It almost slipped by me, the important anniversary of the sit-ins that are described in this post by advocate Ken Stein of DREDF in Berkely. He gives links to video about this important day.
April 5, 1977, was the beginning date of the occupation of the offices of Health, Education and Welfare in San Francisco. Our brothers and sisters stayed for 26 days and before they would depart, demanded to read the new regulations that provided Section 504 of the Rehab Act, which granted equal rights to all persons with disabilities to access federally funded programs and services.
The sit-ins happened in other cities, but the longest was in San Francisco. Looking back, I am amazed at the coordination of these protests at a time that pre-dated the internet. Do you know what a “telephone tree” was? National leaders had key folks they could call to alert about what was happening nationally, and then those regional leaders would call their local leaders, and the local leaders would call their list of contacts to get the word out.
This was the beginning of our understanding as a movement that access was directly connected to disability rights. This law required access for federally funded organizations, later interpreted to apply to state and local entities funded with federal dollars. We finaly refused to be grateful for what little access we could scrape together, and to demand equal access because that access is a key component of equal rights. In 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, this right to equal access was expanded to include access to all public spaces and services.
When I provide training in this history I often ask if the students feel that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been fully implemented/ Typically they answer, “No.” Unfortunately, the American’s with Disabilities Act (passed 26 years later) has not been fully implemented, either. As advocates let’s take a page from the playbook from 40 years ago, and demand and keep demanding equality in treatment, services, and access.
(Text of poster: All people with disabilities…the Federal Government is trying to STEAL our Civil Rights. Demonstrate! to Demand signing of 504 Regulations. Section 504 of the Rehab Act of 1973 was developed by congress to protect the rights of all persons with disabilities in any program receiving federal funds. For four years we have waited for the regulations to be signed. We can wait no longer! Our rights to education, jobs, accessible buildings, day care, medical services, housing, transportation, etc., are being willfully withheld by the Carter administration. Who should join us? All persons with disabilities and supporters of disabled rights. Tuesday, April 5 all day from 10 AM, rally at noon. HEW Office, 50 Fulton Street, San Francisco, United Nations Plaza, (Off BART Civic Center). 504 Emergency Coalition, 2539 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley 94704 Phone Kitty or Jonathon: Days 841-3790 Nights 428-2286. Interpreter for persons who are Deaf will be provided.)