Disability rights timeline

Disability rights timeline

The disability rights timeline lists events relating to civil rights of people with disabilities, including court decisions, the passage of legislation, activists' actions, and the founding of various organizations. Although the disability rights movement itself began in the 1960s, advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities started much earlier and continues to the present.


19th century

1900 - 1969

  • 1918 - The Smith-Sears Veterans Rehabilitation Act became law, and provided for the promotion of vocational rehabilitation and return to civil employment of disabled persons discharged from the U.S. military.[1]
  • 1935 - The League for the Physically Handicapped in New York City was formed to protest discrimination by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Home Relief Bureau of New York City stamped all applications with “PH” which stood for "physically handicapped." Members of the League held a sit-in at the Home Relief Bureau for nine days and a weekend sit-in at the WPA headquarters. These actions eventually led to the creation of 1,500 jobs in New York City.[1]
  • 1935 - The Social Security Act became U.S. law, and provided federally funded old-age benefits and funds to states for assistance to blind individuals and disabled children. The Act also extended existing vocational rehabilitation programs.[1]
  • 1940 - The National Federation of the Blind was formed in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, by Jacobus Broek and others. They advocated for white cane laws, input by blind people for programs for blind clients and other reforms.[1]
  • 1940 - The American Federation of the Physically Handicapped, founded in 1940 by Paul Strachan, was the first cross-disability national (American) political organization to urge an end to job discrimination, lobby for passage of related legislation, and call for a National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, as well as other initiatives.[1]
  • 1943 - The LaFollette-Barden Vocational Rehabilitation Act became law in the U.S., and it added physical rehabilitation to the goals of federally funded vocational rehabilitation programs and provided funding for certain health care services.[1]
  • 1945 - PL-176 became law in the U.S., and it declared the first week in October each year would be National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962 the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month (October) and changed the name to "National Disability Employment Awareness Month." [1][2]
  • 1946 - The Hill-Burton Act (also known as the Hospital Survey and Construction Act) became law in the U.S., and it authorized federal grants to states for the construction of hospitals, public health centers and health facilities for rehabilitation of people with disabilities.[1]
  • 1946 - The National Mental Health Foundation was founded by American conscientious objectors from WWII who served as attendants at state mental institutions rather than serving in the war. The Foundation exposed the abusive conditions at these facilities and became an impetus toward deinstitutionalization.[1]
  • 1947 - The President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week was held in Washington, D.C. Publicity campaigns, coordinated by state and local committees, emphasized the competence of people with disabilities and used movie trailers, billboards, radio and television ads to convince the public that it was good business to hire the handicapped.[1]
  • 1947 - The Paralyzed Veterans of America organization was created.[1]
  • 1948 - The National Paraplegia Foundation, founded by members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America as the civilian arm of their growing movement, took a leading role in advocating for disability rights.[1]
  • 1948 - The University of Illinois at Galesburg disabled students’ program was officially founded, and was directed by Timothy Nugent. The program moved to the campus at Urbana-Champaign where it became a prototype for disabled student programs and independent living centers across the country.[1]
  • 1948 - We Are Not Alone (WANA), a mental patients’ self-help group, was organized at the Rockland State Hospital in New York City.[1]
  • 1950 - Mary Switzer was appointed the Director of the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, where she emphasized independent living as a quality of life issue.[1]
  • 1950 - Social Security Amendments established a federal-state program to aid permanently and totally disabled persons in America.[1]
  • 1953 - The (American) President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week became the President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped, a permanent organization reporting to the President and Congress.[1]
  • 1954 - Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments were passed that authorized federal grants to expand programs available to people with physical disabilities in America.[1]
  • 1954 - Mary Switzer, Director of the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, authorized funds for more than 100 university-based rehabilitation-related programs.[1]
  • 1954 - The (American) Social Security Act of 1935 was amended by PL 83-761 to include a freeze provision for workers who were forced by disability to leave the workforce. This protected their benefits by freezing their retirement benefits at their pre-disability level.[1]
  • 1956 - The Social Security Amendments of 1956 created the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program for disabled workers aged 50 to 64 in America.[1]
  • 1958 - The Social Security Amendments of 1958 extended Social Security Disability Insurance benefits to dependents of disabled workers in America.[1]
  • 1958 - PL 85-905, which authorized loan services for captioned films for the deaf, became law in the U.S.[3]
  • 1958 - PL 85-926, which provided federal support for training teachers for children with mental retardation, became law in the U.S.[3]
  • 1958 - The Rehabilitation Gazette (formerly known as the Toomeyville Gazette), edited by Gini Laurie, was founded. It was an American grassroots publication which became an early voice for disability rights, independent living, and cross-disability organizing. It featured articles by writers with disabilities.[1]
  • 1960 - The (American) National Association for Down Syndrome (originally incorporated as the Mongoloid Development Council), the oldest Down Syndrome parent organization in the United States, was founded by Kathryn McGee, whose daughter Tricia had Down Syndrome.[4]
  • 1960 - The (American) Social Security Amendments of 1960 eliminated the restriction that disabled workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits must be 50 or older.[1]
  • 1961 - U.S. President John F. Kennedy appointed a President’s Panel on Mental Retardation.[5]
  • 1961 - The American National Standard Institute, Inc. (ANSI) published American Standard Specifications for Making Buildings Accessible to, and Usable by, the Physically Handicapped (the A117.1 Barrier Free Standard). This landmark document, produced by the University of Illinois, became the basis for subsequent architectural access codes.[5]http://www.library.illinois.edu/archives/archon/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=5724
  • 1962 - The (American) President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped was renamed the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, reflecting increased interest in employment issues affecting people with cognitive disabilities and mental illness.[5]
  • 1962 - Edward Roberts successfully sued to gain admission to the University of California, Berkeley, making him the first student with severe disabilities to attend that school.[5]
  • 1963 - Public Law 88-164, also called the Community Mental Health Act, became law in the U.S., and it authorized funding for developmental research centers in university affiliated facilities and community facilities for people with mental retardation; it was the first federal law directed to help people with developmental disabilites.[6][7]
  • 1963 - U.S. President John F. Kennedy called for a reduction “over a number of years and by hundreds of thousands, (in the number) of persons confined” to residential institutions and asked that methods be found “to retain in and return to the community the mentally ill and mentally retarded, and thereto restore and revitalize their lives through better health programs and strengthened educational and rehabilitation services.” This resulted in deinstitutionalization and increased community services.[5]
