As part of its recognition of the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities (Dec 3), the U.S. Department of State screened a new documentary on the history of the Disability Rights Movement titled Lives Worth Living. Representatives from a wide range of disability advocacy organizations and government agencies were on hand for the screening and panel discussion that followed.
The movie chronicles the historical fight for anti-discrimination legislation for people with disabilities from just after World War II when public perception about disabilities began to shift until the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. Read more about the film and watch clips.
“There is a greatness to this story, and that is its connection to democracy,”said Eric Neudel, the film’s producer/director. “With no civil rights, there is no democracy. They go hand-in-hand.”
Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, moderated the discussion. While mostly a look back at the early steps to gain rights for people with disabilities, discussion also focused on the future, particularly the need to engage younger people. Since it has been more than 20 years since passage of the ADA, there is a whole generation that is not aware of the struggles fought to secure these rights and what battles lie ahead.
Judith Heumann, Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the State Department, helped organize the event and spoke as part of its panel. But her strongest words were those featured in the movie itself, when she declared: “Discrimination doesn’t easily end because we are able to get legislation passed. The fight for rights for people with disabilities is one that will go on for decades.”