Rights of the Handicapped

November 22, 1974

Report Outline
Activism Among Disabled Citizenry
New Status of Mentally Handicapped
Public Attitudes and Official Action

Activism Among Disabled Citizenry

Militancy and Scope of Handicapped Population

Yet Another Minority has come forward to demand equal rights in society and a place in the mainstream of American life. The nation's handicapped citizens—the blind, the deaf, the paralyzed, the crippled, the mentally retarded, the emotionally disturbed, arthritics, heart patients, epileptics, the multiply handicapped, and those with other mental or physical disabilities—are beginning to form a new activist movement increasingly broad in scope and with great potential power. Like many blacks, Indians, women and homosexuals before them, handicapped individuals have begun to question their unequal status and treatment in life. Groups of handicapped citizens are testing the tactics of militancy by filing lawsuits, mounting publicity campaigns and even holding demonstrations to fight for the legal, civil and human rights to which they feel they are entitled.

“There is definitely a political movement today,” Judy Heumann, a co-founder of the new American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD), told Editorial Research Reports. “Disabled individuals are trying to take hold of what is going on. We are an oppressed group. We have not been recognized as a minority group.” Despite traditional disunity among the handicapped, Heumann said she believes there is a growing willingness today to overlook past differences and concentrate on common goals. “Although we have different disabilities, basically our needs are all the same. We are all being discriminated against. We are all being treated like second-class citizens. We are not being given our constitutional rights.”

No one knows exactly how many handicapped citizens there are in the United States. Estimates range from as low as 11 million to more than 50 million, depending on the definition of “handicapped” and the age limits. Most experts agree on a figure in the range of 20 million to 30 million. “There is no more devastating comment on the nature of our public policy or the lives lived by these individuals than society's inability to provide accurate and current figures on how many individuals are handicapped, what forms of disability they have, and what kind of services they receive or need,” said a recent report from the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Disabled Persons
Apr. 23, 2010  Caring for Veterans
Dec. 20, 1996  Implementing the Disabilities Act
Dec. 27, 1991  The Disabilities Act
Mar. 16, 1984  New Opportunities for the Disabled
Jul. 24, 1981  Mainstreaming: Handicapped Children in the Classroom
Nov. 22, 1974  Rights of the Handicapped
Nov. 11, 1950  Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Domestic Issues
People with Disabilities