  • 1963 - South Carolina passed the first statewide architectural access code in America.[5]
  • 1965 - Medicare and Medicaid were established through passage of the Social Security Amendments of 1965, providing federally subsidized health care to disabled and elderly Americans covered by the Social Security program. These amendments changed the definition of disability under Social Security Disability Insurance program from “of long continued and indefinite duration” to “expected to last for not less than 12 months.”[1]
  • 1965 -The (American) Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments of 1965 were passed authorizing federal funds for construction of rehabilitation centers, expansion of existing vocational rehabilitation programs and the creation of the National Commission on Architectural Barriers to Rehabilitation of the Handicapped.[1]
  • 1965 - The National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, was established by the U.S. Congress.[1]
  • 1965 - The Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law in the U.S., and in addition to providing sweeping protections for minority voting rights, it allowed those with various disabilities to receive assistance "by a person of the voter's choice", as long as that person was not the disabled voter's boss or union agent.[8]
  • 1966 - The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation was established by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.[1]
  • 1966 - "Christmas in Purgatory," by Burton Blatt and Fred Kaplan, was published; it documented conditions at American state institutions for people with developmental disabilities.[1]
  • 1967 - The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, often abbreviated LPS, (Cal. Welf & Inst. Code, sec. 5000 et seq.) was signed into law by then-governor of California Ronald Reagan (although it only went into full effect on July 1, 1972.) The Act in effect ended all hospital commitments by the judiciary system in California, except in the case of criminal sentencing, e.g., convicted sexual offenders, and those who are "gravely disabled", defined as unable to obtain food, clothing, or housing [Conservatorship of Susan T., 8 Cal. 4th 1005 (1994)]. It did not, however, impede the right of voluntary commitment. It also expanded the evaluative power of psychiatrists and created provisions and criteria for holds. This Act set the precedent for modern mental health commitment procedures in the United States.[9]
  • 1968 - The Architectural Barriers Act became law in the U.S., and required all federally owned or leased buildings to be accessible to disabled people.[10]
  • 1968 - The California legislature guaranteed that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) would be the first rapid transit system in the U.S. to accommodate wheelchair users.[1]


  • 1970 - The Urban Mass Transportation Act became law, and it required all new American mass transit vehicles be equipped with wheelchair lifts. APTA delayed implementation for 20 years. Regulations were finally issued in 1990.[1][10]
  • 1970 - Disabled in Action was founded by Judith Heumann and others in New York City. A number of chapters were also started in various other American cities.[11]
  • 1970 - The Rolling Quads organization was started by Edward Roberts at UC Berkeley in California.[1]
  • 1970 - Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendments became law in the U.S. These Amendments contained the first legal definition of developmental disabilities. They also authorized grants for services and facilities for the rehabilitation of people with developmental disabilities and state DD Councils.[1]
  • 1970 - The (American) Physically Disabled Students Program (PDSP) was founded by Edward Roberts, John Hessler, Hale Zukas, and others at UC Berkeley. With its focus on community living, political advocacy and personal assistance services, it became the nucleus for the first Center for Independent Living, founded in 1972.[1]
  • 1971 - The American National Standard Institute, Inc. (ANSI) published American Standard Specifications for Making Buildings Accessible to, and Usable by, the Physically Handicapped (the A117.1 Barrier Free Standard). This landmark document, produced by the University of Illinois, became the basis for subsequent architectural access codes.[12]
  • 1971 - The National Center for Law and the Handicapped was founded at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. It became the first legal advocacy center for people with disabilities in the U. S.
  • 1971 - The U.S. District Court, Middle District of Alabama, decided in Wyatt v. Stickney that people in residential state schools and institutions had a constitutional right “to receive such individual treatment as (would) give them a realistic opportunity to be cured or to improve his or her mental condition.” Disabled people were no longer to be locked away in custodial institutions without treatment or education.[1]
  • 1971 - The Mental Patients’ Liberation Project was initiated in New York City.[1]
  • 1971 - The (American) Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 was amended to bring people with disabilities (other than blindness) into the sheltered workshop system.[1]
  • 1971 - In Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 334 F. Supp. 1257 (E.D. Pa. 1971) the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled that it was the obligation of the state of Pennsylvania to provide free public education to mentally retarded children, which it was not doing at that time.[13][14][15] This decision struck down various state laws used to exclude disabled children from the public schools. Advocates cited this decision during public hearings that led to the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.[1]
  • 1972 - Disability activists in Washington, D.C., protested President Nixon’s veto of what is now known as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.[11]
  • 1972 - The Center for Independent Living was established by Edward Roberts and associates in Berkeley, California. It was established with funds from the Rehabilitation Administration, and it is recognized as the first center for independent living. This sparked the Independent Living Movement.[16]
  • 1972 - In Mills v. Board of Education the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia decided that every child, regardless of the type and severity of their disability, was entitled to a free public education.[11]
  • 1972 - The (American) Social Security Amendments of 1972 created the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The law relieved families of the financial responsibility of caring for their adult disabled children.[1]
  • 1972 - The Houston Cooperative Living Residential Project was established in Houston, Texas. It became a model for subsequent independent living programs.[1]
  • 1972 - The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, founded in Washington, D.C., provided legal representation and advocated for the rights of people with mental illness.[1]
  • 1972 - The Legal Action Center (Washington, D.C. and New York City) was founded to advocate for the interests of people with alcohol or drug dependencies and for people with HIV/AIDS.[1]
  • 1972 - Paralyzed Veterans of America, National Paraplegia Foundation, and Richard Heddinger filed suit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, asking them to incorporate accessibility into their design for a new, multibillion-dollar subway system in Washington, D.C. Their victory was a landmark in the struggle for accessible public mass transit.[1]
  • 1972 - The Network Against Psychiatric Assault was organized in San Francisco.[1]
  • 1972 - In New York ARC v. Rockefeller, parents of 5,000 residents at the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York, filed suit over the inhumane living conditions at that institution, where residents were abused and neglected. A 1972 television broadcast from the Willowbrook State School, titled "Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace," outraged the general public. However, it took 3 years from the time the lawsuit documents were filed before the consent judgement was signed. In 1975, the consent judgement was signed, and it committed New York state to improve community placement for the now designated "Willowbrook Class." The Willowbrook State School was closed in 1987, and all but about 150 of the former Willowbrook residents were moved to group homes by 1992.[1][17][18][19][20]
