Civil Rights = Disability Rights = Human Rights

Judith Heumann is an internationally known disability rights activist. She currently serves as the State Department’s Special Advisor for International Disability Rights.


Check out her recent op-ed for The Hill on the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Disabilities Treaty (CRPD):

Today, people with disabilities in the United States have made great advancements made possible by the Civil Rights Movement.  Discrimination against people with disabilities is broadly outlawed in education, employment, housing, transportation, etc.  People with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities from around the world have watched as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was implemented in the 1970s and as the Individuals with Disabilities Act became law and then as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990.  In fact, with the passage of the ADA, the United States became the first country in the world to adopt national civil rights legislation banning discrimination against people with disabilities in the public and private sector.  People from around the world who travelled here saw the changes our country was making and were amazed.  We had become the gold standard, and other countries aspired to be just like us.

In the years after enactment of the ADA, people with disabilities and governments around the world began meeting and discussing an international treaty that would require other countries to protect the rights of disabled people, much as we do in the United States.  In 2006, these discussions culminated in the Disabilities Treaty, which is based on the principles of non-discrimination and inclusiveness that underlie our own ADA.  Today, 147 parties have ratified the Disabilities Treaty.  Surprisingly, we in America have failed to do so.

For the full post:

Photo of 8 people with the Capitol building in the background in Washington, DC. Three people are using wheelchair users. Two people are holding signs that read: "Nothing about us without us" and "Vote Yes for CRPD."


Follow Judith Heumman on Twitter: @IntDisability


For more on the Disabilities Treaty:

Image for It's Our Story project. You see an American flag with the picture of the United States that's inside the upper right side of the flag instead of white starts. On the right side it says: Power. Passion. Pride.

Disability History: John Holland, Denver, CO

It’s Our Story is a national initiative to make disability history public and accessible. Scott Cooper recorded and collected over 1,300 video interviews from disability leaders across the country since 2005. Check out a video uploaded on July 24, 2010:

John Holland of Denver, Colorado speaks about working at the forefront of disability civil rights law as he protested and advocated alongside Wade Blank.
 John became involved in disability issues through his daughter Anna, a chair user who grew up in Wade Blank’s Atlantis community. John has been a vocal activist for improved housing for people with disabilities, accessible transportation, and other critical disability issues; he current has a law office in Denver that specialize in nursing home abuse.

Click on the CC button in the YouTube window for captions.



It’s Our Story





I am standing in front of several people walking down a stone path, wearing khaki pants and a maroon shirt with the text "Organizing autistic people..." visible while holding a large white poster with the colored block letters "Autistic & Proud" in marker. I am a light-complexioned Asian female with short black hair cut slightly past my chin, wearing round glasses.

People We Love: Lydia Brown, Washington, DC

The New Idealist recently published ‘The Autism Issue.’ Lydia Brown writes about the future of the autistic rights movement. As with disability rights in general, there’s a long road ahead.

There are many issues of grave importance to the autistic community. We face significant barriers to accessible housing, inclusive education, meaningful employment, or even life-saving medical care. Organizations like ANI, ASAN, the Autism National Committee, and the Autism Women’s Network have fought on all of these issues. But until it is possible for autistic children to be born into a world where they cannot be murdered with impunity, it’s hard to say we’ve made too much progress yet.

To read the entire article:

Photo of a young Asian woman with short hair and glasses. She is wearing an aqua blue long-sleeved shirt.

Lydia Brown is a queer, disabled activist whose work focuses on hate crimes, police brutality, prisoner abuse, and other violence against disabled people. Lydia is president of the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective, board member of TASH New England, and Disability Affairs Undersecretary for the Georgetown University student government. Lydia was formerly Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership and project assistant for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.


Twitter: @autistichoya





Black and white photo of a group of students in large wheelchairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on November 23, 1922

Disability History: Students with Disabilities, New York City, 1922

Came across this article a while ago from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on their accessibility efforts. I was struck by a photo they included in their post.


Black and white photo of a group of students in large wheelchairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on November 23, 1922

A group of students with disabilities visiting the Museum’s Cast Collection galleries, Wing B, Gallery 40. Photographed November 23, 1922 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Read more:



#DisabilitySolidarity Twitter Conversation: August 22, 2014

Moderated by Ki’tay Davidson on August 22, 2014 from 12 noon to 1 pm and co-hosted by other disability activists, the goal of the conversation is:

Our goal is to hold our ‪#disability rights organizations accountable to supporting & advancing ‪#racialjustice. We are committed to centering love, respect, solutions & liberation throughout this dialogue. We are committed to centering love, respect, solutions & liberation throughout this dialogue.

