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A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: Disability Rights in the 1960s and 70s

This guide focuses on the civil rights that various groups have fought for within the United States.

Disability Rights in the 1960s and 70s

The disabled rights movement intensified.  It reached its first pinnacle with the passage of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  The Act, twice vetoed by President Nixon in 1971 and 1972 for primarily fiscal reasons, was signed by the President in 1973 after significant amendment.  However, it was Section 504 (interestingly, not one of the provisions objected to by the President), that contained the language that, for the first time, prohibited discrimination of and created rights for disabled persons.  Section 504 provides that any program funded by the federal government is prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities.

By now, there were multiple advancements in rights for disabled citizens.  The first handicap parking sticker had been created (Washington DC, 1973); the first legal advocacy center, The National Center for Law and the Handicapped, was founded at the University of Notre Dame; President Kennedy called for a reduction in the number of mentally disabled people in residential treatment centers.  Demonstrations were held by disabled activists in Washington D.C. to protest the veto of the Rehabilitation Act. Among those organizing demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere were the groups Disabled in Action, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the National Paraplegia Foundation.

In 1975, The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities was founded.  It was the first disability rights group that was created, governed and administered by disabled individuals, and the first ever national group that pulled together disability groups representing different populations of the disabled.

 

Selected Library Resources:

  • Richard K. Scotch, From Good Will to Civil Rights: Transforming Federal Disability Policy, KF480 .S3 2001 
  • Jack B. Hood, Benjamin A. Hardy and Laura A. Simpson, Workers' Compensation and Employee Protection Laws in a Nutshell, KF3615.Z9 H64 2017 (available from the Study Aid collection at the Circulation Desk) 
  • Fred Pelka, What We Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, KF480 .P45 2012
  • Ruth Colker, Federal Disability Law in a Nutshell, KF480 .C654 2019, available as a Study Aid from the Circulation Desk

 

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