Disability Visibility Project: Ingrid Tischer and Ken Stein, Berkeley, CA
Ingrid Tischer and Ken Stein are both active members of the San Francisco Bay Area disability community. They’re also married to one another! On July 24, 2014, Ingrid and Ken recorded their story at StoryCorps San Francisco. Below are a few excerpts (approximate transcription) from Ingrid’s interview of Ken asking about his participation in the historic 1977 Section 504 sit in that took place in the Federal building in San Francisco.
Ingrid: Can you talk about the importance of that  demonstration, what it meant and what your participation was in it?
Ken: Sure. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was just a sentence or two that said nobody who gets federal money can discriminate against people with disabilities. It was part of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and by 1977 no regulations had been signed which would let people know what that would mean, ah, if a bus pulls up and they say “You can’t get on,” is this discrimination, if schools are separate schools for kids with disabilities is that discrimination, separate but equal? Nobody knew what that law meant.
So there was that long a series of demonstrations around the country, 6, but San Francisco was the only one that really lasted. It lasted for a full 26-28 days, depending on how counted because they are state of little extra longer after the regs were signed, but in any case over a hundred people sat in. It was the longest occupation of any federal building in history.
I was not inside. I was outside the building the whole time, carrying around a picket sign singing, “We Shall Not Be Moved” with other people. My picket sign that I made it was part of the Smithsonian disability rights history collection. I was very proud that was next to the Greensboro lunch counter as far as the importance of 504, I think for me, and I think for a lot of people, participation in the 504 demonstration was a focal point in our lives, something that where everything before then came into a clear point and everything spread out from that, after. I think a lot of ways the independent disability rights movement can be seen in the same way that was the first time there was a mass, organized cross-disability demonstration.
Um, several things that I did that I’m personally very proud of at that demonstration is I ended up recording all of the TV coverage. There are 6 1/2 hours worth of TV coverage on audiocassettes. We didn’t have video recorders, but after the first day I came home and I bought another little RadioShack TV, radio and a second tape recorder so I had 2 tape recorders going and 2 sets of TVs going and recorded the six o’clock seven o’clock, ten o’clock, eleven o’clock TV news newsroom was channel 9 in those days, was around and so I record it all.
It was really important that that was done because there was a strike on the time of news photographers and a lot of the footage was destroyed, very little is left and it was recorded over and over the years, so I some years later, when we did the 504 20th anniversary celebration that was used to make the background for much of the audio for the video, The Power of 504…that video has become very important, because it’s been translated to a number of languages. It’s been shown all over the world and just last week when Judy Heumann and Ed Roberts were honored at the Ed Roberts Campus for an event it was pointed out that people all over the world commented they had seen that video and it had an impact and empowering in their lives.
So I’m very proud of my participation in that demonstration and the work I’ve done subsequent to help keep that memory alive….The disability rights struggle was part of the civil rights struggle…It was a people’s movement, a people’s struggle…keeping the memory of that alive helps people understand the context in which disability rights operates.
Read some historical accounts by participants in the 504 sit in: https://dredf.org/504site/history.html
For the video The Power of 504 (part 1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMC5UuiIQkI
For the video The Power of 504 (part 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vOM0-IOrKg
Description of The Power of 504: Award-winning 18-minute documentary video, which captures the drama and emotions of the historic civil rights demonstration of people with disabilities in 1977, resulting in the signing of the 504 Regulations, the first Federal Civil Rights Law protecting people with disabilities. Includes contemporary news footage and news interviews with participants and demonstration leaders.
For more about the 20th anniversary 504 sit in Celebration that Ken Stein organized: http://dredf.org/504site/504home.html
About Ken Stein
For nearly 45 years, Ken Stein has worked to further the cause of independent living, disability access, and disability rights. From 2002-2014, he was the Program Administrator the Mayor’s Office on Disability, for the City of San Francisco’s ADA Compliance Office. For the ten years prior to that, Ken worked at DREDF (the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund), where he was the Manager of a national U.S. Department of Justice ADA Information Hotline. In 1996-97 organized and was Steering Committee Chair of The 504 20th Anniversary Celebration and Commemoration Committee in 1996-1997. In conjunction with its 504 20th Anniversary event held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in April 1997, the Committee produced a commemorative book; an 18 minute Video documentary, “The Power of 504”; and the 58 minute radio documentary, “We Shall Not Be Moved. His ‘504’ picket sign has been on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History Exhibit ‘The Disability Rights Movement,’ adjacent to the Greensboro Mississippi Lunch Counter. An early staff member of Bonita House and Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living, in 2000, Ken’s oral history was published in the UC Berkeley’s Disabled Persons Independent Living Movement Project publication, “Builders and Sustainers of the Independent Living Movement in Berkeley.” In recent years, he has served as a guest panelist and consultant on a number of disability rights history and disability awareness panels.
About Ingrid Tischer
Ingrid Tischer became DREDF’s Director of Development in 2011. She’s been a Bay Area-based fundraiser, non–profit manager and activist for nearly 20 years. Her staff and consulting work has supported free healthcare services, human and environmental health policy, gender and LGBT anti-discrimination, employment civil rights, and disability rights. She got her start in 1992 in a grassroots women’s clinic before moving on to cutting–edge advocacy organizations Breast Cancer Action, Equal Rights Advocates and the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center. Her media advocacy experience has involved working in coalition with the Labor Project for Working Families, MomsRising and The Impact Fund. She has served on the Women’s Community Clinic Advisory Board, is an alumna of the Women’s Health Leadership (WHL) Program for emerging women healthcare leaders, and has been a faculty member of the California Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) program. Her writing has appeared in The Progressive, Ragged Edge, off our backs, and other outlets. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from The American University in Washington, D.C.
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