At the Democratic National Convention, disability activist Anastasia Somoza told enthusiastic audience members that “in a country where 56 million people so often feel invisible, Hillary Clinton sees me. She sees me as a strong woman, a young professional, a hard worker, and the proud daughter of immigrants.”
Media personalities, political insiders, and the candidates themselves have talked about the 2016 presidential primaries as a departure from what we normally expect from presidential primaries. The difference is often attributed to how Donald Trump “doesn’t play by the rules” – something we are frequently reminded of by pundits on both the left and right. Continue reading
Scholars have long debated the role of social movements in changing policy outcomes – whether and how do they matter. Policies can also create political opportunities for social movements. Policies empower historically disadvantaged groups and provide them with the tools and resources to mobilize their rights. Indeed, as David Meyer put it, scholars often grapple with the “chicken-and-egg” problem of policy and mobilization; that is, which comes first? Thinking about this alleged paradox raises questions about the role of social movements following legislative “victories.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 5th, I defended my dissertation which asked the following question: “Why is the U.S. an innovator in disability rights?” Although I could not help but rethink my answer to this question in light of the Senate voting against ratifying the U.N. disability treaty the day before, I still posit that the U.S. was an innovator on disability rights compared to other western industrialized countries.
Without getting into the history of disability and disability rights in America, it is important to note that political entrepreneurs played a critical role in the late 1960s and early 1970s in reframing disability as a minority group entitled to rights. Continue reading
Since I have been conducting research on local, grassroots disability organizations in the midst of a growing international disability movement, I often find myself thinking about George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1938). For those who haven’t read it, Orwell put his finger on a pretty fundamental issue: movement leaders often diagnose the needs of their members or intended beneficiaries very differently than those members/beneficiaries diagnose their needs themselves. This seems especially true in movements that emphasize a “change in consciousness” as a first step. Continue reading
What WE Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, by Fred Pelka. Amherst and Boston: UMass Press, 2002.
Fred Pelka’s recent book, What WE Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, is not a traditional scholarly text which analyzes the dynamics of the disability rights movement. The book is based on in-depth interviews mostly with key activists from three sources: Pelka’s own interviews, interviews recorded by the group Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and oral histories from the Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. The book is structured around key events and places in the disability rights struggle, predominantly focusing on the politics of the Americans with Disabilities Act (although the interviews and accounts capture a lengthy historical period as many of those interviewed provide recollections of the past going back as far as the 1950s). Admittedly in his preface, Pelka claims that the chapters and interviews are not always presented in chronological order but rather tend to move back and forth through time in order to capture the thoughts of activists about a specific event, organization or policy. Pelka’s voice is mostly present in his preface and to a lesser extent, in his introductory chapter where there is a blend of analysis and interviews. His first chapter provides a fairly straightforward and traditional historical background of the disability struggle which is found in other texts that trace the history of disability rights and the disability rights movement. The rest of the book is largely structured around the oral history he presents. Continue reading