Separate is Not Equal – Towards Disability Rights 2.0

30 years ago, disability rights advocates crawled up the steps of the US Capitol to demonstrate to everyone how inaccessible the US is. Their fight was to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, and they succeeded. The ADA turned 30 last week.

But, today, those steps are no more accessible than they were.

All around America, there are separate “Handicapped Entrances”. Ramps in the back or off to the side. Most entrances to public buildings are not accessible…. You can get in if you are disabled… around back.

There are a couple of “Handicapped Parking spots” making it clear that not all parking spaces are accessible.

For decades, African Americans fought to end the era of “Jim Crow”. Voter suppression. Separate schools.

White entrances and drinking fountains vs. Colored entrances and drinking fountains. White seats in restaurants vs. Colored seats in restaurants.

The turning point came with the Supreme Court decision “Brown vs. the Board of Education” in 1954. This ended the 60 years of state sanctioned discrimination of “Plessey vs. Fergeson”.

“Separate was finally recognized to be not Equal”

In some sense, the major successes of the disability rights movement in the 1970s starting with the inclusion of Section 504 in the Rehabilitation Act to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 30 years ago were to bring the disability community up from having basically no rights at all, in many cases, no real recognition of their humanity, UP to the level of Jim Crow – It may not be Equal, but at least there was SOMETHING there, even if it is “Separate”… Disability Rights 1.0.

I think, it is time to start working on Disability Rights 2.0

I’m your host, Steven Davis and welcome to the fifth episode of Disability Democracy Radio. Episode 5 is the first of a series of episodes on “Separate is not Equal”. Disability Democracy Radio is a weekly podcast is about practical actions we can take – that YOU can take – to make a difference in your community. The goal of Disability Democracy Radio is to accelerate the disability community revolution. Find out more at

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