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Disability Rights Struggles: Success and Current Challenges

Published: 2011-05-04 - Updated: 2016-05-21
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Synopsis: As People with Disabilities we are very capable of working towards achieving rights and creating organizations.

As People with Disabilities we are very capable of working towards achieving rights and creating organizations.

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As People with Disabilities we are very capable of working towards achieving rights and creating organizations.


The year of 1990 in America found the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being signed into law as Justin Dart watched. Justin was given a pen that was used to sign this incredibly important piece of legislation, a symbolic item representing the efforts of countless People with Disabilities across the nation. The ADA is considered by many to be the most important civil rights law since Title 504. It has support from across this nation's largest minority population - People with Disabilities, as well as supporters and advocates.

As People with Disabilities we are very capable of working towards achieving rights and creating organizations. Advocates who work alongside us are just as able. Take Paul Hearne for example. Paul is a leader in the disability community who, in 1995, achieved his dream of creating a national association that provides People with Disabilities increased consumer power, as well as a stronger public voice, through the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

Our desire to participate in society is strong

In many instances, so strong that our voices cannot be silenced. The Telecommunications Act was passed in 1996 because enough of us expressed our desire to communicate and participate. The Telecommunications Act requires that telephones, computers, closed captioning, and a number of other telecommunication devices or equipment are accessible to People with Disabilities.

The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvements Act of 1999, or TWWIIA, expanded the availability of both Medicaid and Medicare because enough People with Disabilities expressed a desire to participate in society through work. It certainly took long enough - Paul Longmore author of, 'Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability,' protested about this very issue as far back as 1988!

One of the most reasonable, honest and very human demands that so many People with Disabilities have made is NOT to be placed in institutions. Society has endlessly pursued a Victorian-era perspective of throwing us into institutions out of a number of misconceived perceptions that ill-serve us. The year 1999 finally found the Olmstead v. L.C. Case in front of the Supreme Court, which ruled that unnecessary institutionalization of People with Disabilities constitutes discrimination and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court further ruled that people have a right to receive benefits in the, "most integrated setting appropriate to their needs," ruling that failing to find a community-based placement for a qualified Person with a Disability comprises illegal discrimination.

People with Disabilities also know how to celebrate

We have Pride in who we are, as demonstrated in 2004 at the First Disability Pride Parade in the city of Chicago. Disability organizations and rights advocates participated in the parade, designed to change the way people define and think about disability itself. The purpose of the parade was to put an end to the internalized shame among People with Disabilities, as well as to promote the belief in society as a whole that disability is indeed natural and is a beautiful part of life.

Challenges we certainly do know. In the year 2005, the State of Tennessee presented People with Disabilities with massive cuts to the Medicaid program in that state, leading to a sit-in at the Governor's office. The sit-in lasted for seventy-five days! The previous record was set in the year 1977 by the HEW office takeover.

Right now; today

People with Disabilities are facing an immense challenge due to the proposal by Paul Ryan, a Republican who wants to change Medicaid forever. Paul Ryan wants to change Medicaid into, 'voucher,' programs that would find us begging in line for health care. A, 'voucher,' is a tiny slip of, 'see you later,' paper that is supposed to promise you something. We have all witnessed promises from the government in the past, haven't we

Eighty-Nine ADAPT protesters were arrested at the Cannon House Office where they were protesting against Representative Paul Ryan's Medicaid plan. ADAPT says that Ryan's plan would force People with Disabilities to live in nursing homes, instead of in our own homes - something the Supreme Court has ruled is discrimination. What this should tell you is that Mr. Paul Ryan's proposal is anti-disability, as well as discriminatory.

We; as People with Disabilities, have fought for the ADA Rights we now have. We have worked to establish and maintain organizations for our support, working in conjunction with advocates, family members and friends. People with Disabilities in America have made our voices heard and now have communications equipment with which to further make our same voices heard. We have Pride; demonstrated Pride.

We know how to protest.

We know how to achieve success and gain rights. As we face the challenge of the Ryan Proposal related to Medicaid, there is absolutely no way we can remain silent as our health care rights are trampled upon by a young Republican representative. The Supreme Court has ruled that institutionalization is discrimination through the Olmstead case and we cannot afford to allow Mr. Paul Ryan, Republican to take that away from us.

Follow ADAPT's lead!

Make phone calls to your representatives in Congress and the Senate. Write e-mails to them and tell them how important your freedom to live in the community is.

U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan -

Direct action in the struggle for Medicaid -

89 arrested in Medicaid plan protest -

Why I Burned My Book -

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