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Ask who has heard of the disability rights movement, Ed Roberts, and the Section 504 sit-ins at the San Francisco Federal Building?

We have learned about the histories of all other groups, including the African American civil rights movement and the women’s movement, but not our own

Slide 2 – Models of Disability

The medical model is the way our society has thought about disability for a very long time…

Slide 3 – Medical Model Reflected in History

There are many ways throughout our history that the medical model influences the way we look at and treat people with disabilities.

[Institutionalization bullet]: People with all different types of disabilities have been kept locked up away from the rest of society. This includes people with mental health disabilities, intellectual (or developmental disabilities), and people with physical disabilities. The institutionalization of people with disabilities still occurs today, and many advocates are fighting against this and helping to move people with disabilities out of institutions and into the community.

[Holocaust bullet]: Who here has heard of the holocaust? Many of you have, but did you know that Hitler tested out his ideas to create what he thought was the “perfect race” by testing out his killing machines on people with disabilities? He called this a “euthanasia program”, and killing people with disabilities so that this “inferior race” could be eliminated forever.

Slide 4 – Medical Model Reflected in Current Events

[Telethons bullet]: Who here has ever seen the Jerry Lewis Telethon for the muscular dystrophy association? This telethon often shows young children with disabilities looking sad, and trying to raise money to cure them of their disability or to make sure that no other children are born with a disability. This gives the idea that these children cannot be happy until their disability is eliminated, and that the only way to “fix” the problem of disability is to make it go away. But soon we’re going to talk about another way of looking at how to solve the “problem of disability” that doesn’t involve curing the individual of their disability.

[Supercrip bullet]: Supercrips can be described as people who go above and beyond normal expectations to show that their disability can’t stop them from doing anything – this includes people who are blind or paraplegic who climb mount everest. This is great, but one of this issues that people in the disability community point out with this is that people with disabilities are often only shown in the media doing extraordinary things, and not just living normal lives. How often have you seen a romantic movie where the main character falling in love is a person with a disability?

[Jack Kevorkian and assisted suicide bullet]: Jack Kevorkian was a doctor who helped people with terminal illness AND people with disabilities to commit suicide. A report showed that 71% of the people who Dr. Kevorkian helped to commit suicide were women with non life threatening disabilities. The people with disabilities who wanted to die used a “loss of dignity” argument: “if I can’t go to the bathroom by myself, my life isn’t worth living”. However, as many of you are probably aware, just because you need assistance doing certain things it doesn’t mean you can’t have a fulfilling, successful, and independent life.

Slide 5 – Medical Model Affects us Personally

The medical model has affected the way that many people with disabilities think about themselves and how they interact with others.

Slide 6 - Disability Leaders wanted change

No additional talking points

Slide 7 – A new model of disability: The Social Model

A new way of looking at disability is called the social model. This is the way that many of the leaders of the disability rights movement think about the concept of disability, and how we can help solve some of the problems that being “different” create.

Slide 8 – The social model, cont.

No additional talking points

Slide 9 – Fighting for Change

[504 Sit-In bullet]: In 1977, people with disabilities were a part of the longest “sit-in” (staying overnight and not leaving the building) at a Federal building. Up to 150 people with disabilities stayed overnight (with no showers!!) at the San Francisco Federal Building for 26 days in an effort to encourage the President to sign the regulations to support Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These regulations are the first major law protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities, and making discrimination and inaccessibility illegal.

Leaders of the sit-in were Ed Roberts and Judy Heumann [pronounced “Hue man”]. These individuals also became the founders of the Independent Living Movement.

[Ed Roberts bullet]: Founder of the Independent Living Movement. Used an “iron lung” due to polio, and fought tirelessly to be able to live in the dorms and attend school at UC Berkeley back in 1962. He also helped to start the first Independent Living Center in Berkeley, Ca. and was one of the first people with a significant disability to be the director of the California Department of Rehabilitation, an agency which had previously denied him services because they said he was “unemployable”.

[ADAPT bullet]: ADAPT is an activist group which started out with a focus on fighting for accessible transportation by sitting in the street and blocking inaccessible buses from moving. Now their main focus is fighting to get people with disabilities out of institutions and into community living.

[Americans with Disabilities Act bullet]: Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (or the ADA) is a very important law which further increases the protections against discrimination of people with disabilities. The ADA creates guidelines for physical accessibility (making it easier for people with disabilities to get into buildings, restaurants, and ride public transportation) and nondiscrimination in the workplace (requiring employers to make “reasonable accommodations” so individuals with disabilities can do their job). The ideas behind the ADA started in 1981 Justin Dart and his wife Yoshiko went on a national tour at their own expense, meeting with disability activists in every state. Along with other members of the National Council on Disability, they drafted a national civil rights law, and advocated tirelessly until the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.

[YO! Disability History Week and Anti-Bullying Campaign bullet]: Youth in California are right now leading a Disability History Week campaign, advocating for disability history to be taught to students with and without disabilities. They are also working on an anti-bullying campaign, which is helping to decrease bullying of students with disabilities. Youth advocates are playing an important role in making a difference in our community! If you want to get involved and make a difference in your school or your community, look up YO! Disabled and Proud online in the Independent Living chapter of the Youth Transition Toolkit website.

[Fighting to keep our rights and services bullet]: Although there are a lot of improvements that have been made to increase the rights of people with disabilities to live and participate in our community, the fight is not over. Advocacy is still needed to help keep the services we have!

Slide 10 – Who am I?

Now we’re going to play a game where I’m going to give some information about a particular person who is important to the history of people with disabilities, and you’re going to guess who that person is.

Slide 11 – Picture

Answer: Franklin Roosevelt

Slide 12 – Who am I?

No Additional Talking points

Slide 13 – Picture

Answer: Ed Roberts

Slide 14 - Who am I?

No Additional Talking points

Slide 15 – Picture

Answer: Judy Heumann

Slide 16 – Quote



New disability leaders are needed to continue the fight for our rights and full inclusion into society… We hope that some of those leaders are right here in the room!


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