  • 1972 - Disabled in Action demonstrated in New York City, protesting President Nixon’s veto of the Rehabilitation Act. Led by Judith Heumann, eighty activists staged a sit-in on Madison Avenue, stopping traffic. A flood of letters and protest calls were made.[1]
  • 1972 - Demonstrations were held by disabled activists in Washington, D.C. to protest Nixon’s veto of the Rehabilitation Act. Among the demonstrators were Disabled in Action, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Paraplegia Foundation, and others.[1]
  • 1972 - The Commonwealth of Virginia ceased its sterilization program. 8,300 individuals never received justice regarding their sterilizations, which they did not consent to.[1]
  • 1972 - In Jackson v. Indiana, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a person adjudicated incompetent could not be indefinitely committed.[21]
  • 1973 - The (American) Rehabilitation Act of 1973 became law; Sections 501, 503, and 504 prohibited discrimination in federal programs and services and all other programs or services receiving federal funds. Key language in the Rehabilitation Act, found in Section 504, states “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, shall, solely by reason of his [sic] handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” [16][1]
  • 1973 - Handicapped parking stickers were introduced in Washington, D.C.[1]
  • 1973 - The first Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression was held at the University of Detroit.[1]
  • 1973 - The (American) Federal-Aid Highway Act authorized federal funds for construction of curb cuts.[1]
  • 1973 - The (American) Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, established under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, enforced the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.[1]
  • 1973 - The (American) Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities advocated for passage of what became the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.[1]
  • 1974 - The Disabled Women's Coalition was founded at the University of California, Berkeley, by Susan Sygall, Deborah Kaplan, Kitty Cone, Corbett O'Toole, and Susan Shapiro.[1]
  • 1974 - The Atlantis Community of Denver, Colorado, was founded by Wade Blank, who relocated adults with severe disabilities from nursing homes to apartments.[1]
  • 1974 - The Boston Center for Independent Living was established.[1]
  • 1974 - Halderman v. Pennhurst, filed in Pennsylvania on behalf of the residents of the Pennhurst State School and Hospital, highlighted conditions at state schools for people with mental retardation. It became a precedent in the battle for deinstitutionalization, establishing a right to community services for people with developmental disabilities.[1]
  • 1974 - The first (American) Client Assistant Project (CAP) was established to advocate for clients of state vocational rehabilitation agencies.[1]
  • 1974 - North Carolina passed a statewide building code with stringent access requirements. Drafted by access advocate Ronald Mace, the code became a model for effective architectural access legislation in other states.[1]
  • 1974 - Barrier Free Environments, founded by Ronald Mace, advocated for accessibility in American buildings and products.[1]
  • 1975 - The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, PL 94-142, (renamed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990) became law in the U.S., and it declared that handicapped children could not be excluded from public school because of their disability, and that school districts were required to provide special services to meet the needs of handicapped children. The law also required that handicapped children be taught in a setting that resembles as closely as possible the regular school program, while also meeting their special needs.[1][10][22]
  • 1975 - The Developmental Disability Bill of Rights Act became law in the U.S., and it established protection and advocacy (P & A) services.[1]
  • 1975 - The Community Services Act became law in the U.S., and it created the Head Start Program. It stipulated that at least 10% of program openings were to be reserved for disabled children.[1]
  • 1975 - The Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act became law in the U.S., and it provided federal funds to programs serving people with developmental disabilities and outlined a series of rights for those who are institutionalized.[1]
  • 1975 - The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities was founded in Washington, D.C.. It became the leading national cross-disability rights organization of the 1970s.[1]
  • 1975 - The (American) Association of Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH) was founded by special education professionals in response to PARC v. Pennsylvania (1971) and other right-to-education cases. This organization called for the end of aversive behavior modification and the closing of all residential institutions for people with disabilities.[1]
  • 1975 - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (in O'Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U.S. 563 (1975)) that a state cannot constitutionally confine, without more, a non-dangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by themselves or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends, and since the previous jury found, upon ample evidence, that petitioner did so confine respondent, it properly concluded that petitioner had violated respondent's right to liberty.[23][24]
  • 1975 - (American) Parent and Training Information Centers were developed to help parents of children with disabilities exercise their rights under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.[1]
  • 1975 - Edward Roberts was appointed Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation. He established nine independent living centers based on the Berkeley CIL model.[1]
  • 1975 - The Western Center on Law and the Handicapped was founded in Los Angeles.[1]
  • 1976 - The (American) Higher Education Act of 1972 amendment provided services to physically disabled students entering college.[1]
  • 1976 - Centers for independent living were established in Houston and Chicago.[1]
  • 1976 - The (American) Federal Communications Commission authorized reserving Line 21 on televisions for closed captions.[1]
  • 1976 - Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, Inc. v. Coleman was known as the Transbus lawsuit. Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, the American Coalition of Cerebral Palsy Associations and others were represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. They successfully filed suit to require that all buses purchased by public transit authorities receiving federal funds meet Transbus specifications (making them wheelchair accessible).[1]
  • 1976 - Celestine Tate Harrington, a street musician with quadriplegia, won the right to parent her daughter Nia, having proved to a judge that she could take care of Nia and therefore should not have to give her to the Philadelphia Department of Public Welfare because of her quadriplegia.[25][26]
  • 1976 - Disabled in Action, New York City, picketed the United Cerebral Palsy telethon, calling telethons “demeaning and paternalistic shows which celebrate and encourage pity.”[1]
  • 1976 - The Disability Rights Center was founded in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Ralph Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive Law, it specialized in consumer protection for people with disabilities.[1]
  • 1976 - The Westside Center for Independent Living, Los Angeles, was one of the first nine independent living centers established by Edward Roberts, Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation.[1]
  • 1976 - James L. Cherry and several members of the Action League for Physically Handicapped Adults (ALPHA) filed a lawsuit, known as Cherry v. Mathews, which was decided in their favor on July 19, 1976. U. S. District Court Judge John Lewis Smith ruled for them and ordered DHEW (the U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare) to develop the Section 504 regulation to prohibit discrimination against "handicapped persons" in any federally funded program. In January, 1977, Mathews (then the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare) refused to sign the prepared regulation, and James Cherry and his co-plaintiffs went back to the U. S. District Court, where Mathews was held in contempt of court for refusing to follow the Cherry court order. Mathews was soon replaced by Joseph Califano due to Jimmy Carter being sworn in as President (see next entry in this timeline).[27]
