The struggle for disability rights in the U.S.
The Disability Rights Movement
From Charity to Confrontation
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Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames
Frieda Zames is the recipient of the Eileen Healy Public Service Award, 2003
Based on interviews with almost a hundred activists, this book provides a detailed history of the struggle for disability rights in the United States. It is a complex story of shifts in consciousness and shifts in policy, of changing focuses on particular disabilities such as blindness, deafness, polio, quadriplegia, psychiatric and developmental disabilities, chronic conditions (for example, cancer and heart disease), AIDS, and of activism and policymaking across disabilities.
Referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act as "every American's insurance policy," the authors recount the genesis of this civil rights approach to disability, from the almost forgotten disability activism of the 1930s, to the independent living movement of the 1970s, to the call for disability pride of the 1990s. Like other civil rights struggles, the disability rights movement took place in the streets and in the courts as activists fought for change in the schools, the workplace, and in the legal system. They continue to fight for effective access to the necessities of everyday lifeto telephones, buses, planes, public buildings, restaurants, and toilets.
The history of disability rights mirrors the history of the country. Each World War sparked changes in disability policy and changes in medical technology as veterans without limbs and with other disabilities returned home. The empowerment of people with disabilities has become another chapter in the struggles over identity politics that began in the 1960s. Today, with the expanding ability of people with disabilities to enter the workforce and a growing elderly population, issues like longterm care are becoming increasingly significant at a time when HMOs are trying to contain health care expenditures.
"Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames take the reader on a guided tour through the still-brief history of the Disability Rights Movement, and they draw upon many first-person accounts to enrich the narrative. Although I was 'present at the creation' of much of this, I still learned a great deal. A unique feature of this book is the first-hand recounting of the remarkable work of the Disabled in Action (DIA) of New York. This group never gave up in their struggle to make the nation's biggest city accessible, despite enormous odds and powerful political opposition. Their story alone is worth the price of this book."
"Frieda Zames and Doris Zames Fleischer have crafted the most comprehensive history of the disability rights movement to date. Many firsthand sources and never-before-published interviews make this a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the roots of today's most pressing disability rights issues."
"This eye-opening work...offers one of the first thorough histories of a movement for civil rights that has profoundly changed America. ... A fascinating book."
"Here at last is a book about our civil rights movement written by one of us: Frieda Zames, a polio survivor and activist....The Disability Rights Movement stands out for its insiders' point of view and the sheer thoroughness of ground covered. ...the authors turn what could have been a rather dry historical book into one that absolutely compels us to read on. They accomplish this not only through meticulous research, but also through their inclusion of information and opinions gleaned from interviews with movement leaders and other people whose lives have been directly affected. ...[the book] is far more than just a history book. It's a cautionary tale of rights won and now in jeopardy. It's a tale of a people who have won some legal battles but still face mass discrimination each day. ... It is an excellent beginning..."
"Fleischer and Zames offer an encyclopedic treatment of the development of the disability rights movement...[They] provide a useful starting point for inquiries into a plethora of disability rights issues."
"...the book plays a unique role in the literature on the disability movement because it is forward looking as well as historical in its approach. It is also extraordinarily well researched across a wide range of domains and contains a good bit of thoughtful analysis..."
"Fleischer and Zames's text deserves the label 'comprehensive history,' and it is a significant contribution to the literature of Disability Studies."
"...an excellent primer on a wide variety of current disability issues..."
"Fleischer and Zames' concise and elegant overview of the current state of the disability rights movement...fills a huge void in the literature and hopefully will provoke greater examination of the issues at stake."
"...makes an impressive contribution to the understanding of how social movements arise, organize and effectively address entrenched challenges of discrimination and social injustice.... the book is readable and engaging. It should be consulted by anyone interested in knowing how people who are discriminated against can overcome and bring about substantive social change."
1. "Wheelchair Bound" and "The Poster Child"
2. Seeing by Touch, Hearing by Sign
3. Deinstitutionalization and Independent Living
4. Groundbreaking Disability Rights Legislation: Section 504
5. The Struggle for Change: In the Streets and in the Courts
6. The Americans with Disabilities Act
7. Access to Jobs and Health Care
8. "Not Dead Yet" and Physician-Assisted Suicide
9. Disability and Technology
10. Disabled Veterans Claim Their Rights
11. Education: Integration in the Least Restrictive Environment
12. Identity and Culture
Doris Zames Fleischer a full-time member of the Department of Humanities at New Jersey Institute of Technology since 1988, has written and lectured widely on issues related to disability rights.