A CHRONOLOGY OF THE DISABILITY RIGHTS MOVEMENTS
1980 - 1989
- Congress passes the Social Security Amendments, with Section 1619 designed
to address work disincentives within the Social Security Disability Insurance
and Supplemental Security Income programs. Other provisions mandate a review
of Social Security recipients, leading to the termination of benefits of
hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.
- Congress passes the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act,
authorizing the U.S. Justice Department to file civil suits on behalf of
residents of institutions whose rights are being violated.
- The first issue of the Disability Rag & Resource is published in
- Disabled Peoples' International is founded in Singapore, with the
participation of advocates from Canada and the United States.
- The Womyn's Braille Press is founded in Minneapolis to make women's and
feminist literature available in braille and on tape.
- The International Year of Disabled Persons begins with speeches before the
United Nations General Assembly. During the year, governments are encouraged
to sponsor programs bringing people with disabilities into the mainstream of
- In an editorial in the New York Timer, Evan Kemp Jr. attacks the Jerry
Lewis National Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, writing that "the very
human desire for cures can never justify a television show that reinforces a
stigma against disabled people."
- Publication of Images of Ourselves: Women with Disabilities Talking by Jo
Campling and Ad Things Are Possible by Yvonne Duffy highlights the concerns of
women with disabilities.
- The newly elected Reagan Administration threatens to amend or revoke
regulations implementing Section 504 1983 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Disability rights
advocates, led by Patrisha Wright at the Disability Rights Education and
Defense Fund (DREDF) and Evan Kemp, Jr. at the Disability Rights Center,
respond with an intensive lobbying effort and a grassroots campaign that
generates more than 40,000 cards and letters. After three years, the Reagan
Administration abandons its attempts to revoke or amend the regulations.
- Though the Reagan Administration was said to terminate the Social Security benefits of
hundreds of thousands of disabled recipients it was also said that Reagan's
policies were begun under the adinistration of Jimmy Carter. Many Advocates charged that these
terminations are an effort to reduce the federal budget and often do not
reflect any improvement in the condition of those being terminated. A variety
of groups, including the Alliance of Social Security Disability Recipients and
the Ad Hoc Committee on Social Security Disability, spring up to fight these
terminations. Several disabled people, in despair over the loss of their
benefits, commit suicide.
- National Black Deaf Advocates is founded.
- The parents of "Baby Doe" in Bloomington, Indiana, are advised by their
doctors to deny a surgical procedure to unblock their newborn's esophagus,
because the baby has Down Syndrome. Although disability rights activists try
to intervene, Baby Doe starves to death before legal action can be taken. The
case prompts the Reagan Administration to issue regulations calling for the
creation of "Baby Doe squads" to safeguard the civil rights of disabled
- The Telecommunications for the Disabled Act mandates telephone access for
deaf and hard-of-hearing people at important public places, such as hospitals
and police stations, and that all coin-operated phones be hearing
aid-compatible by January 1985. It also calls for state subsidies for
production and distribution of TDDs (telecommunications devices for the deaf),
more commonly referred to as TTYs.
- The National Council on Independent Living is formed to advocate on behalf
of independent living centers and the independent living movement.
- The Disabled Children's Computer Group (DCCG) is founded in Berkeley,
- Ed Roberts, Judy Heumann, and Joan Leon found the World Institute on
Disability in Oakland, California.
- American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) is organized at
the Atlantis Community Headquarters in Denver, Colorado. For the next seven
years ADAPT conducts a civil disobedience campaign against the American Public
Transit Association (APTA) and various local public transit authorities to
protest the lack of accessible public transportation.
- The National Council on the Handicapped issues a call for Congress to "act
forthwith to include persons with disabilities in the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and other civil and voting rights legislation and regulations."
- The United Nations expands the International Year of Disabled Persons into
the International Decade of Disabled Persons, to last from 1983 to 1992.
- Sharon Kowalski is disabled by a drunk driver near Onamia, Minnesota. Her
parents, discovering that she is a lesbian, refuse to allow her to return home
to her lover Karen Thompson, instead keeping her in a nursing home. Thompson's
eight-year struggle to free Kowalski becomes a focus of disability rights
advocates and leads to links between the lesbian and disability rights
- The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is founded by the President's
Committee on Employment of the Handicapped to provide information to
businesses with disabled employees.
- The Baby Jane Doe case, like the 1982 Bloomington Baby Doe case, involves
an infant being denied needed medical care because of her disability. The case
results in litigation argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Bowen v.
American Hospital Association, and in passage of the Child Abuse Prevention
and Treatment Act Amendments of 1984.
- George Murray becomes the first wheelchair athlete to be featured on the
Wheaties cereal box.
- The U.S. Supreme Court rules, in Irving Independent School District v.
Tatro, that school districts are required under the Education for All
Handicapped Children Act of 1975 to provide intermittent catheterization,
performed by the school nurse or a nurse's aide, as a "related service" to a
disabled student. School districts can no longer refuse to educate a disabled
child because they might need such a service.
- The National Council of the Handicapped becomes an independent federal
- Congress passes the Social Security Disability Reform Act in response to
the complaints of hundreds of thousands of people whose Social Security
disability benefits have been terminated. The law requires that payment of
benefits and health insurance coverage continue for terminated recipients
until they have exhausted their appeals and that decisions by the Social
Security Administration to terminate benefits are made only on the basis of
"the weight of the evidence" in a particular recipient's case.