  • 1977 - Initially Joseph Califano, U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, refused to sign meaningful regulations for Section 504. After an ultimatum and deadline, demonstrations took place in ten U.S. cities on April 5, 1977. The sit-in at the San Francisco Office of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, led by Judith Heumann, lasted until May 1, 1977. More than 150 demonstrators refused to disband. This action became the longest sit-in at a federal building to date. Joseph Califano signed the regulations on April 28, 1977.[16][1][28]
  • 1977 - Max Cleland was appointed head of the U.S. Veterans Administration. He was the first severely disabled person and the youngest person to fill that position.[1]
  • 1977 - The White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals drew 3,000 people with disabilities to discuss federal policy toward people with disabilities. It resulted in numerous recommendations and acted as a catalyst for grassroots disability rights organizing.[1]
  • 1977 - Legal Services Corporation Act Amendments added financially needy people with disabilities to the list of those eligible for publicly funded legal services in America.[1]
  • 1977 - In Lloyd v. Regional Transportation Authority, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit ruled that individuals have a right to sue under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and that public transit authorities must provide accessible service. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in Snowden v. Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority undermined this decision by ruling that authorities need to provide access only to “handicapped persons other than those confined to wheelchairs.”[1]
  • 1978 - Disability rights activists successfully protested the Denver Regional Transit Authority with a year-long civil disobedience campaign because the transit system was inaccessible to people who used wheelchairs.[16]
  • 1978 - The Adaptive Environments Center was founded in Boston.[1]
  • 1978 - Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1978 became law in the U.S., and it established the first federal funding for consumer-controlled independent living centers and created the National Council of the Handicapped under the U.S. Department of Education.[1]
  • 1978 - "On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System", by Judi Chamberlin, was published; it became the standard text of the psychiatric survivor movement.[1]
  • 1978 - In Rennie v. Klein, the Federal District Court of New Jersey ruled that an involuntarily committed individual has a constitutional right to refuse psychotropic medication without a court order.[29]
  • 1978 - The National Center for Law and the Deaf was founded in Washington, D.C.[1]
  • 1978 - Handicapping America, by Frank Bowe, was published; it was a comprehensive review of the policies and attitudes denying equal citizenship to Americans with disabilities. It became a standard text of the disability rights movement.[1]
  • 1979 - Part B funds created ten new centers for independent living across the U.S.[1]
  • 1979 - Vermont Center for Independent Living, the first statewide independent living center in the U.S., was founded by representatives of Vermont disability groups.[1]
  • 1979 - The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Addington v. Texas raised the burden of proof required to commit persons for psychiatric treatment from the usual civil burden of proof of "preponderance of the evidence" to the higher standard of "clear and convincing" evidence.[30]
  • 1979 - In Southeastern Community College v. Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, programs receiving federal funds must make “reasonable modifications” to enable the participation of otherwise qualified disabled individuals. This decision was the Court’s first ruling on Section 504 establishing reasonable modification as an important principle in disability rights law.[1]
  • 1979 - In Rogers v. Okin, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a competent patient committed to a psychiatric hospital has the right to refuse treatment in non-emergency situations.[31]
  • 1979 - The Disability Rights and Education Fund was established in Berkeley, California, and it became America's leading disability rights legal advocacy center. It participated in landmark litigation and lobbying of the 1980s and 1990s.[11][1]


  • 1980 - The National Disabled Women's Educational Equity Project, Berkeley, California, was established by Corbett O'Toole. Based at DREDF (the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund), the Project administered the first national survey on disability and gender and conducted the first national Conference on Disabled Women's Educational Equity held in Bethesda, Maryland.[1]
  • 1980 - The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act authorized the U.S. Justice Department to file civil suits on behalf of residents of institutions whose rights were being violated.[1]
  • 1980 - Disabled Peoples’ International was founded in Singapore, with participation of advocates from Canada and the United States.[1]
  • 1980 - The American National Standard Institute, Inc. (ANSI) published American Standard Specifications for Making Buildings Accessible to, and Usable by, the Physically Handicapped (the A117.1 Barrier Free Standard). This landmark document, produced by the University of Illinois, became the basis for subsequent architectural access codes Uniform Federal Accessibility Standard 1984 and the Amercians with Disabilities Act 1990.[5]http://www.library.illinois.edu/archives/archon/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=5724
  • 1981 - The United Nations established this year as the International Year of Disabled Persons.[11] At the conclusion of the year the UN called on member nations to establish in their own countries organizations for and about people with disabilities. Alan Reich, who headed the U.S. committee for the International Year, established the National Organization on Disability [www.nod.org] in response to this call.[1]
  • 1981 - In Tokarcik v. Forest Hills School District, 655 F.2d 443 (3rd Cir. 1981), the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, ruled that denying a disabled child access to a regular public school classroom without a compelling education justification constituted discrimination.[32][33]
  • 1981 - Gini Laurie organized the first international conference on post-polio problems.[34]
  • 1982 - The Telecommunications for the Disabled Act became law in the U.S., and it mandated that public phones be accessible to the hearing impaired by Jan 1, 1985.[1][10]
  • 1982 - In Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (2nd Circuit Court 1982), the 2nd Circuit Court in the U.S. found that individualized decisions based on the unique needs of each child were essential under federal law. Schools who let one criterion, such as a specific disability, automatically determine the placement are likely to be held in violation of federal law.[32]
  • 1983 - In Hawaii Department of Education v. Katherine D., the U.S. federal appeals court found "intermittent" nursing services, including care of a child's tracheostomy tube, to be not too burdensome for a school to provide to a student.[35]
  • 1983 - The Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) organization was established in Denver, Colorado.[16][1]
  • 1983 - The (American) National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) was founded by Max Starkloff, Charlie Carr, and Marca Bristo.[1]
  • 1983 - A national Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) action was held for accessible transportation in Denver, Colorado at the American Public Transit Association (APTA) Convention.[1]
  • 1983 - The World Institute on Disability (WID) was established in Berkeley, California, by Edward Roberts, Judy Heumann, and Joan Leon.[1]
  • 1983 - The Disabled Children’s Computer Group (DCCG) was founded in Berkeley, California.[1]
