The affluence of many Americans in the 1950s brought an economic force behind calls for an accessible society. As families moved out of cities and into newly built suburban communities, residents began demanding access to community amenities for themselves and their children with disabilities.
Parent advocacy organizations, such as the ARC, were formed to lobby for educational and community living options for people with cognitive disabilities.
The roots of self-advocacy were firmly planted by the burgeoning African-American Civil Rights Movement. African-American challenges to the notion of ‘separate but equal’ directly translated to the experience of living a segregated life due to one’s disability. People in rehabilitation programs, or recently able to move out into the community, began voicing their opinions and grievances. The federal government responded to their voices by expanding social security by broadening the definition of disability and thereby extending assistance to those foaling under its guidelines.
- Social Security Amendments establish a federal-state program to aid permanent and total disability.
- Mary Switzer appointed Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. She emphasizes independent living as a quality of life issue.
- Cleveland’s para-progressives work towards establishing a fully accessible housing complex for residents with physical disabilities to live in the community.
- Disabled veterans and people with disabilities begin the barrier-free movement. The combined efforts of the Veterans Administration, The President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, and the National Easter Seals Society, among others, results in the development of national standards for “barrier-free” buildings.
- President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week becomes President’s committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped, a permanent organization reporting to the President and Congress.
- Los Angels provides in-home attendant care to adults with polio as a cost-saving alternative to hospitalization.
- Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka mandates that separate schools for black and white children are unequal and unconstitutional. This pivotal decision becomes a catalyst for the modern Civil Rights Movement.
- Social Security Amendments of 1956 creates Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program for disabled workers.
- Social Security Amendments of 1958 extend SSDI benefits to dependents of disabled workers.
- Gini Laurie, a volunteer at Cleveland’s Toomey Pavilion Polio Ward, distributes alumni newsletter for those leaving the rehabilitation program. The newsletter is recognized as one of the earliest voices for independent living. Among the advocates influenced by Laurie’s philosophy is the founder of Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living, Ed Roberts.