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The disability rights movement aims to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. Accessibility and safety are primary issues that this movement works to reform. Access to public areas such as city streets and public buildings and restrooms are some of the more visible changes brought about in recent decades. A noticeable change in some parts of the world is the installation of elevators, transit lifts, wheelchair ramps and curb cuts, allowing people in wheelchairs and with other mobility impairments to use public sidewalks and public transit more easily and more safely. These improvements have also been appreciated by parents pushing strollers or trolleys, bicycle users, and travelers with rolling luggage.

Access to education and employment have also been a major focus of this movement. Adaptive technologies, enabling people to work jobs they could not have previously, help create access to jobs and economic independence. Access in the classroom has helped improve education opportunities and independence for people with disabilities.

The right to have an independent life as an adult, sometimes using paid assistant care instead of being institutionalized, is a major goal of this movement, and is the main goal of the similar "independent living" movement. These movements have allowed more people with disabilities to be active participants in mainstream society.


The disability rights movement began in the 1970s, encouraged by the examples of the African-American civil rights and women’s rights movements, which began in the late 1960s. One of the most important developments was the growth of the Independent Living movement which emerged in California. Another crucial turning point was the nationwide sit-in organized by the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in 1977 of government buildings operated by HEW in San Francisco and Washington DC that successfully led to the release of regulations pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act. Prior to the 1990 enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act was the most important disability rights legislation in the United States.

Physical disabilities

The focus of activists for the rights of the physically disabled is access to public and private buildings and general accommodation of people who are less mobile or dextrous. In particular, they advocate the inclusion of wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, wide doors and corridors, and the elimination of unnecessary steps where ramps and elevators are not available.

Developmental disabilities

Advocates for the rights of people with developmental disabilities (also known as intellectual disabilities) focus their efforts on gaining acceptance in the workforce and in everyday activities and events from which they might have been excluded in the past.

Unlike many of the leaders in the physical disability rights community, self-advocacy has been slow in developing for people with intellectual disabilities. Public awareness of the civil rights movement for this population remains limited, and the stereotyping of people with intellectual disabilities as non-contributing citizens who are dependent on others remains common.


John Tyler, born in the twentieth century, was an advocate for the rights of the disabled. He parked his wheelchair in front of Metro buses in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. in the late 1970s and performed other actions to make sure that the proper wheelchair lifts, not the "folding camel" lifts, would be put onto the public transit buses. The original lifts could potentially dump people in wheelchairs and also break down more easily. Being that he had severe polio, he was quite fortunate in being able to do so. After his death from suicide on December 24, 1984, he was remembered at Center Park in Seattle, Washington, the first apartment building built in the United States specifically for people in wheelchairs.

Jeff Moyer is an important and unique musician to the Disability Rights Movement. He began his work as the resident musician of the 504 protests in San Francisco, circa 1977.

See also

External links

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