The 1940's saw great strides in disability rights and self-advocacy across the country. As America entered WWII, every individual was needed to contribute to the war effort, including citizens with disabilities. Wounded veterans returning from the war demanded a place in society as they faced discrimination after returning home, becoming advocates for disability rights and social justice. This became the catalyst for the modern Disability rights Movement.
They started support groups and advocacy organizations to lobby for increased opportunities and alternatives to the sheltered workshop and institutional living arrangements they faced.
In Cleveland, a group of self-advocates founded the Para-Progressives, an organization dedicated to the concept of independent living.
By the end of the decade numerous organizations were established to advocate for and provide services to Americans with disabilities.
- The American Federation of the Physically Handicapped, becomes the first national, cross-disability political organization, working to end job discrimination and establish rights legist ration.
- Jim Mathis, a future co-founder of Cleveland’s modern Independent Living Movement (ILM) establishes Ohio’s first wheelchair basketball team, the Cleveland Comets.
- President Harry Truman establishes a National Employ the Handicapped Week.
- The Paralyzed Veterans of America is organized. www.pva.org
- Cleveland’s Camp Cheerful is established by the Society for Crippled Children. It was Ohio's first camp for children with disabilities.
Today, camp cheerful is in Strongsville, Oh and run by the Achievement Centers for children. www.campcheerful.achievementcenters.org/
- The Natinal Paraplegia Foundation, founded as the civilian arm of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, takes a leading role in advocating for disability rights.
- University of Illinois at Galesburg disabled students’ program was officially founded. It became a prototype for disabled student programs and independent living centers across the country.
- In Cleveland, Ohio, the para-Progressives is founded. The group is one of the nation’s first organizations of self-advocates to promote the modern concept of independent living, such as accessible housing and access to employment. Jackie Thompson joins the Para-Progressives in 1949.
- Timothy Nugent founds the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. The first Annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament is held that year.
Wheelchair basketball, and other sports, become an important part of disability lifestyle and culture over the next several decades.