  • 1983 - The (American) National Council on the Handicapped called for Congress to include persons with disabilities in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other civil and voting rights legislation and regulations.[1]
  • 1983 - The United Nations expanded the International Year of Disabled Persons to the International Decade of Disabled Persons (1983–1992).[1]
  • 1983 - The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) was founded by the (American) President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped to provide information to businesses with disabled employees.[1]
  • 1983 - Amendments to the (American) Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provided for the Client Assistance Program (CAP), an advocacy program for consumers of rehabilitation and independent living services.[1]
  • 1984 - Ted Kennedy, Jr., spoke from the platform of the (American) Democratic National Convention on disability rights.[1]
  • 1984 - The “Baby Jane Doe” case involved an infant being denied needed medical care because of her disability, leading to her death. The subsequent litigation argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Bowen v. American Hospital Association resulted in the passage of the (American) Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1984.[1]
  • 1984 - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Irving Independent School District v. Tatro that school districts are required under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 to provide intermittent catheterization performed by the school nurse or a nurse’s aide as a “related service” to a disabled student. School districts can no longer refuse to educate a disabled child because they might need such service.[1]
  • 1984 - The (American) National Council of the Handicapped became an independent federal agency.[1]
  • 1984 - The (American) Social Security Disability Reform Act was passed in response to the complaints of hundreds of thousands of people whose social security disability benefits were terminated. The law required that payment of benefits and health insurance coverage continue for terminated recipients until they exhausted their appeals.[1]
  • 1984 - The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act became law in the U.S., and it mandated "handicapped and elderly" access to polling places, and provided for the creation of permanent disabled access voter registration sites.[16][8]
  • 1981-1984 - The Reagan administration threatened to amend or revoke regulations implementing Section 504 of the (American) Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Disability rights advocates Patrisha Wright, (DREDF), and Evan Kemp, Jr. (Disability Rights Center) led an intense lobbying and grassroots campaign that generated more than 40,000 cards and letters. After three years, the Reagan Administration abandoned its attempts to revoke or amend the regulations. However, the Reagan Administration terminated the Social Security benefits of hundreds of thousands of disabled recipients. Distressed by this action, several disabled people committed suicide. A variety of groups including the Alliance of Social Security Disability Recipients and the Ad Hoc Committee on Social Security Disability fought these terminations.[1]
  • 1985 - The Mental Illness Bill of Rights Act became law in the U.S., and it required states to provide protection and advocacy services to protect and advocate for people with psychological disabilities.[1]
  • 1985 - Final legal hearings on eugenics were held in the Commonwealth of Virginia. No financial settlement was granted.[1]
  • 1985 - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burlington School Committee v. Department of Education that schools must pay the expenses of disabled children enrolled in private programs during litigation under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, if the courts ruled that such placement is needed to provide the child with an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.[1]
  • 1985 - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center that localities cannot use zoning laws to prohibit group homes for people with developmental disabilities from opening in a residential area solely because its residents are disabled.[1]
  • 1985 - The International Polio Network, St. Louis, Missouri, was founded by Gini Laurie, and began advocating for recognition of post-polio syndrome.[1][34]
  • 1985 - The (American) National Association of Psychiatric Survivors was founded.[1]
  • 1986 - Toward Independence, a report of the National Council on the Handicapped, outlined the legal status of Americans with disabilities and documented the existence of discrimination. It cited the need for federal civil rights legislation (eventually passed as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).[1]
  • 1986 - Concrete Change, a grassroots organization advocating accessible housing, was organized in Atlanta, Georgia.[1]
  • 1986 - The (American) Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act was passed, allowing recipients of Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance to retain benefits, particularly medical coverage, after they obtain work.[1]
  • 1986 - The (American) Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act was passed setting up protection and advocacy (P & A) agencies for people who are in-patients or residents of mental health facilities.[1]
  • 1986 - The (American) Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986 defined supported employment as a “legitimate rehabilitation outcome.”[1]
  • 1987 - Gini Laurie founded the International Ventilator Users Network (IVUN).[34]
  • 1987 - Justin Dart, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, was forced to resign after he testified to the U.S. Congress that “an inflexible federal system, like the society it represents, still contains a significant portion of individuals who have not yet overcome obsolete, paternalistic attitudes toward disability…”[1]
  • 1987 - The Alliance for Technology Access was founded in California by the Disabled Children’s Computer Group and the Apple Computer Office of Special Education.[1]
  • 1988 - The (American) Air Carrier Access Act was passed prohibiting airlines from refusing to serve people with disabilities and from charging people with disabilities more for airfare than non-disabled travelers.[1]
  • 1988 - The (American) Civil Rights Restoration Act counteracted bad case law by clarifying Congress’ original intention. Under the Rehabilitation Act, discrimination in any program or service that receives federal funding – not just the part which actually and directly receives the funding – is illegal.[1]
  • 1988 - A Deaf President Now student demonstration was held at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. On March 13 Dr. I. King Jordan was named the first Deaf president of the university.[11][1]
  • 1988 - The (American) Fair Housing Act was amended to protect people with disabilities from housing discrimination in the areas of rentals, sales, and financing, as outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The amendment also provided that reasonable modifications had to be made to existing buildings and accessibility had to be constructed into new multi-family housing units.[36]
  • 1988 - Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) protested inaccessible Greyhound buses.[1]
  • 1988 - The Technology-Related Assistance Act for Individuals with Disabilities became law in the U.S., authorizing federal funding to state projects designed to facilitate access to assistive technology.[1]
  • 1988 - The Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities was created by Rep. Major R. Owens, with Justin Dart and Elizabeth Monroe Boggs as co-chairs. The Task Force began building grassroots support for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[1]
  • 1988 - San Francisco historian and disability rights scholar Paul K. Longmore burned his first book, "The Invention of George Washington", on the steps of a federal building in 1988 to protest policies that discriminated against disabled Americans. The Social Security Administration eventually revised its rules to allow disabled authors to count publishing royalties as earned income. The change became known as the "Longmore Amendment." [37]
  • 1988 - The U.S. Congress overturned President Ronald Reagan’s veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987.[1]
