air carriers.

The Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act improves work incentives for people with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) by providing SSI payments and Medicaid coverage while eligible individuals try out employment.[33]

1987: The Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission is created through Massachusetts General Law Chapter 19C as the “independent state agency responsible for the investigation and remediation of instances of abuse committed against persons with disabilities in the Commonwealth.”[34]

1988: The “President’s Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped” is renamed “President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities.”[35]

The Gallaudet University student body, faculty, and others hold a week-long “Deaf President Now” protest on campus in Washington, D.C. to demand the appointment of a deaf president for the university.[36] As a result, Dr. I. King Jordan is made the university’s first deaf president.[37]

Congress expands and renames “National Employ the Handicapped Week” as “National Disability Employment Awareness Month” now observed every October.[38]

The first modern-era Paralympic Games are held in Seoul, South Korea. American athlete Trischa Zorn of the won 12 Gold medals in swimming and set 9 world records.[39]

ADAPT blocks inaccessible Greyhound buses in Denver, CO.[40]

black & white photo, protesters in wheelchairs hold signs in front of Greyhound bus. Signs read ALL Aboard,We Will Ride, Wheelchair Warriors

ADAPT protest inaccessible Greyhound busses in Denver. CO, 1988 —www.dol.gov

Protection from discrimination in housing under the Fair Housing Act is expanded to prohibit discrimination based on disability status under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. The Act also mandates that a certain number of accessible units be built in all new multi-family housing.[41]

1990: In March, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation stalls in the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation. In response, sixty protestors with disabilities crawl or drag themselves up the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. This direct action becomes known as the “Capitol Crawl.”[42]

black & white photo of protestors crawling up Capitol steps

Protesters demand action on ADA legislation by crawling up U.S. Capitol Steps in the “Capitol Crawl” March 1990 —Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, mn.gov

On July 26th, President George H. W. Bush signs the ADA into law. The advocacy efforts of decades before culminated in this, “the most comprehensive disability rights legislation in history.”[43] The ADA prohibits disability discrimination in employment, state and local government programs and services, places of public accommodation and telecommunications and makes it illegal to retaliate against or coerce any individual attempting to enforce their rights under the Act. Listen to remarks from the signing here.

George Bush sits, signing the ADA, surrounded by four others.

President George H.W. Bush signs ADA into law on South Lawn of the White House, 1990 —National Archives and Records Administration

The first Disability Pride Day is held in Boston, MA.[44]

Thank you for your interest in the important history of Americans with disabilities.  Next week we will cover the 25 years following the passage of the ADA: 1990-Present and also look towards the future of disability in the U.S.

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[1] International Paralympic Committee. “Paralympics- History of the Movement.” http://www.paralympic.org/the-ipc/history-of-the-movement?gclid=CNvZ9JnSxMgCFYYRHwodMhgDZw#!prettyPhoto. Retrieved 15 October 2015.

[2] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[3] Id.

[4] National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth. “Timeline.” http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[10] National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth. “Timeline.” http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[11] Special Olympics Massachusetts. “Quick Facts.” https://www.specialolympicsma.org/about-us/quick-facts/. Retrieved 15 October 2015.

[12] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[13] The Northeast Independent Living Program, Inc. “The History of the Independent Living Movement.” http://www.nilp.org/about-us/history/. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[14] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[15] Id.

[16] National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth. “Timeline.” http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[17] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[18] International Paralympic Committee. “Paralympics- History of the Movement.” http://www.paralympic.org/the-ipc/history-of-the-movement?gclid=CNvZ9JnSxMgCFYYRHwodMhgDZw#!prettyPhoto. Retrieved 15 October 2015.

[19] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” Retrieved 14 October 2015. http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[20] Disability Social History Project. “Disability History Timeline.” http://www.disabilityhistory.org/timeline_new.html#y3.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[21] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” Retrieved 14 October 2015. http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[22] The Northeast Independent Living Program, Inc. “The History of the Independent Living Movement.” http://www.nilp.org/about-us/history/. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[23] National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth. “Timeline.” http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[24] National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin. “Mission & History.” http://www.namiwisconsin.org/mission-history/. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[25] National Alliance on Mental Illness. “About NAMI.” https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[26] National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth. “Timeline.” http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[27] Id.

[28] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[29] ADAPT. www.adapt.org. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[30] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” Retrieved 14 October 2015. http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[31] Id.

[32] Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. “Vision and Mission Statement.” http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/mcdhh/vision-and-mission.html. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[33] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[34] Disabled Persons Protection Commission. “Overview.” http://www.mass.gov/dppc/about/overview.html. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[35] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[36] National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth. “Timeline.” http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[37] Gallaudet University. “History of Gallaudet Univserity.” https://www.gallaudet.edu/history.html.   Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[38] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[39] PBS.org. “About the Paralympics – Paralympics History.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/medal-quest/past-games/. Retrieved 15 October 2015.

[40] Disability Social History Project. “Disability History Timeline.” http://www.disabilityhistory.org/timeline_new.html#y3.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[41] National Consortium on Leadership and Disability for Youth. “Timeline.” http://www.ncld-youth.info/index.php?id=61.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[42] Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. “The ADA Legacy Project.” http://mn.gov/web/prod/static/mnddc/live/ada-legacy/ada-legacy-moment27.html. Retrieved 15 October 2015.

[43] United States Department of Labor. “Disability & Employment: A Timeline.” http://www.dol.gov/featured/ada/alternate.version.timeline.htm.  Retrieved 14 October 2015.

[44] Project Access For All. “First Disability Pride Parade NYC 2015.” http://www.projectaccessforall.org/articles/first-disability-pride-parade-nyc-2015/6810. Retrieved 15 October 2015.

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