Short History of the 504 Sit in

From Kitty Cone of DREDF: For Complete Post, Click Here…

ngd- yesterday was the beginning of the longest occupation of a Federal Building in American History. This article is agreat overview of the protest by a n important advocate and participant…

In 1973 the first federal civil rights protection for people with disabilities, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was signed into law. What section 504 says is “no otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall solely on the basis of his handicap, be excluded from the participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Essentially it said no program receiving federal funds could discriminate against a person with a disability.

Section 504 was based on the language of previous civil rights laws that protected women and minorities. It recognized that society has historically treated people with disabilities as second-class citizens based on deeply held fears and stereotypes that go way back. Those attitudes had translated into pity and persecution, and later into policies that were based on paternalism.

People with disabilities, ourselves didn’t think the issues we faced in our daily lives were the product of prejudice and discrimination. Disability had been defined by the medical model of rehabilitation, charity and paternalism. If I thought about why I couldn’t attend a university that was inaccessible, I would have said it was because I couldn’t walk, my own personal problem. Before section 504, responsibility for the consequences of disability rested only on the shoulders of the person with a disability rather than being understood as a societal responsibility. Section 504 dramatically changed that societal and legal perception.

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