A review from the Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation, Volume 1.4 (2002)

From Good Will to Civil Rights: Transforming Federal Disability Policy (2nd Ed.)
Richard K. Scotch. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2001.

Reviewed by John T. Pardeck, PhD, LCSW; Editor Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation

Originally published in 1984, the first edition of From Good Will to Civil Rights analyzed the development and implementation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 with particular emphasis on Section 504. Section 504 represents the first major civil rights law aimed at preventing discrimination of persons with disability by any organization receiving federal support including local and state government, health care services, and public and private universities. The research methodology used to collect data reported in the first edition of the book consisted of personal interviews of participants and observers of the development and implementation of the Rehabilitation Act. When reading the first edition of From Good Will to Civil Rights, one must be aware of the limitations of this form of research. Regardless of this potential shortcoming, the author in the first edition offers seven chapters that focus on civil rights law for persons with disabilities to the evolution of Section 504. What is particularly noteworthy is the resistance that universities and colleges had to the implementation of Section 504. Also notable were the advocacy efforts needed to move the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to actually write the regulation needed to implement Section 504. The author concludes that these advocacy efforts were the first attempt by various organizations of persons with disabilities aimed at influencing public policy. Students, practitioners, and academics will find this information useful for understanding the civil rights movement for persons with disabilities.

The second edition of From Good Will to Civil Rights provides an Epilogue focusing on the policy shifts and activism that has occurred since the passage of the Rehabilitation Act and the newest disabilities civil rights law, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. A number of important United States Supreme Court rulings are offered in the Epilogue that have particular relevance to the impact of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 on persons with disabilities. These include the Grover City College v. Bell ruling in 1984 that held recipients of federal financial support only applied to the components of the organization that directly used federal funds. The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 overturned this ruling by stating that antidiscrimination law applied to the entire institution receiving federal aid. President Reagan vetoed the Act; however, the Congress voted to override his veto. Another important United States Supreme Court ruling in 1987 concerning Section 504, School Board of Nassau County (Florida) v. Arline, ruled that infectious diseases such as tuberculosis should be considered a disability under Section 504. This ruling had important implications for persons with other kinds of infectious diseases such as the HIV virus.

The author's focus on the ADA in the Epilogue places particular emphasis on the growing civil rights movement for persons with disabilities. Much of this movement has been aimed at the implementation of the ADA. The author notes that the organization called the American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) (now named the American Disabled for Attendant Programs) has been extremely active in the implementation of the ADA. Also stressed in the Epilogue is the premise that many persons with disabilities now see themselves as a minority group no different from minority groups such as persons of color. Even though the author concludes in the Epilogue that many gains have been made by persons with disabilities since the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA, debates continue to persist that include what kinds of impairments are considered disabilities, who should bear the costs of accommodations, and to what extent services should be provided in inclusive as opposed to segregated settings.

In final analysis, the second edition of From Good Will to Civil Rights presents the effects and disappointments associated with civil rights legislation including the ADA, and the continuing effort of the civil rights movement for persons with disabilities to secure access and integration into American society. From Good Will to Civil Rights (2nd ed.) is highly recommended for those seeking to understand the civil rights movement for persons with disabilities and the impact that legislation has on this new minority group.

BACK TO TOP