Rolling Without Limits

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The Capitol Crawl: Being Disabled in an Able-Bodied World
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The Capitol Crawl: Being Disabled in an Able-Bodied World

The Capitol Crawl. I hadn't heard of it until a few years ago, only to find that it involved the enactment of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) of 1990. This act made it so people with physical and mental disabilities could be involved in a world that able-bodied people often took for granted. Unfortunately, people with disabilities literally had to crawl from their wheelchairs up the 84 steps to the Capitol Building for the ongoing delays of the bill to lift. The media coverage of this event was scant, which is why some people haven't heard of The Capitol Crawl and how it further enriched the lives of people with disabilities. According to an article from the LA Times in 1990, "At the close of the rally, when dozens left their wheelchairs to crawl to the Capitol entrance, spectators' attention focused on 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan of Denver, who propelled herself to the top of the steep stone steps using only her knees and elbows."

Looking back, it seems incredibly cruel that people with disabilities would have to physically crawl up the steps of the Capitol building to be heard and taken seriously. The face of the movement was a young eight-year-old girl named Jennifer Keelan. She spearheaded the movement by infamously saying, "I'll climb all night if I have to!" Keelan has Cerebral Palsy and continues to be an activist for disability rights today. 

Before the ADA was enacted, the United States was not a country made for people with disabilities. Because of this, people with disabilities were virtually invisible. We struggled, as countless others before us, to be where we are today. We are "interesting" now because we thrive despite the "barriers" we face, and we are tearfully encouraged by able-bodied people that say "we are amazing" and "that it inspires them to do better." Is eating a sandwich inspiring? Is vacuuming inspiring? Inherently, by any and all accounts, no. We are simply living in a world that has adapted to us, thanks to people like Jennifer Keelan who were willing to climb all night in order to pave the way for the rest of us.

Leave a Comment

  1. manoj
    I really appreciated your post, This would really provide the great information. Thanks for the post. <a href=""rel="dofollow"title="Adjustable Elbow Crutch">Adjustable Elbow Crutch</a> Keep Posting:)
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  2. wsokol
    I live in the DC area and while not perfect, it is far better in terms of accessibility than most other countries, even in the EU.
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  3. Arnie Slater
    Arnie Slater
    Again, Great article... My wife and I are originally from the Metro Area. Bonnie, my wife, was Ms. Wheelchair MD. 1995. I was Mr. “Handicapped” Annapolis 1989. We both have been disability advocates in DC. We were both on The Governor’s committee for Employment Of People with Disabilities in 2000. I was actually an intern at NCMRR (The National Center for Medical Rehab and Research) in the very early 90’s. They were part of NIH. This group was instrumental in writing the actual ADA book. My job was to inspect and evaluate DC’s Accessible hotels, and restaurants for ADA compliance. It was a pretty cool job. At the time I was very young and green. I really didn’t realize how important it all turned out to be. The ADA was still such a new entity.
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