SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – July 26 is National Disability Independence Day, but what does that mean? Here is a little bit of information about National Disability Independence Day to keep you informed on the history of the federally recognized day.
National Disability Independence Day is a day meant to commemorate the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This act changed the law surrounding discrimination against people with disabilities in housing, employment, public accommodations and other areas. The intention of the act was to ensure that people with disabilities would not experience discrimination in their public life.
The ADA was passed because of the hard work of disability rights activists all over the United States, but it did not just start on July 26, 1990. In fact, as the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund points out, the disability rights movement started long before the passage of the ADA and long before the enactment of Section 504, which the ADA was modeled after.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) argues that the movement started to gain traction in the 1940’s when disabled veterans began pushing for the United States government to provide rehabilitation and vocational training for them. While plenty of people with disabilities had been advocating for more rights at the time, the ADL argues that World War II veterans were people that citizens of the United States felt sympathetic to. They saw the disabilities of veterans as a product of their sacrifice for their country and many felt the government owed them for that sacrifice.
You can read more about the history of the disability rights movement in the United States before the 1960s by clicking or tapping on the link here.
Prior to the ADA, most people with disabilities did not have access to public transportation. Buildings were made in ways that meant they could not even be entered by people using wheelchairs. Accessible bathrooms were a thing of daydreams.
Because of the work of activists from all over the United States, like young Jennifer Keelen who participated in the Capitol Crawl and the many people who had once attended Camp Jened, the ADA was signed over 30 years ago today.
You can learn more about the history of Camp Jened and how those who attended the camp influenced the disability rights movement by watching “Crip Camp” on Netflix. You can learn more about the disability rights movement by reading the book “The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation” by Doris Fleischer and Frieda Zames.