Judy Heumann and the Disability Rights Movement


  • Monica Lea University of Florida




undergraduate research


The disability rights movement focuses on guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Though people with disabilities advocated for improved conditions and government help as far back as the early 20th century, the movement really began in earnest in the 1970s following the lead of the civil rights revolution. Disability activists called for the explicit protection of individuals with disabilities through changes in public law.  Their efforts, helped foster the creation of federal laws (particularly the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act- ADA) that specifically addressed discrimination on the basis of disability and required institutions to provide appropriate accommodations. Through understanding how ableism influenced medical, legal, and educational institutions, a greater understanding of life for citizens prior to the ADA can be formed. This paper focuses on how an individual court case was used to hold these institutions accountable for continued exclusion of people with disabilities and set the stage for the disability rights movement moving forward.


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