Disability Rights in America: Educate Your Chapter!

Hello, again, Best Buddies leaders! Just as we did last month, in our blog post about the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, the Education, Advocacy and Training Committee hopes to continue to provide you with information that can help you and your chapter understand and appreciate the role Best Buddies participants play in the Disability Rights Movement in America.

This month, we are exploring the history of the movement and some of its most important milestones to better understand its future and to inform our goals as we push forward in our efforts to promote inclusion and equality for people with disabilities! Read more below!


1918: Rehabilitation after WWI
Congress created the first major rehabilitation program for disabled veterans returning from war, setting the framework for future legislation relating to accessibility.

1939-1941: WWII and Nazi Programs
Between 75,000 and 250,000 people with IDD were killed in WWII as a result of a Nazi euthanasia program.

1941: Rosemary Kennedy Institutionalized
John F. Kennedy’s sister, who had IDD, was institutionalized after a failed procedure that was supposed to “cure” her behavior. Their sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, later founded the Special Olympics in her honor.

1962: Special Olympics
Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics  to provide opportunities for athletic participation to people with IDD. The first Special Olympic games were held in 1968.

1960s: Deinstitutionalization
President John F. Kennedy led an effort to reduce the number of people confined in residential institutions and pushed for alternative methods that appreciate inclusion, community, and equality.

1964: Civil Rights Act
The Civil Rights Act was created to protect Americans (particularly African-Americans and women) against discrimination, but it did not address discrimination based on disability. It is important to the Disability Rights Movement because it influenced future legislation.

1965: Voting Rights Act
The Voting Rights Act protects American voters against discrimination based on race, color, or membership in a minority group. The Act also addresses issues of accessibility for people with disabilities at polling places.

1973: Rehabilitation Act
The Rehabilitation Act protects people with disabilities from discrimination in education settings and in employment practices. It also supports accessibility in various settings.

1975: Education for All Handicapped Children Act
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act requires public schools to provide access to education to people with disabilities in the “least restrictive environment.” This legislation supports special education and inclusion, and it was later renamed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990).

1989: Best Buddies Founded
Anthony Kennedy Shriver founded Best Buddies in 1989 at Georgetown University. It has since grown to include over 1,500 chapters worldwide.

1990: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed by President George Bush. The law requires that governments and programs be accessible and make necessary accommodations for employees with disabilities. This act supports accessibility in public spaces.

2002: Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
The Help America Vote Act requires polling facilities to be accessible to voters who have disabilities. This protects Americans with disabilities’ right to vote.

2004: Disability Pride Parade
The first ever Disability Pride Parade was held in Chicago and in several other cities around the US.

2010: Rosa’s Law
Rosa’s Law, named after a young girl who has Down Syndrome, replaced “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in federal health, labor, and education policy. (For more information about the “R-Word” campaign: click here.)

Today: We need you to further the success of the Disability Rights Movement. Educate yourselves and your chapter about the history of the movement and brainstorm ways you can get involved! And make sure you keep checking back to get more updates from the EAT Committee!



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