They define Intersectional Justice to “mean no individual/community lives a single-issue struggle; we must affirm all experiences”

Disability Solidarity is defined as: “disability orgs embodying ‪#intersectionaljustice; voicing and acting to support and advance racial justice”

Here are just a few tweets from the conversation that we love.

Check out all the #DisabilitySolidarity tweets here:

Twitter: @KitayDavidson

Twitter: @dissolidarity

Image description: A woman with long brown hair, a black shirt, and a name tag written in Sharpie on her shirt stands outside near the trees, smiling at the camera.]

Guest blog post: Interview of Aimee Elber by Cheryl Green

Filmmaker and activist Cheryl Green recently interviewed Aimee Elber on July 26, 2014 during the City of Portland ADA 24th anniversary celebration held at Matt Dishman Community Center. Cheryl Green is a media partner of the Disability Visibility Project and we appreciate her continual support!

Below is are some excerpts of Cheryl’s interview:

Aimee Elber on Disability Storytelling

Right now, I work with people with disabilities at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Oregon, and my job there is to serve students with disabilities and help them get accommodations in the classroom. So my experience continues to support me and my goal of serving others with disabilities in the community, being an advocate and an agent of change and someone who is striving for social justice around these issues. My hearing loss is one part of my disability, but I also have the experience of living with others who have disability. And so what I bring to the table is a diverse range of experience and opportunity and understanding around these issues.

Well, this is interesting. I could probably honestly say that I have been offered employment because of my disability. With me, I see my disability as a strength in certain areas. I am somewhat proficient in American Sign Language, which is actually an asset in my field. And so when there’s that little box at the bottom of the application that says “Are you a person with a disability, are you a veteran,” you know, “are you a minority?” I’m able to check one of those boxes that I do have a disability. And it helps me to bring awareness to my colleagues about disability and access and accommodations in the workplace. So I think it’s been helpful for me. It’s gotten me places. I’ve embraced it as a part of who I am and used it to my advantage.

Someone recently asked me, they said, “Oh! You had a hearing loss, and you’ve had that all your life. Was it hard as a kid?” And I said, “Yeah. You know, there were times where I was embarrassed of my hearing aids, the large over the ear.” You know, every kid in junior high has some self-image issue going on. So that was mine. But as a adult, my hearing loss’s become a part of me just like if people were to say, “Aimee has brown hair and blue eyes.” It’s just who I am. So for those who have an acquired disability, it’s not who they are. It’s something new. It’s different. It’s a change. And it can be disabling, or it can be a part of who you are. It depends on how you learn to accept and accommodate and work with and understand all of that. And neither way is good or bad. It’s just how it works.

So I would say I think there’s value in hearing the stories of people with an acquired disability. They have a different perspective that is important for us to hear. At the same time, I think there’s value in those that’ve grown up with a disability or have had it for a long time. And I think that the answer is to meet in the middle and come together and share stories as a group together, and to open up the lines of communication for understanding and collaboration.

I think it’s important to recognize, though, that there’re certain communities that have been oppressed in the disability world. And because of that oppression, sometimes we become guarded. And I think that there is value in understanding and recognizing hey, yeah, you get it because you’ve dealt with it too.

For the entire interview:


Image description: A woman with long brown hair, a black shirt, and a name tag written in Sharpie on her shirt stands outside near the trees, smiling at the camera.]

Aimee Elber, Coordinator at the Disability Resource Center, Clackamas Community College

Aimee Elber is a Coordinator at the Disability Resource Center, Clackamas Community College.



Head shot of Cheryl Green: a middle aged white woman with long brown curly hair wearing a purple t-shirt

Cheryl Green, a writer, director, filmmaker and founder of StoryMinders.



Cheryl Green






Who Am I To Stop It:


Logo for Bookshare with the word 'Bookshare' and a blue and orange pages fanned in an arc above the word.

Media Partner #44: Bookshare

Because everyone should have access to books, we’re extremely happy to have Bookshare as our 44th media partner!

Screen grab from Bookshare's website:

Based in Palo Alto, California, Bookshare has the world’s largest online digital library of accessible books for individuals with print disabilities. The following is the mission of Bookshare (from their website):

People with print disabilities deserve to enjoy reading as much as all other readers. Yet, currently fewer than five percent of the books needed by people with print disabilities are available in accessible formats such as digital text or digital Braille.

