There are people all over the world with disabilities. Some people are born with disabilities while others may become disabled through a disease, a wound in battle, or an accident. The disability rights movement is an effort to protect the civil rights of the disabled and to make sure that people with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities.
International Symbol of Access from the Federal Highway Administration
What does the movement try to achieve?
In order to achieve equal opportunities for the disabled, the movement has tried to achieve certain standards in society. Some of the main goals include safety, equal employment and housing opportunities, education, accessibility, and protection from abuse and neglect.
History of Disability Rights in the United States
The idea that the disabled should have equal rights and opportunities first came to the forefront of the United States with the return of many disabled veterans from World War II. Since then, there has been an active effort to pass laws that help the disabled. Here are three of the major laws passed to protect the disabled in the last 50 years.
Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 - This law was the first federal law passed to protect the rights of the disabled. It said that all federal buildings must be accessible to people with physical disabilities. One example of this is that instead of just having steps, the building must provide ramps or elevators to allow people in wheelchairs access.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - This law was passed to protect the employment and education rights of the disabled. Under this law employers must consider the disabled for job openings and must make "reasonable" accommodations for their needs. Today this law also protects the disabled from being harassed on the job.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 - The most important disability law to date, this civil rights law gave the disabled the same protections against discrimination as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave to people based on race, religion, and gender. This wide ranging law gave the disabled rights to employment, public transportation, and accommodations in public facilities. It outlined important regulations such as handicapped parking, public restrooms, braille requirements for the blind, and more.
Who is considered disabled?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." It goes on to describe some "life activities" as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, walking, lifting, speaking, reading, thinking, working, communicating, etc. A person is not considered disabled if the condition can be corrected. For example, if a person's vision can be corrected by wearing glasses they are not considered disabled due to their poor vision.
Famous Disabled People
Disabled people have contributed greatly to our society. They are heroes, leaders, scientists, entertainers, athletes, and more. Here are a few famous disabled people.
Jim Abbott - Jim Abbott became a major league baseball pitcher even though he was born without a right hand.
Ludwig van Beethoven - One of the greatest music composers in history, Beethoven was deaf for much of his later career.
Ray Charles - Famous singer/songwriter who was completely blind by the age of seven.
Stephen Hawking - One of the most influential scientists of the late 1900s, Hawking became slowly paralyzed after being diagnosed with ALS. Today he communicates using a computer.
Helen Keller - Helen became deaf and blind at a young age from the result of a high fever. She persevered and learned how to read braille and talk. She even wrote books about her experiences.
Christopher Reeve - Christopher Reeve gained fame in his role as Superman as an actor. He was paralyzed after a horse riding accident. He then went on to champion the cause of those with spinal-cord injuries.
Franklin D. Roosevelt - The only president elected to four terms, President Franklin D. Roosevelt lost the ability to walk unassisted after recovering from the disease polio.