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Disability, Civil Rights Converge At Historic Gathering


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As thousands gather in the nation’s capital this week to honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, disability rights issues will be on the agenda.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday afternoon to mark the exact time and place 50 years ago that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famed “I Have a Dream” speech.

Before Obama takes the podium, however, attendees who’ve gathered from across the country are expected to hear from Fred Maahs — chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities — who will draw parallels between the civil rights movement and efforts to secure equality for people with disabilities.

“For many millions of people with disabilities, the American dream remains out of reach,” Maahs said in a statement. “We have seen a lot of progress, but, like all civil rights movements, the disability rights movement has much more to do.”

In his speech, Maahs plans to urge Americans to support ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The treaty calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities around the world. It was signed by the United States in 2009, but Senate approval is needed in order to ratify the convention.

Wednesday’s event will be the culmination of a week of activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which took place Aug. 28, 1963 and helped pave the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In addition to Maahs and Obama, other speakers at the Lincoln Memorial will include former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

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Comments (3 Responses)

  1. joe sosa says:

    I began teaching SED students in public school in 1974, 1 yr. before Prez Ford signed PL 94-142 into effect. It was considered the ‘Bill of Rights’ for students with disabilities. Some reauthorizations and new ideas have helped to continue & improve the ‘free and appropriate education’ (FAPE) afforded to our exceptional learners.
    The legal battles to get PL 94-142 passed were embedded in the civil rights legislation that legally challenged the ‘seperate but equal’ way of thinking that existed for many years. Many (if not most) students with disabilities were excluded from public schools for a number of reasons. We in Special Education are forever indebted to those civil rights advocates that lived (& died) for the dream to be realized. Let’s keep working for that dream…..

  2. Rich H. says:

    The speeches with be worthless until the Pres and Disability community at this event say that FINALLY,the Section 8 Housing Vouchers will NOW be 100% fully funded!!!!!!

  3. Jon K. Evans says:

    The struggles between persons with disabilities, and Black Americans are not terribly different. Both groups faced and/or still face discrimination if not IN YOUR FACE-ISM; both groups have had some form of Jim Crow and/or separate development. for instance, the disabled has had sheltered workshops with pay as little as 22 cents per day, while Blacks have had the for white and for colored signs. Both groups have been bullied. Generally, if you are different from the norm as Blacks as persons with disabilities are, the possibility of some form of discrimination/abuse is ever present.

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