Shelby Parsons


Disabilities are a big part of the United States today. Twelve percent of the U.S. have disabilities. Thirty-six million people total have at least one disability. Ten million people have a hearing difficulty, Six million people have a seeing difficulty, Thirteen million people over the age of five have difficulties concentrating, remembering, or making decisions ("Latest U.S. Disability Statistics and Facts.")


The Disability Rights Movement was made to secure equal opportunities and rights to people with disabilities, and without it the world would be completely terrible because people with disabilities would be treated unfairly. ("Disability Rights Movement.")

The 1800's

People with disabilities in the 1800s were treated very poorly. They were unable to contribute to society. The people with disabilities were forced into mental institutions and asylums. They were went into these places at a young age and had to stay their entire lives. They were kept in these institutions to keep the disabled people invisible and hidden from society that feared them.("A Brief History of the Disability Rights Movement." )

Laura Bridgeman
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Laura Bridgeman portrait.

Laura Bridgeman was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1829. At the age of 2 she had scarlet fever leaving her blind and deaf with no speech and a little bit of smell. As a child she received no education, she stayed home with her mother who taught her how to knit and do small household chores. In October of 1837 Laura's parents enrolled her into Dr.Samuel Howe’s institute. Howe was the director of the New England Asylum for the Blind in Massachusetts. Dr.Howe described her as “cheerful and even gay and frolicsome…. There are few persons so lighthearted, so cheery, so full of mirth, so ready at any moment to laugh at a joke or join in at a game of romps.” One of her first accomplishments was recognizing Howe’s sign for her favorite fruit, figs. Howe began by attaching paper labels with raised lettering to several common items. Laura used her sense of touch to learn how to read each label and soon could correctly match a word in raised letters to the item it identified. After weeks of work Laura could use the letters to spell out her own words. In the same way, she mastered numbers and punctuation. Later, she learned how to sign letters and words with her fingers and to interpret them when someone else traced them out on her hand. Teachers at the school taught her how to write by guiding her hand to form each letter with a pencil. Charles Dickens wrote about her in his book American Notes. This helped change people’s view on people with disabilities and showed that students with disabilities could learn and benefit from education. (Gold, Susan)

Gallaudet University
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"Deaf President Now - 25th Anniversary - Gallaudet University."

In March of 1988, deaf students and faculty shut down Gallaudet University to protest the trustees’ selection of a non-deaf school president. Gallaudet University was established in 1864 and served as the nation’s only liberal arts college for people with hearing impairments. This protest was made to fight for the rights of people with disabilities and it won over the support of many members of Congress and both presidential candidates. After this protest Gallaudet elected Dr.I. King Jordan as its first deaf president and also replaced the head of trustees with a business executive from New York who was deaf. (Gold, Susan)

Judith Heumann
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"Judith E. Heumann."

Judith Heumann is one of the best known leaders in the Disabilities Rights Movement. From 1993 to 2001, she served as the Assistant Secretary for the office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Clinton Administration. She was in charge of certain programs in special education, disability research, and independent living. She helped over 8 million youth and adults with disabilities. For more than 30 years, she has been involved in international front working with disabled people’s organizations and governments to advance the rights of disabled people. She has worked with Disabled People’s International, Rehabilitation International and numerous Independent Living centers. She co-founded Independent Living in Berkeley, California and the World Institution on Disability in Oakland, California. ("Judith E. Heumann.")

ADA of 1990

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"Choose Work Blog Archives."

The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990 was the first civil rights law to address the needs of people with disabilities. Prohibiting the discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and communication.There are five different parts to this law. (Gold, Susan)

Title 1:Employment. The law made it so employers could not discriminate against qualified people because of their disabilities. This section of the law covered job applications, hiring and firing, promotions, wages, job training and other terms of employment.

Title 2: Public Services. With this section of the law public transportation (other than some airplanes and trains) had to be made accessible to people with disabilities. This applied to private and public businesses operating services for the public. This also included stations, bus stops, and other facilities were to be made accessible.

Title 3. Public accommodations and services operated by private entities. This section required commercial buildings and facilities that served the public to be accessible to people in wheelchairs and others with disabilities. This includes hotels and motels, restaurants and bars, theaters and concert halls, auditoriums, retail stores, bank, gas stations, hospitals, libraries, parks and zoos, schools, gyms, and golf courses. This law required businesses to remove barriers that prevented people from entering company buildings or participating in company services. If the removal of barriers were not readily achievable then businesses were required to provide services to people in other ways.

Title 4. Telecommunications. This law required telephone companies to set up special communications services to people who were hearing impaired, deaf, or speech-impaired. The cost of this would be covered by a surcharge to all users of the telephone system. This also made government-financed public service announcements on television to include written captions.

Title 5. Miscellaneous provisions. This covered a bunch of rules governing the administration of the law. It also protected from retaliation those who reported violations of the law. (Gold, Susan)

After the ADA

Since the ADA was passed there have been many test and studies to talk about and see the improvements and success. (Gold, Susan)People with disabilities all agree that life has improved since the ADA was passed. Employment opportunities have changed a lot. The ADA was passed to help the rate of discrimination in the workplace, and the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that this has happened. Twenty-four percent of people with a “work disability” are employed, and Twenty-two percent of people are employed full time. ("Chapter 2.") People with disabilities agreed that access to public accommodations and transportations improved immensely after the ADA.


In conclusion, many important people have done many things to help with this problem. For example, Laura Bridgman fought for her own education. This encouraged others that it is possible for people with disabilities to get an education and that they can fight for equal rights. The students at Gallaudet University fought for their rights and got what they wanted by having a deaf president. This inspires other to fight for what they want. Judith Heumann co-founded and worked for many groups helping others get the help they need to have a good life. She has impacted the world by becoming a part of big government groups and providing more rights for people with disabilities. Since these people have done so much it has made the world better and everyone more equal. Even though there has been many improvements, there is much more to be done. Businesses and transportation services have done a lot to make the outside world easier, but people still struggle inside their own homes. Assistive technology is absolutely required for more than a third of people with disabilities just so they can get around at home.
("Disability Statistics: Facts & Statistics on Disabilities & Disability Issues.")

For More Information

"Latest U.S. Disability Statistics and Facts."
"Disability Statistics: Facts & Statistics on Disabilities & Disability Issues."
"Choose Work Blog Archives."

"Chapter 2."

"No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement."

Work Cited

"Latest U.S. Disability Statistics and Facts." Disabled World. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

"A Brief History of the Disability Rights Movement." A Brief History of the Disability Rights Movement. Web. 07 Oct. 2015.

Gold, Susan Dudley. Americans with Disability Act. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, C2011. Print.

Ervin, Mike. "No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement." The Progressive Sept. 1993: 41+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

Laura Bridgeman portrait. Digital image. Laura Bridgeman. Perkins School for the Blind. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

"Chapter 2." Chapter 2. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

"Disability Rights Movement." Dictionary of American History. 2003. "Disability Rights Movement." HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2003. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

"Judith E. Heumann." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
__ (Also used this website for my image)
"Choose Work Blog Archives." Choose Work Blog Archives. 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

"Disability Statistics: Facts & Statistics on Disabilities & Disability Issues." Disabled World. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

"Deaf President Now - 25th Anniversary - Gallaudet University." Deaf President Now - 25th Anniversary - Gallaudet University. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.