Alongside some of this moment’s biggest grassroots struggles — mass movements to transform American policing, labor, health care and voting rights — the fight against ableism has been a constant undercurrent. During the late 20th century, the disability rights movement emerged in tandem with the long civil rights movement, leading to major reforms at the federal level. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, formally banned discrimination against disabled people in employment, public services and commerce — a watershed moment for anti-ableism work.
Stop the Shock – a coalition of more than 30 organizations in the Disability Justice and Neurodivergent community – organized a rally and press briefing at the Boston Common on Sept 9. The rally succeeded in garnering greater publicity and support for passing House H180 in the Massachusetts state legislature to outlaw the use of aversion therapy. Aversion therapy includes skin shocks, pinching, ammonia face spraying, contingent food programs (using food deprivation as punishment), long-term restraints, sensory deprivation and white noise helmets used primarily against children with disabilities. All of these methods are used at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts.
Amazon workers at the STL8 fulfillment center in St. Peters, Missouri, filed an OSHA complaint August 3 against the company for health and safety violations in their warehouse. The complaint claims that the company deliberately discourages workers from receiving medical care when they are injured. Workers say that AMCARE, Amazon’s in-house medical staff, repeatedly dismiss medical complaints and keep Amazon workers on the job despite sustaining sprains, torn ligaments, slipped discs, pinched nerves, and concussions. Amazon employs more than 3,000 workers at STL8, northwest of St. Louis.
When disaster strikes, disabled people and low-income communities are hit the hardest and face higher mortality rates. They also take longer to recover. Germán Parodi and Shaylin Sluzalis were protesting in Washington, D.C., for disability rights as they found out Hurricane Maria was on its way to Puerto Rico in 2017. Now the co-directors of The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, they were deployed as part of a disabled first responder team. Parodi, who was born and raised on the island, lives with a mobility disability, while Sluzalis lives with an invisible disability. “Being culturally aware of the dynamics of the island … and knowing how to interact with people with different types of disabilities opened doors that we were being told wouldn’t open in some neighborhoods,” says Parodi.
July 26 marked the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The 1990 law intended “to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination” against individuals with disabilities. The occasion connected with some serious, multi-layered stories, including news of a critical ruling that the state of Florida has been violating the rights of children with complex medical needs by keeping them institutionalized when they could be living in community. A sizable admixture of stories, though, were reports on buildings or spaces coming into compliance with the ADA—as though complying with a 33-year-old law was a feel-good story, and despite a relative absence of feel-bad stories about decades of noncompliance.
In 2019, just months after New York City opened the new, eye-catching Queens library to much fanfare from the design world, local library patron Tanya Jackson filed a lawsuit against the library and the city. As architecturally interesting as the library was, her lawsuit claimed, it was inaccessible to her and other patrons who use mobility devices. In May 2023, city officials filed another lawsuit—this time against the architectural firm, for “professional malpractice” in developing inaccessible designs. “It’s really a shame,” says Sharon McLennon-Wier, the executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled of New York and a blind Black woman, in an interview with The New York Times.
On International Day Of Persons With Disabilities, Disabled Activists, Allies Demand Elevators, Not More Subway Cops
The United Nations established the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3, 1992, in a victory for the worldwide struggle of people with disabilities. IDPD has been celebrated around the planet to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disabilities. For the fifth consecutive year, People’s Power Assemblies/NYC marked the IDPD with a Dec. 3 protest inside of Macy’s, which linked struggles for accessibility and against police repression in New York’s mass transit system.
Stacey Milbern didn't lose power during the recent blackouts, but if she had, things could have gotten dicey fast. Milbern, whose East Oakland apartment was just outside PG&E's public safety power shutoff zone, has muscular dystrophy and uses a ventilator to breathe. For her and other members of the disability community — many of whom depend on electrical devices like ventilators, CPAP machines and wheelchairs — losing power signifies much more than just an inconvenience: It can be life-threatening.
Dozens of disability rights activists — including some in wheelchairs — were arrested near Capitol Hill while pressing for more access to community-based services. U.S. Capitol Police arrested 80 people who were demonstrating Monday morning outside the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The protesters were with the disability rights group ADAPT. They were seeking a meeting with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to ask that he support adequate funding for Medicaid...
As a child born with cerebral palsy in the 1950s, Gail Cartenuto-Cohn had one option when she was old enough to go to school: enroll in an isolated public program specifically for kids with disabilities. There was no interaction with nondisabled kids, and there were just three classrooms: one for kindergarten through second grade, another for grades three through five, and a third for sixth through eighth. Occupational therapy, as well as physical therapy and speech therapy, were provided on-site, and although Cartenuto-Cohn describes the education she received as better than adequate, when it was time for her to enroll in high school, she says she was clueless about what to expect.
It started, as prisoner complaints so often do, with a gripe about not being able to visit the law library. In 2015, a prisoner at Wende Correctional Facility in upstate New York contacted attorneys at Disability Rights New York, an Albany-based nonprofit, to complain that he couldn’t get access to the law library to craft an appeal in his case. The law library at the maximum-security facility in Erie County wasn’t closed nor did it lack books; he simply wasn’t allowed in because he uses a wheelchair for mobility. Like the roughly 350 other disabled and ailing prisoners housed in the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision special medical units, prison officials wouldn’t let him visit the law library...
Washington, DC–Disability rights organization ADAPT held its 13th annual Fun Run in Spirit of Justice Park near the U.S. Capitol on Mother’s Day. Several hundred people took part in the event, which kicked off its Week of Action in Washington. Nearly $3,000 was raised to support ADAPT programs. Fun Run participants, who had solicited sponsors, walked or rolled laps around the paved border of the park. On the way to the starting point for the run, they formed a long procession of wheelchairs from Federal Plaza along Congressional office buildings. “Our homes, not nursing homes!” they chanted, and “Down with nursing homes, up with attendant care!” as they made their way to the park. ADAPT is making the case that allowing the disabled in their homes and communities makes more sense than placing them in nursing homes.
Disability rights activists have for the last two weeks made a tiny, nondescript park at 24th and I Street NW into a temporary base of operations. “ADAPT Freedom Park,” as they’ve christened it, is nothing but a triangular sliver of grass bordered by tulip bulbs. Blankets, sleeping bags and inflated mattresses sprawl on the grass, and aluminum containers full of black beans, barbecue chicken, mashed potatoes and veggie casserole are neatly stacked on two park benches. Cookies, doughnuts, coffee and snacks pile up around them. Banners, painted in black block letters, are what declare the park under occupation and the building across the street under siege. “Stop the Torture!” they say. “Director of FDA: Release the Regulations.” The activists, from various chapter of the disability rights advocacy group ADAPT, have traveled from around the country to be here.