Activist Judy Heumann told her experiences to Congress, she refused to be ignored. Heumann told Congress “how she had been stopped at the schoolhouse steps at the age of five because she was in a wheelchair and the principal of her elementary school
deemed her a fire hazard’” (Jeon and Haider-Markel 220). Poignant narratives about discrimination and struggles faced by individuals with disabilities comprise one form of disability activism. This activism exposes the areas that are in need of legislative amelioration. Blatantly discriminating against people based upon labels such as gender or racial identity is viewed by society as antithetical to our national values, as marring the American ‘vision’. Yet there is still marked disagreement regarding the arenas in which people with intellectual disabilities should have freedoms and which activities society
deems appropriate for inclusion. The lengthy tradition in America of systematically relegating individuals with disabilities to inferior legal statuses and Congressional neglect of this group has begun to change in the last half century. What led the status quo of ignoring intellectual disability in Congress to erode? I posit that disability activist groups provoke and transform disability legislation. The United States Congress responds to the
voices of disability advocacy groups.
Since my first year of college, I have had the pleasure of being friends with Frankie. We met through the Best Buddies chapter at my school. The Best Buddies program pairs college members with individuals in the community who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Frankie’s joy at going to dinner or getting coffee enables me to find happiness and appreciation. Frankie inspired me to look at disability rights interest groups and the influence of their strength on legislative measures.
To accomplish the project, I am using a few data bases. To measure the strength of the disability rights groups, I look at the number of disability rights interest groups (over
time), the number of protests by these groups, and the participation of the groups in congressional hearings. The Encyclopedia of Associations contains the information for the volume of disability rights groups and the Policy Agendas project data contains the information for the other variables. The amount of “disability rights” legislation will form my dependent variable; however, I am not sure if I will use the proposed legislation or restrict the variable to passed legislation. Another research issues that I have reached is determining how to incorporate “significance” into measuring the interest groups and the
legislation. I do not want the Americans with Disabilities act to have the same weight as a less monumental piece of legislation. I look forward to collaborating with you all virtually and in D.C.!