- The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act mandates that
polling places be accessible or that ways be found to enable elderly and
disabled people to exercise their right to vote. Advocates find that the act
is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.
- Wry Crips, a radical disability theatre group, is founded in California.
- The U.S. Supreme Court rules, in Burlington School Committee v. Department
of Education, that schools must pay the expenses of disabled children enrolled
in private programs during litigation under the Education for All Handicapped
Children Act of 1975, if the courts rule such placement is needed to provide
the child with an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.
- The U.S. Supreme Court rules, City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center,
that localities cannot use zoning laws to prohibit group homes for people with
developmental disabilities from opening in a residential area sole because its
residents are disabled.
- Gini Laurie founds the International Polio Network, based in St. Louis,
Missouri, and begins advocating for recognition of post-polio syndrome.
- The National Association of Psychiatric Survivors is founded.
- The Air Carrier Access Act is passed, prohibiting airlines from refusing
to serve people simply because they are disabled, and from charging them more
for airfare than non-disabled travelers.
- The National Council on the Handicapped issues Toward Independence, a
report outlining the legal status of Americans with disabilities, documenting
the existence of discriminating and citing the need for federal civil rights
legislation (what will eventually be passed as the Americans with Disabilities
Act of 1990).
- Concrete Change, a grassroots organization advocating for accessible
housing, is organized in Atlanta, Georgia.
- The Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act is passed,
allowing recipients of Supplemental Security Income and Social Security
Disability Insurance to retain benefits, particularly medical coverage, even
after they obtain work. The act is intended to remove the disincentives that
keep disabled people unemployed.
- The Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act is passed,
setting up protection and advocacy agencies for people who are in-patients or
residents of mental health facilities.
- The Society for Disability Studies is founded.
- The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986 define supported employment as a
"legitimate rehabilitation outcome."
- The Alliance for Technology Access is founded in California by the
Disabled Children's Computer Group and the Apple Computer Office of Special
- Marlee Marlin wins an Oscar for her performance in Children of a Lesser
- The AXIS Dance Troupe is founded in Oakland, California.
- The DisAbled Women's Network (DAWN) is founded in Winnipeg, Canada.
- The US. Supreme Court, in School Board of Nassau County, Fla. v. Airline,
outlines the rights of people with contagious disease under Title V of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It establishes that people with infectious;
diseases cannot be fired from their jobs "because of prejudiced attitude or
ignorance of others." This ruling is a landmark precedent for people with
tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases or disabilities, and for
people, such as individuals with cancer or epilepsy, who are discriminated
against because others fear they may be contagious.
- The Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) is founded in Chicago.
- Students at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., organize a week long
shutdown and occupation of their campus to demand selection of a deaf
president after the Gallaudet Board of Trustees appoints a non-deaf person as
president of the university. On Marck 13, the Gallaudet administration
announces that I. King Jordan will be the university's first deaf president.
- Deaf Life begins monthly publication in Rochester, New York.
- The Technology-Related Assistance Act for Individuals with Disabilities
(the "Tech Act" is passed, authorizing federal funding to state projects
designed to facilitate access to assistive technology.
- The Fair Housing Amendments Act adds people with disabilities to those
groups protected by federal fair housing legislation, and it establishes
minimum standards of an adaptability for newly constructed multiple-dwelling
- The National Council on the Handicapped issues On the Threshold of
Independence and a first deaf of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
which is introduced into Congress by Rep. Tony Coelho and into the Senate by
Sen. Lowell Weicker.
- The Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans
with Disabilities is created by Rep. Major R. Owens and co-chaired by Justine
Dart Jr. and Elizabeth Boggs. The task force begins building grassroots;
support for passage of the ADA.
- Congress overturns President Ronald Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights
Restoration Act of 1987. The act undoes the Supreme Court decision in Grove
City College v. Bell and other decisions limiting the scope of federal civil
rights law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- The U.S. Supreme Court, in Honig v. Doe, affirms the "stay put rule"
established under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975,
under which school authorities cannot expel or suspend or otherwise move
disabled children from the setting agreed upon the child's Individualized
Education Program (IEP) without a due process hearing.
- The National Parent Network on Disabilities is established as an umbrella
organization for the Parent Training and Information Centers.
- The federal appeals court, in ADAPT v. Skinner, rules that federal
regulations requiring that transit authorities spend only 3 percent of their
budgets on access are arbitrary and discriminatory.
- The original version of the American with Disabilities Act, introduced
into Congress the previous year, is redrafted and reintroduced. Disability
organizations across the country advocate on its behalf with Patrisha Wright
as "general" and Marilyn Golden, Liz Savage, Justin Dart Jr., and Elizabeth
Boggs as principal coordinators or this effort.
- The Center for Universal Design (originally the Center for Accessible
Housing) is founded by Ronald Mace in Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Mouth: The Voice of Disability Rights begins publication in Rochester, New
- The President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped is renamed the
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Movements in the 1800s
Movements in the 1900-1910
Movements in the 1911-30
Disability Rights Movements in the
Disability Rights Movements in the 1940's
Disability Rights Movements in the
Disability Rights Movements in the 1960's
Disability Rights Movements in the 1970's
Disability Rights Movements in the
Disability Rights Movements in the 1990's
Universally Copyrighted, All Rights Reserved (copyright
2005 MPLF, Andrew Zito et al contact for author's consent to fair use
(fascists only have rights to drop dead, die,
or be killed!)