  • 1988 - In Honig v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the stay-put rule established under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. School authorities cannot expel or suspend or otherwise move disabled children from the setting agreed upon in the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) without a due process hearing.[1]
  • 1988 - The original version of the Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced in 1988. It was redrafted and reintroduced in Congress later. Disability organizations and activists across the country advocated on its behalf (Patrisha Wright, Marilyn Golden, Liz Savage, Justin Dart, and Elizabeth Monroe Boggs, among others).[1]
  • 1989 - In ADAPT v. Skinner, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal regulations requiring that transit authorities spend only 3% of their budgets on access are arbitrary and discriminatory.[1]
  • 1989 - The Center for Universal Design (originally the Center for Accessible Housing) was founded by Ronald Mace in Raleigh, North Carolina.[1]
  • 1989 - Mouth: The Voice of Disability Rights began publication in Rochester, New York.[1]
  • 1989 - The (American) President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped was renamed the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.[1]
  • 1989 - In Daniel R.R. v State Board of Education, 874 F.2d 1036 (5th Circuit Court 1989), the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that regular education placement is appropriate if a child with a disability can receive a satisfactory education, even if it is not the best academic setting for the child; non-academic benefits must also be considered. The Court stated that "academic achievement is not the only purpose of mainstreaming. Integrating a handicapped child into a nonhandicapped environment may be beneficial in and of itself...even if the child cannot flourish academically." The Circuit Court developed a two-pronged test to determine if the district's actions were in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): 1) Can education in the regular classroom with the use of supplemental aids and services be achieved satisfactorily? 2) If it cannot, has the school mainstreamed the child to the maximum extent appropriate? [32]


  • 1990 - The Americans with Disabilities Act became law, and it provided comprehensive civil rights protection for people with disabilities. Closely modeled after the Civil Rights Act and Section 504, the law was the most sweeping disability rights legislation in American history. It mandated that local, state, and federal governments and programs be accessible, that employers with more than 15 employees make “reasonable accommodations” for workers with disabilities and not discriminate against otherwise qualified workers with disabilities, and that public accommodations and commercial facilities make “reasonable modifications” to ensure access for disabled members of the public, and not discriminate against them. The act also mandated access in public transportation and communication.[1][38][39]
  • 1990 - Sam Skinner, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, issued regulations mandating lifts on buses.[1]
  • 1990 - Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) organized the Wheels of Justice campaign in Washington, D.C., which drew hundreds of disabled people to support the Americans with Disabilities Act. Activists occupying the Capitol Rotunda were arrested when they refuse to leave.[1]
  • 1990 - The Committee of Ten Thousand was founded to advocate for Americans with hemophilia who were infected with HIV/AIDS through tainted blood products.[1]
  • 1990 - The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act became law in the U.S. It was meant to help communities cope with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.[1]
  • 1990 - In Washington v. Harper the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the involuntary medication of correctional facility inmates only under certain conditions as determined by established policy and procedures.[40]
  • 1990 - Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) changed its focus to advocating for personal assistance services, changing its name to American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT).[1]
  • 1990 - The (American) Education for All Handicapped Children Act was amended and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This Act contains a permanently authorized grant program that provides federal funding to the states; all states that receive these federal funds are required to provide a "free, appropriate public education" to all children with disabilities in the "least restrictive environment." [1][41]
  • 1992 - Amendments to the (American) Rehabilitation Act of 1973 were infused with the philosophy of independent living.[1]
  • 1992 - In Greer vs. Rome City School District (11th Circuit Court, 1992), the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court stated "Before the school district may conclude that a handicapped child should be educated outside of the regular classroom it must consider whether supplemental aids and services would permit satisfactory education in the regular classroom." The court also said that the district cannot refuse to serve a child because of added cost, and that school officials must share placement considerations with the child's parents at the IEP meeting before a placement is determined.[32]
  • 1992 - In Foucha v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the continued commitment of an insanity acquittee who was not suffering from a mental illness was unconstitutional.[42]
  • 1992 - In Riggins v. Nevada, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a defendant has the right to refuse psychiatric medication which is given to mitigate their psychiatric symptoms while they are on trial.[43]
  • 1993 - The American Indian Disability Legislation Project was established to collect data on Native American disability rights laws and regulations.[1]
  • 1993 - Robert Williams was appointed Commissioner of the (American) Administration on Developmental Disabilities. He was the first developmentally disabled person to be named the Commissioner.[1]
  • 1993 - In Holland v. Sacramento City Unified School District, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court affirmed the right of disabled children to attend public school classes with non-disabled children. The ruling was a major victory in the ongoing effort to ensure enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.[1]
  • 1993 - 3 men were convicted of sexually assaulting a mentally retarded woman in New Jersey, despite attempts by the prosecution to depict the young woman as an aggressive "Lolita".[44]
  • 1993 - In Roncker v. Walter, 700 F2d. 1058 (6th Circuit Court 1993), the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court addressed the issue of "bringing educational services to the child" versus "bringing the child to the services". The case was resolved in favor of integrated versus segregated placement and established a principle of portability; that is, "if a desirable service currently provided in a segregated setting can feasiblely be delivered in an integrated setting, it would be inappropriate under PL 94-142 to provide the service in a segregated environment." The Roncker Court found that placement decisions must be individually made. School districts that automatically place children in a predetermined type of school solely on the basis of their disability (e.g., mentally retardation) rather than on the basis of the IEP, violate federal laws.[14]
  • 1993 - In Oberti vs. Board of Education of the Borough of Clementon School District (3rd Circuit Court, 1993), the U.S. Third Circuit Court upheld the right of Rafeal Oberti, a boy with Down syndrome, to receive his education in his regular neighborhood school with adequate and necessary supports, placing the burden of proof for compliance with IDEA's mainstreaming requirements on the school district and the state rather than on the family. The federal judge who decided the case endorsed full inclusion, writing "Inclusion is a right, not a special privilege for a select few." [14]
  • 1993 - The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 became law in the U.S., and it required states with disabled service agencies to have them act as disabled voter registration agencies as well.[8]
  • 1993 - In the case Mavis v. Sobol, a New York court found school efforts for placement in a regular classroom were inadequate because the school had not provided a behavior management plan or training for staff to help modify the regular curriculum to meet the student's needs.[45]
