On August 28th at the Lincoln Memorial, President Barack Obama delivered an address that was evocative of the famed “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., 50 years ago. While the world gathers to celebrate how far we’ve come, others are reminded of just how little progress has been made for other activist groups, including the Disability Rights Movement.
Before President Obama took the podium, Fred Maahs, chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities, reminded his audience of the ongoing struggle that people with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis.
From greater community access and fighting discrimination in the workplace to achieving a better standard of living, people with disabilities are determined to make their voices heard during a week that celebrates a person’s unalienable rights to freedom and happiness.
The movement has gained considerable attention, especially in the wake of the publication of York College Associate Professor of History Tim McNeese’s book, “Disability Rights Movement,” (ABDO Publishing Company, 2013; available at Amazon.com).
“The world of those considered with disabilities in America has been a difficult one for most Americans to understand,” McNeese says in an interview with York News Times. “And the history of how people with disabilities have been treated throughout American history has been alternately disappointing and yet, in the end, inspiring.“
One of the more inspiring moments in the Disability Rights Movement—and a keynote in Maahs’ speech on Wednesday – is the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Although this treaty – which was signed by the United States in 2009 – calls for greater awareness and care for people living with disabilities in every country, the United Nations has yet to approve the convention.
Activists like Maahs and McNeese are hopeful, thanks to the outpouring of support that the Disability Rights Movement has received in response to growing awareness. They hope that one day, the struggle for equal rights for persons with disabilities will be as historic and celebrated as the Civil Rights movement in the 60s.