Bookshare®’s goal is to raise the floor of access so that people with print disabilities can obtain a broad spectrum of print materials at the same time as everyone else.

People with visual impairments, physical disabilities and/or learning disabilities can look to Bookshare to dramatically increase the quantity and timely availability of books and newspapers in accessible formats. Further, Bookshare’s vision encompasses new technological developments as well as new applications of widely available technologies to stretch the power of technology for increased access to content.

Bookshare is diligently working toward this goal by:

  • Building the Bookshare digital library as rapidly as possible through Volunteers, partnerships, and publishers.
  • Spreading the word so that everyone who is eligible to join Bookshare has the opportunity to do so.

Expanding the choices of access technology available for people with print disabilities. Bookshare is leveraging new technological developments that make reading digital books easier.





Drawing of a man with brown hair. He is wearing a red sweater and eyeglasses. The background is purple. He also has a tracheostomy

Guest blog post: Olmstead, with Charts! By Andrew Pulrang

Andrew Pulrang is a friend of the project and a prolific blogger over at Disability Thinking. The following is an excerpt of a post he published on June 24, 2014.

Olmstead, with Charts!

Andrew Pulrang

This past Sunday was the 15th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead vs. LC and EW … or just Olmstead for short. It is an imperfect analogy, but not too far off to say that Olmstead is to people with disabilities what Brown vs. Board of Education is to racial segregation.

In its Olmstead decision, the Supreme Court applied the Americans with Disabilities Ac, an act of Congress in 1990, in a novel way. It found that “long term care” is a service, like any other, and that state governments that fund long term care must be sure to offer the service in the “most integrated settings”, i.e., in peoples’ own homes, not just nursing homes and institutions. It also affirmed that a person’s choice of where and how to receive long term care services should play a role at least equal to the opinions of doctors and social workers. Finally, the decision … and the President’s Executive Order in 1999 which endorsed strengthened it … underscored that states and localities might have to change their long term care programs and practices, even to the point of complete overhaul, in order to comply. “The way it’s always been done” would no longer be an acceptable limitation, and “We don’t offer that kind of service here” could no longer be an excuse.

Let’s put it another way. If you, or your disabled child, or your aging parents, need help with everyday self-care every day, or several times a week, and your county or state says the only way they can get that help to leave their home and go into a nursing home, assisted living, group home, or other institutionalized facility … that is a violation of their civil right to choose getting care in the manner and place they choose. It doesn’t say they can’t go into the “old folks’ home” if they want to, but they can’t be forced to just because nobody can or wants to figure out another way for them.

Most people, given the choice, would rather live in their own homes than nursing homes. With this Olmstead concept asserted at the highest level of U.S. law, the expectation was that more people would get care in their own homes and fewer in institutions.

A good way to measure how Olmstead has changed long term care for disabled people is to look at how Medicaid spending on long term care overall is divided among institutional care and community care …

For the rest of the blog post:


Do you have a blog post you’d like to share with the Disability Visibility Project? Would you like to write a guest post for us? Email Alice:



For more about Andrew:

Disability Thinking blog:


Twitter: @AndrewPulrang




Screengrab on Twitter of tweets that use the hashtag: #AbledPrivilegeIs

Hashgtag Conversations: Abled Privilege Is

Another interesting hashtag emerged on Twitter a few weeks ago called #AbledPrivilegeIs

Check out a few of these tweets:


The Disability Visibility Project is on Twitter too! Follow us: @DisVisibility

Logo for the World Institute on Disability: The letters 'WID' are capitalized and in black. Above the letter 'W' is an image of a globe.

Media Partner #43: World Institute on Disability

The Disability Visibility Project is proud to have the World Institute on Disability as our 43rd media partner! From their website:

The mission of the World Institute on Disability (WID) in communities and nations worldwide is to eliminate barriers to full social integration and increase employment, economic security and health care for persons with disabilities. WID creates innovative programs and tools; conducts research, training, public education and advocacy campaigns; and provides technical assistance.

An internationally recognized public policy center founded in 1983 by leaders of the Independent Living Movement, WID’s program work focuses on issues and problems that directly affect people’s ability to live full and independent lives. A majority of the Board and staff are persons with disabilities.

Address: 3075 Adeline Street, Suite 155, Berkeley, CA 94703.

Voice: 510.225.6400

TTY: 510.225.0478

Fax: 510.225.0477