  • 1995 - Maria Rantho, the South African Federation of Disabled People’s Vice-Chair, was elected to Nelson Mandela’s Parliament in South Africa. She felt she faced an uphill struggle with legislators who were ignorant of the needs of people with disabilities.[1]
  • 1995 - Ronah Moyo, the head of the women’s wing of the Zimbabwe Federation of Disabled People, was elected to Robert Mugabe’s Parliament in Zimbabwe. She felt she faced an uphill struggle with legislators who were ignorant of the needs of people with disabilities.[1]
  • 1995 - The First International Symposium on Issues of Women with Disabilities was held in Beijing, China, in conjunction with the Fourth World Conference on Women.[1]
  • 1995 - ACLIFM, an organization of people with disabilities in Cuba, held its first international conference on disability rights in Havana, Cuba.[1]
  • 1995 - In the United Kingdom, following extensive activism by people with disabilities over several decades, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA 1995) became law; this made it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education, and transport, throughout the United Kingdom.[46]
  • 1995 - Justice for All[disambiguation needed ] was organized by Justin Dart and others in Washington, D.C., in order to advocate against calls to amend or repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.[1][47]
  • 1995 - The American Association of People with Disabilities was founded in Washington, D.C.[11]
  • 1995 - The American film When Billy Broke His Head… and Other Tales of Wonder, by Billy Golfus, premiered on PBS. It highlighted the disability rights movement.[11][1]
  • 1995 - The U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, ruled in Helen L. v. Snider that continued institutionalization of a disabled Pennsylvania woman, when not medically necessary and where there was the option of home care, was a violation of her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Disability rights advocates perceived this ruling as a landmark decision regarding the rights of people in nursing homes to personal assistance services.[1]
  • 1995 - Sandra Jensen was denied a heart-lung transplant by the Stanford University School of Medicine in California because she had Down’s syndrome. After pressure from disability rights activists, Stanford U School of Medicine administrators reversed their decision. In 1996, Jensen became the first person with Down's syndrome to receive a heart-lung transplant.[1]
  • 1995 - The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA) became law in the U.S., and it required all offices in the legislative branch to make their public services, programs, activities, and places of public accommodation accessible to members of the public who have disabilities, as well as declaring that employees of Congress cannot be discriminated against in personnel actions because of a disability. [48]
  • 1996 - Not Dead Yet was formed by American disability rights advocates to oppose those who support assisted suicide for people with disabilities. It focuses on opposing rationing health care to people with severe disabilities and opposing the imposition of “do not resuscitate” (DNR) orders for disabled people in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.[1]
  • 1996 - In Vacco v. Quill and Washington v. Glucksberg, the U.S. Supreme Court validated the state prohibition on physician-assisted suicide, deciding that the issue is within the jurisdiction of the states.[1]
  • 1997 - In Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General) [1997] 2 S.C.R. 624, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that sign language interpreters must be provided in the delivery of medical services where doing so is necessary to ensure effective communication.[49]
  • 1998 - The Veterans Programs Enhancement Act became law in the U.S., and it required a cost-of-living adjustment in rates of compensation paid to veterans with service-connected disabilities, as well as various improvements in education, housing, and cemetery programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs.[50]
  • 1998 - The Persian Gulf War Veterans Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-277) became law in the U.S., and it required the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to determine, based on National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports, whether particular illnesses warrant a presumption of service connection and, if so, to set compensation regulations establishing such a connection for each illness.[1][51]
  • 1998 - In Bragdon v. Abbott, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the definition of disability includes asymptomatic HIV.[1]
  • 1998 - In Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Americans with Disabilities Act includes state prisons.[1]
  • 1999 - In Carolyn C. Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corporation, et. al., the U.S. Supreme Court decided that people receiving Social Security disability benefits are protected against discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act if and when they are able to return to work.[1]
  • 1999 - In Olmstead v. L.C., the U.S. Supreme Court decided that individuals with mental disabilities must be offered services in the most integrated setting possible.[1][52]
  • 1999 - The Works Incentives Improvement Act (Ticket to Work) became law in the U.S., allowing those who require health care benefits to work.[1]
  • 1999 - In Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that taxpayer-supported schools are responsible for the costs of providing continual care for disabled students under a federal law that says all children must receive "free, appropriate public education." Under the Court's reading of the IDEA's relevant provisions, medical treatments such as suctioning, ventilator checks, catheterization, and others which can be administered by non-physician personnel come within the parameters of the special education law's related services.[53]


  • 2001 - The Commonwealth of Virginia House of Delegates approved a resolution expressing regret for its eugenics practices between 1924 and 1979.[1]
  • 2001 - In PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin (00-24) 532 U.S. 661, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by its plain terms, prohibited the PGA from denying Casey Martin equal access to its tours on the basis of his disability (a degenerative circulatory disorder preventing him from walking golf courses) and that allowing Martin to use a golf cart, despite the walking rule, was not a modification that would "fundamentally alter the nature" of the game.[54][55]
  • 2001 - In R. v. Latimer [2001] 1 S.C.R. 3, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Robert Latimer's crime of murdering his disabled daughter Tracy Latimer could not be justified through the defence of necessity. Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Canada found that despite the special circumstances of the case, the lengthy prison sentence given to Mr. Latimer was not cruel and unusual, and therefore not a breach of section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[56]
  • 2002 - In Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), the U. S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that executing the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.[57]
  • 2002 - The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) became law in the U.S., and it required voting "systems" to be accessible for all those with disabilities, including special assistance for blind or otherwise visually impaired voters.[8]
  • 2003 - The U.S. Supreme Court decision Sell v. United States imposed stringent limits on the right of a lower court to order the forcible administration of antipsychotic medication to a criminal defendant who had been determined to be incompetent to stand trial for the sole purpose of making them competent and able to be tried.[58]
  • 2003 - In Hornstine v. Township of Moorestown Blair Hornstine, then a high school senior, successfully sued her school district, which had said she was able to get a higher grade point average because she had been home-schooled at times because of an immune-system illness and, as a result, had taken more advanced placement courses and fewer low-rated physical education courses. Arguing that she had the highest grades and should not have to share the top honors in her class, Blair won the right to be sole valedictorian.[59][60]
