NOD Forum: Honoring the Disability Rights Movement

The road to disability rights has been a long one. One that started long before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was passed.

In celebration of 40 years of the National Organization on Disability, disability leaders, supporters and activists gathered in Washington, D.C last week to discuss the journey of the disability rights movement at NOD’s annual forum.

History of the Disability Rights Movement

Judy Heumann, a disability rights leader, said during the forum that the disability rights movement was really born between 1973 and 1977.

One group in particular that enabled more representation for people with disabilities on Capitol Hill was the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD), which was an organization led by “people who were deaf or blind or who had various disabilities,” she said. ACCD really rose to recognition in the disability rights community when it organized a 10-city sit-in across the U.S. that forced the Federal Government to sign regulations having to do with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The Section 504 sit-ins stemmed from the Federal Government’s failure to enforce legislation in that section of the Rehabilitation act. Heumann led one of these demonstrations in 1972 on Madison Avenue in New York City, which had 80 activists and stopped traffic.

Disability Rights Today

There’s still work to be done when it comes to achieving disability rights, but Biden Administration is taking steps to do so.

On Sept. 28 during a celebration to honor 32 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Biden said he is working to update transportation systems to be more accessible, is creating new jobs for people with disabilities and is expanding high-speed Internet access to make it easier for people with disabilities to work, go to school and connect with others.

“For our country, the ADA is a testament to the character of our people, to the country. It’s proof we can work together and keep moving closer to realizing the promise of America for all Americans,” Biden said during the ceremony. “And it’s proof of the power of our example — an American law that is a global model, inspiring 180 other nations to pass similar disability laws.”