Gerben DeJong, author of Independent Living: From Social Movement to Analytical Paradigm, wrote: "...social change is possible when a significant group of people see the treatment of the unfortunate (disabled) as injustice rather than charity."

America emerged from World War II as a world leader. The importance of protecting human rights became a growing movement in our society. Helping war torn families reunite and improve their quality of life was as important as helping war torn countries rebuild and embrace democracy. Programs like the GI Bill enabled returning veterans to obtain housing and education and employment. This included disabled veterans as well.

Other shifts in society precipitated change in points of view about people with disabilities. These shifts are presented as a series of movements in society that had consequences and benefits for people with disabilities and Independent Living Philosophy.

US Civil Rights Movement - Equal Rights

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination based on age, gender, race or ethnic origin. Although the law did not include people with disabilities, it raised their awareness that they could achieve equal rights under the law. This opened the door to making employment discrimination based on disability illegal as well. The law also required municipalities to provide people with disabilities the opportunity to vote and run for elected office.

Legislation would later be passed guaranteeing the same rights for people with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act did.

Consumerism Movement - Consumer Control

The consumerism movement gained recognition and popularity through the efforts of "Nader's Raiders" and other consumer research groups. Work in consumer product safety and the development of a Consumer Product Safety Commission gave consumers the power to demand quality and choice in the products and services they purchased.

Consumers with disabilities are becoming more involved in the development of technology that assists them in their daily activities. Some have developed products and small businesses of their own.

Special Interest Movement

The emergence of national social equity organizations grew from an extension of civil rights legislation. Organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Organization of Women (NOW) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) represent the unique interests of distinct groups and work to raise national awareness and attention to issues critical to their constituents. These peer established, peer run organizations operate with the belief that they are the experts on issues affecting them.

Similarly, organizations like the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) were established to raise national awareness on disability issues. People with disabilities networked for disability rights and established organizations like the ARC. These organizations enabled peer to peer communication and input into critical Independent Living and disability legislation.

Demedicalization Movement

Moving away from traditional "doctor / patient" roles, the demedicalization movement embraced the person's involvement in their own health care and in exploring alternative medical options. Combined with the consumerism movement, "patients" were empowered and exercised control in requesting second opinions from physicians and alternative treatment methods in health care decisions. The extent of "consumer control" includes the person's right to refuse treatment, even when needed to sustain life.

This movement expanded to include people with disabilities allowing them to make decisions about the treatment of their disabling condition and enabling them to explore more options for assistive technology support.

Deinstituitionalization Movement

These movements encouraged care providers and parents of people with disabilities to see the value of home care and the least restrictive environment. Institutionalization was common for a range of maladies. Elderly and persons with terminal illness or degenerative diseases were often institutionalized because technology was either too expensive or not available to support home care. The majority of people with mental illness, learning disabilities, multiple disabilities and those with significant physical disabilities were often in institutions because treatment plans and medications were not developed to support home care.

Warehousing children with disabilities in nursing homes and special schools was another form of institutionalization. As mainstreaming programs became more popular, parents and individuals demanded placement of students with disabilities in regular schools and learning centers allowing for normal home life.

Deinstitutionalization is based on the idea that to achieve normal behavior, the person should be in as normal a setting as possible. Deinstitutionalization allows people with disabilities to be part of their community and not be shut away from society. It also supports greater self-determination and choice for the individual.

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