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Disability Protests

Contentious Politics, 1970-1999

Sharon Barnartt and Richard Scotch

Publication Year: 2001

Part and parcel to the civil rights movements of the past 30 years has been a sustained, coordinated effort among disabled Americans to secure equal rights and equal access to that of non-disabled people. Beyond merely providing a history of this movement, Sharon Barnartt and Richard Scotch’s Disability Protests: Contentious Politics, 1970–1999 offers an incisive, sociological analysis of 30 years of protests, organization, and legislative victories within the deaf and disabled populations. The authors begin with a thoughtful consideration of what constitutes “contentious” politics and what distinguishes a sustained social movement from isolated acts of protest. The numbers of disability rights protests are meticulously catalogued over the course of 30 years, revealing significant increases in both cross-disability actions as well as disability-specific actions. Political rancor within disability communities is addressed as well. Chapter four, “A Profile of Contentious Actions” confronts the thorny question of who is “deaf enough” or “disabled enough” to adequately represent their constituencies. Barnartt and Scotch conclude by giving special attention to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the 1988 Deaf President Now protest, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, focusing on how these landmark events affected their proponents. Disability Protests offers an entirely original sociological perspective on the emerging movement for deaf and disability rights.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

There are many people and situations that contributed to the writing of this book. For the senior author, inspiration for researching this topic came from a seminar on Political Histories of Collective Action that she attended in 1992. Funded by the National Endowment...

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pp. xi-xxvi

Beginning in the 1970s in the United States, there were increasing numbers of protests centering on the lives of people who are deaf and those who have physical or mental impairments. These protests bear some similarities to those that formed the civil rights movement and the women's movement. This book is about those protests: It is about contentious...

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1. One History of Disability in America: How Collective Action Became Possible

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pp. 1-30

Many histories have been written about people with impairments. Some consider people with impairments in general; others either consider the history of people with specific types of physical impairments or delve into the history of disability laws and policies.1 Although these histories are useful, and will be cited here, by themselves they do not...

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2. Collective Consciousness and a Profile of Issues

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pp. 31-56

Social movements are motivated by demands for change, which are derived from a type of belief system we call a collective consciousness.1 These belief systems consist of ideas that transform perceptions and ultimately legitimate opposition to extant cultural beliefs or social structural arrangements (Mueller, 1987). This opposition to cultural beliefs is necessary...

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3. The Social Basis for Movement Formation and Mobilization

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pp. 57-65

The major approach of this volume is to employ an event history analysis of protest activities to better understand protest actions in the disability community. In this chapter, we provide some complementary discussion based on two additional data sources-personal interviews...

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4. A Profile of Contentious Actions: How Success Became Possible

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pp. 66-108

In this chapter we examine the characteristics of contentious political actions that occurred from the beginning of 1970 to the end of 1999 in which members of the deaf and disability communities and others have engaged for the improvement of the lives of people with impairments. We present a descriptive profile of all the contentious political actions included in our database....

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5. Cross-Disability and Impairment-Specific Protests: Social Movement Unity and Disunity

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pp. 109-138

Because impairments differ, disability is an extremely variable status. There are not only large differences between mental and physical impairments but also vast differences among different types of impairments within those two categories. Although there are some similarities in experiences, problems, and goals, there are also major differences in experiences, problems, goals, and suggested solutions. The similarities and differences depend...

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6. Changes in Protests Over Time: Increased Heterogeneity, Decreased Societal Attention

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pp. 139-159

In this chapter we consider how the characteristics of the contentious actions changed over time and attempt to explain those changes in relationship to earlier protest characteristics as well as to external events. In particular, we try to relate changes in the protests to changes in the political opportunity...

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7. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act: The Effects of Cross-Disability Successes

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pp. 160-191

Social movement activities, including both contentious and noncontentious actions, are carried out over an extended period of time. Thus, earlier actions and their results will affect subsequent actions and their results. In this chapter and the next, we examine the effects that several clear successes had on subsequent patterns of protests in the deaf and disability...

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8. The Deaf President Now Protest: The Effect of an Impairment-Specific Success

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pp. 192-213

The Deaf President Now (DPN) protest, which occurred at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., in March 1988, was a highly visible protest that was successful in attaining all of its demands. In addition, the link between the collective action and its success was quite clear. Here we examine the impact of this protest in the deaf community...

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9. Looking to the New Millennium

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pp. 214-221

To conclude our study, we illuminate trends that might help to predict the disability scene in the new millennium. We examine trends in contentious political action in academia, and look at trends in the United States and elsewhere....

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10. Conclusion: Against All Odds and Contrary to the Conventional Wisdom

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pp. 222-224

This book has shown that, despite predictions it would not happen, there have been a substantial number of protests related to disability since 1970. Those, along with other types of actions such as lawsuits, petitions, and lobbying, form one or more social movements. This book...

Appendix A. List of Acronyms

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pp. 225

Appendix B. Methodology

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pp. 227-241


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pp. 243-259


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pp. 261-272

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682049
E-ISBN-10: 1563682044
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563681127
Print-ISBN-10: 1563681129

Page Count: 298
Illustrations: 48 tables, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2001