  • 2003 - In Starson v. Swayze, 2003 SCC 32, [2003] 1 S.C.R. 722, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mr. Starson had the right to refuse psychiatric medication because the Consent and Capacity board did not have enough evidence to support its finding that Mr. Starson was incapable of deciding on treatment.[61]
  • 2004 - In Tennessee v. Lane, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act did not violate the sovereign immunity doctrine of the 11th Amendment when, based on Congress's 14th Amendment enforcement powers of the Due Process clause, it allowed individuals to sue states for denying them services based on their disabilities. The Court held that Congress had sufficiently demonstrated the problems faced by disabled persons who sought to exercise fundamental rights protected by the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment (such as access to a court). The Court also emphasized that the remedies required from the states were not unreasonable - they just had to make reasonable accommodations to allow disabled persons to exercise their fundamental rights. The Court thus held that because Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a "reasonable prophylactic measure, reasonably targeted to a legitimate end," and because Congress had the authority under the 14th Amendment to regulate the actions of the states to accomplish that end, the law was constitutional.[62]
  • 2005 - In Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act applied to foreign-flagged cruise ships in U.S. waters.[63]
  • 2005 - Peggy S. Salters, from South Carolina, became the first survivor of electroshock treatment to win a jury verdict and a large money judgment ($635,177) in compensation for extensive permanent amnesia and cognitive disability caused by the procedure.[64]
  • 2005 - In Campbell v. General Dynamics Gov't Sys. Corp., the First Circuit Court of the U.S. had to consider the enforceability of a mandatory arbitration agreement, contained in a dispute resolution policy linked to an e-mailed company-wide announcement, insofar as it applied to employment discrimination claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the Court's analysis, the question turned on whether the employer provided minimally sufficient notice of the contractual nature of the e-mailed policy and of the concomitant waiver of an employee's right to access a judicial forum. The Court weighed the attendant circumstances and concluded that the notice was wanting and that, therefore, enforcement of the waiver would be inappropriate; thus the Court upheld the district court's denial of the employer's motion to stay proceedings and compel the employee to submit his claim to arbitration. The case is a principal case in the Rothstein, Liebman employment law casebook.[65]
  • 2006 - In United States v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act extends to persons held in a state prison and protects prison inmates from discrimination on the basis of disability by prison personnel. Specifically, the court held that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1213112165., was a proper use of Congressional power under the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 5, making it applicable to prison system officials.[66]
  • 2007 - Simone D., a psychiatric patient in the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York, won a court ruling which set aside a two-year-old court order to give her electroshock treatment against her will.[67]
  • 2008 - The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008 became law, and it broadened the scope of who is considered disabled under the law, and when considering whether a person is disabled, the law required that people ignore the beneficial effects of any mitigating measures (except ordinary eyeglasses and contact lenses) the person uses; furthermore, when considering whether a person is substantially limited in a major life activity, which would make them disabled under the law, the law required the consideration of bodily functions as well as other major life activities, and having one major life activity substantially limited is enough; when considering whether a person whose condition is episodic or in remission is substantially limited in a major life activity, the law required the consideration of the person's limitations as they are when the condition is in an active state; furthermore, determining someone is disabled under the law does not require individuals to meet the substantially-limited-in-a-major-life-activity standard, but does not include impairments that are transitory and minor.[68]
  • 2009 - The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became law in the U.S., and it expanded the definition of federal hate crime to include those violent crimes in which the victim is selected due to their actual or perceived disability; previously federal hate crimes were defined as only those violent crimes where the victim is selected due to their race, color, religion, or national origin.[69]
  • 2009 - In Forest Grove v. T.A., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents of a child with a disability. The Court held that even though their son had never received special education services from the school district they were entitled to pursue tuition reimbursement for the private educational program they secured for their son, T.A.[70]


  • 2011 - On March 15, 2011, new Americans with Disabilities Act rules came into effect. These rules expanded accessibility requirements for recreational facilities such as swimming pools, golf courses, exercise clubs, and boating facilities. They also set standards for the use of wheelchairs and other mobility devices like Segways in public spaces, and changed the standards for things such as selling tickets to events and reserving accessible hotel rooms. The new rules also clearly defined “service animal” as “…any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” This portion of the law also states that the services the service animal provides must be “directly related to the handler’s disability” and dogs that provide only emotional support or crime deterrence cannot be defined as service animals.[71]
  • 2011 - The Broken Arrow City Council, Oklahoma, unanimously voted to create an exotic animal ordinance exemption allowing Christie Carr, who was depressed, to keep her therapy kangaroo within city limits so long as certain conditions were met.[72]
  • 2011 - In Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Virginia cannot invoke its sovereign immunity to prevent the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (an independent state agency and member of the National Disability Rights Network) from suing state officials for a court order. In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Ex Parte Young allows a federal court to hear a lawsuit for prospective relief against state officials brought by another agency of the same state.[73][74]
  • 2011 - The FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education Act, which states that California schools must include the contributions of people with disabilities in their textbooks and in teaching of history and social studies classes, became law.[75]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs ct cu cv cw cx cy cz da db dc dd de df dg dh di dj dk dl dm dn do dp dq dr ds dt du dv dw dx dy dz ea eb ec ed ee ef eg eh ei ej ek el em en eo ep eq er es et eu ev ew ex ey ez fa fb fc fd fe ff fg fh fi fj fk "Disability History Timeline". Rehabilitation Research & Training Center on Independent Living Management. Temple University. 2002. http://isc.temple.edu/neighbor/ds/disabilityrightstimeline.htm. 
  2. ^ United States Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, Frequently Askeed Questions
  3. ^ a b The History of Inclusion in the United States
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  5. ^ a b c d e f g National Association for Down Syndrome website
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  7. ^ Quality Mall Product: 1963 - Mental Retardation Facilities and Construction Act (Public L
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  25. ^ "Daughter of famed quadriplegic Celestine Tate Harrington gets married". Jet. 1996. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n14_v90/ai_18610929/. 
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