Chapter 13. The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities
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246 13 The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) was incorporated in 1975 to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities on a national level. During its heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it sponsored the founding of state and local chapters, lobbied for legislation, and coordinated national campaigns on issues ranging from the design of accessible buses to the regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The ACCD represented a new direction in disability politics. Traditionally, people with disabilities had been divided into various constituencies, usually based on medical criteria. This categorization applied to consumer-controlled groups (for example, the National Federation of the Blind, the National Association of the Deaf), for service organizations (such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Easter Seal Society), and for parents’ groups (such as the Association for Retarded Children, the United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc. With the success of Disabled in Action on the East Coast, and the California Association of the Physically Handicapped on the West, by the late 1960s advocates had begun to think in terms of a national organization that would pull all the various strands together. Chief among them was Fred Fay, who began using his contacts within the National Paraplegia Foundation and then at the annual meetings of the President’s Committee on the Employment of the Physically Handicapped to push for the creation of such a group. There were problems, though. For one, organizers soon discovered that people with disabilities were no more immune than the general public to harboring misconceptions about various disabilities and those who have them. Wheelchair users and people with cerebral palsy, for example, who were used to being mischaracterized as “mentally retarded,” were often at pains to distance themselves from people with intellectual disabilities. Many people who were culturally Deaf rejected any attempt to categorize themselves as disabled, as did members of organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind. the american coalition of citizens with disabilities 247 Then, too, there were instances when different disability groups had what at first appeared to be mutually exclusive priorities. The organized blindness community, for example, confronted with a history of blind people being segregated into institutions and sheltered workshops, pushed for the mainstreaming of blind children into public schools, while the Deaf community was skeptical of mainstreaming if it would result in the closing of Deaf schools where Deaf teachers taught ASL. Moreover, there were differences, sometimes even bitter controversies, within the same disability community. The American Council of the Blind (ACB), for instance, was founded in 1961, in part to break away from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The ACB accepted the notion of cross-disability organizing and community and joined the ACCD. By contrast, the NFB never endorsed cross-disability politics and never joined the ACCD. Despite all these issues, the ACCD was up and running by 1977, and under the leadership of its executive director, the author and activist Dr. Frank Bowe, it would play a major role in melding what had been regional and single disability groups into a national, cross-disability coalition. Fred Fay (continued) “Every single group . . . had members who had been discriminated against.” Fred Fay graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Having had his “first taste of political change,” he embarked on what was to be a lifetime of disability rights activism. Already the cofounder (with his mother, Janet Carolyn Wright Fay) of the Opening Doors counseling center for people with spinal cord injury, in Washington, DC, he became a leader in the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (then called the National Paraplegia Foundation), establishing and serving as first president of its Washington chapter. In the early 1970s, advocating for access on the Washington Metro then under construction, he coined the slogan “No taxation without transportation.” After receiving his doctorate in educational psychology in 1972 (also from Illinois), he worked as a researcher for the Urban Institute before moving to the Boston area to take a position as a professor and director of research and 248 chapter 13 training at the Rehabilitation Institute at Tufts New England Medical Center. Having met Ed Roberts and visited the CIL in Berkeley, Fred was also an early advocate for independent living, and in 1974 cofounded the Boston CIL. Along the way Fred had also done his share of “street theater.” In...



Subject Headings

  • United States. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • People with disabilities -- Civil rights -- United States -- History.
  • People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States -- History.
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