Highlights From The Disability Rights Movement


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and became a significant landmark in people with disabilities’ quest for equal rights.  In addition to the ADA, several people, organizations and events influenced the Disability Rights Movement.  These are just some of the highlights:

1956 – Congress passes the Social Security Amendments of 1956, creating a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program for workers with disabilities ages 50 to 64

1963 – President Kennedy, in an address to Congress, calls for a reduction “over a number of years and by hundreds of thousands, [in the number] of persons confined” to residential institutions, and he asks that methods be found “to retain in and return to the community the mentally ill.”

1964 – The Civil Rights Act is passed, but does not cover people with disabilities in its discrimination protections

1965 Medicare and Medicaid are established through passage of the Social Security Amendments of 1965

1968 – The Architectural Barriers Act is passed – widely considered to be the first disability rights legislation – and mandates that federally constructed buildings and facilities be accessible to people with physical disabilities

1970 – The Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction amendments are passed, containing the first legal definition of developmental disabilities (DD).

1971 – The National Center for Law and the Handicapped is founded at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, becoming the first legal advocacy center in the United States for people with disabilities

1972 – The Center for Independent Living (CIL) is founded in Berkeley, California.  Generally recognized as the world’s first independent living center, the CIL sparks the worldwide independent living movement.

Passage of the Social Security Amendments of 1972 creates the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program

1973 – The Rehabilitation Act is passed, confronting discrimination against people with disabilities for the first time.  Section 504 of the Act prohibits programs receiving federal funds from discriminating against “otherwise qualified handicapped” individuals

1975 – Congress reauthorizes the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (originally passed in 1970), extending funds to protection and advocacy programs in all states and establishing rights for people with developmental disabilities.  The Act also funds state councils and university-affiliated programs.  In Indiana, these programs include the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services and the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act is passed, establishing the right for children with disabilities to receive a public school education in an integrated environment

1982 – The Telecommunications for the Disabled Act mandates telephone acces at important public places, such as hospitals and police stations, for people who have hearing impairments

1984 – The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act mandates that registration and polling locations for federal elections be accessible for people with disabilities

1986 – The Air Carrier Access Act is passed, prohibiting airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities

1988 – The Fair Housing Amendments Act adds people with disabilities to those groups protected by federal fair housing legislation

1990 – The ADA is signed by President George H. W. Bush on July 26

2000 – The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 reauthorizes state programs for people with developmental disabilities

2004 – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act is passed to provide greater educational opportunities to children with disabilities

2008 – The ADA Amendments Act is signed into law by President George W. Bush on Sept. 25 to restore the original intentions of the ADA

Information for this post is credited to the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities “On Target” newsletter.  To learn more, visit www.in.gov/gpcpd.

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