History of Disability Rights: Transitions Talks with Priya

24 Nov by Transition USA

History of Disability Rights: Transitions Talks with Priya

Rights and responsibilities for ALL People

Neurodiverse people and those with physical differences have many times been excluded from education opportunities, employment opportunities, housing, and routine activities in their communities throughout the history of the United States. Today, individuals with disabilities have the same rights that all citizens of this nation enjoy. This occurred because of legislation passed in the federal government due to advocates for people with different abilities in the political arena. There is still much progress to be made, but the many changes and improvements are due to our political partners and their legislation for this population. This is whyit’sessential to have individuals in politics advocating for the rights of people of all abilities.

During this century, our political partners have realized the value of people of differing abilities and have placed an importance on them achieving their rights. There are many examples of legislation passed throughout history that provided rights to neurodiverse people and people of different physical abilities.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, section 504: developed based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this piece of legislation made it illegal to discriminate based on disability diagnosis at any federally-funded public entity. This was the result of sit-ins at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare office.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): this law enacted in 1975 mandated that all federally-funded public schools give equal access to education and a free meal to children with disabilities. This law allows children with disabilities to receive a public education today. The Supreme Courtcase of Brown vs. Board of Education, which made it illegal to segregate schools based on race, was used as a precedent for parents of children with disabilities who decided to file lawsuits to afford their children the same rights. This is how IDEA came into existence. This law also requires students to receive appropriate and reasonable accommodations to complete school work.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAA): In 1990, President George H.W Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibited the discrimination of people with disabilities in all entities and areas of life from employment to public transportation. This included non-federally funded entities. The definition of disability under this act was broadened in 2008 to include anyone with “an impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities.” This led to the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act of 2008.

Olmstead ACT: In the early nineties, two women from Georgia named Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson were placed in an institution for people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities. However, their preference was to be placed in a community-based facility, and they came upon roadblock after roadblock in their attempts to do so. This led to a Supreme Courtcase against Thomas Olmsted, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources. In 1999, the court ruled that segregation of people with disabilities was a form of discrimination according to the ADA.

All of these pieces of important legislation were the result of people who advocated for human rights. They were modeled after the civil rights movements of African Americans, immigrants, women, and the LGBTQIA+ community. When one under-represented group fights for, and obtains human rights, it paves the way for others. These pieces of legislation would not have been passed without protesters and lawmakers who actively played a role in advocating for people of all abilities. It is critical that people with disabilities make themselves aware of and vote for elected officials locally and nationally who will continue this important legislation to make sure the rights of all are represented.

At Transitions, we have a core curriculum that teaches our students about their rights and the responsibilities that accompany them. With all decisions and choices comes the acceptance of responsibility and any outcomes. Leadership and advocacy are imperative for all people and a value we treasure. Locally we have several supporters in the House and Senate who value equality for all and have paved the road for our students to attend college, have gainful employment, and pursue their dreams.  

Ultimately, neurodiverse people and those with different physical abilities wouldn’t be where they are today without their strongest advocates behind them, their parents, and other loved ones. In this month of gratitude, we reflect on how grateful we are at Transitions for you and how you support your loved ones and advocate for their rights. Transitions wouldn’t be where it is today without people who care for the rights of those with disabilities. Carmel, J. (2020, July 22). ‘Nothing about us without us’: 16 moments in the fight for disability rights. The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/us/ada-disabilities-act-history.html.

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