Disability as Identity – 1988 Edition

With the 25th Anniversary of the ADA coming up, I’ve been doing some disability history writing, some of which I’ll get to make public in a few weeks. Here’s the latest gem from my research.

A 1988 Washington Post editorial on disability identity.

Jill Robinson watched the televised images of Gallaudet protesters and thought excitedly, “These students are fighting my fight.”
Robinson, an Arlington attorney, is not deaf. But she uses a wheelchair and knows a lot about the barriers thrown up to people with disabilities, about the patronizing attitudes of others, about the desire to show everyone, as the Gallaudet students did, that “I can be who I am and make it in the world.” The Gallaudet protest week made Robinson a “TV news junkie, flipping the channels up and down” to catch scenes — over and over — of Gallaudet students signing, en masse, for a “Deaf President Now.” “It was,” she says, “one of the most poignant moments of my life.”
Like Robinson, millions of Americans who can’t hear, see, walk or who have other impairments are coming to view themselves as members of a common minority group. A 1985 poll by Louis Harris and Associates found that 74 percent of disabled Americans say they share a “common identity” with other disabled people and 45 percent argue they are “a minority group in the same sense as are blacks and Hispanics.” Taken together, people with disabilities would make up the country’s largest minority. There are 37 million Americans with physical disabilities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Three notes.

1. The critique of “supercrip” is great (think Inspiration Porn)
2. The piece says – “There is no Martin Luther King or Betty Friedan of the disability rights movement. ” Which is just untrue. Roberts, Dart, Heumann to name three I’ve been writing about lately, but there are lots more.
3. There is, as my friend Kelly notes, zero mention of intellectual disability.

Still, a good piece and worth looking at as we rush towards the 25th anniversary.

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