A decade of contrasts for the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement, the gains of the 1970s were threatened as the Reagan administration implemented funding cutbacks and reversed back civil rights laws. Conversely, Clevelanders and other local advocates across the country were gaining momentum at the local level.
Cleveland’s first independent living center opened its doors and worked to gain attendant care legislation, accessible housing and accessible public transportation. Cities across the nation followed suite as hundreds of independent living centers opened their doors nationwide.
Clevelander Mary Verdi Fletcher established Dancing Wheels, the nation’s first integrated dance company incorporating the use of wheelchairs in their productions. Advocates demanded that their voices be heard and continued to work toward inclusion in both the political planning process and in society as a whole.
- Clevelanders host the National Science Foundation National Conference on Independent Living and Accessibility.
- Mary Verdi-Fletcher begins performing integrated dance under the name Dancing Wheels. It serves as a prototype for future integrated dance ensembles across the globe.
- The United Nations proclaims 1981 the International year of Disabled Persons and encourages government to sponsored programs to bring people with disabilities into the mainstream of society.
- Monday, March 8, 1981, Services for Independent Living opens its doors.
- The Telecommunications for the Disabled Actmandates telephone access for deaf and hard-ofhearing people at important public places, such as hospitals and police stations, and that all coin-operated phones be hearing aid-compatible by January 1985. It also calls for state subsidies for production and distribution of TDDs (telecommunications devices for the deaf), more commonly referred to as TTYs.
- LEAP is founded. LEAP is incorporated as a consumer directed and controlled 501(c) 3 corporation. Provider of lift van service until 1984. Began providing pre-employment guidance and mentoring for hard to place individuals with disabilities, and offered emloyer awareness on hiring people with disabilities
- SIL and the Cleveland Attendant Care committee helps convince the State of Ohio to fund the Personal Care Attendant Pilot Project to provide in-home attendant services.
- The National Council on Independent Living is formed to advocate on behalf of independent living centers and the independent living movement.
- The National Council on the Handicapped issues a call for Congress to “act forthwith to include persons with disabilities in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other civil and voting rights legislation and regulations.”
- Maximum Independent Living, a joint effort between LMM, SIL and PVA, establishes Cleveland’s first fully-accessible apartment complex.
- The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act mandates that polling places be accessible or that ways be found to enable elderly and disabled people to exercise their right to vote. Advocates find that the act is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.
- Cleveland advocates stage a demonstration in public square, surrounding buses until RTA agreed to address the need for accessible transit.
- The Air Carrier Access Act is passed, prohibiting airlines from refusing people simply because they are disabled, and charging them more for airfare than non-disabled travelers.
- The Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act is passed, allowing recipients of Supplemental Security Incomeand Social Security Disability Insurance to retain benefits, particularly medical coverage, even after they obtain work.
- On May 3rd, seventy-seven lift-equipped busses were placed on Cleveland’s streets.
- Students stage the ‘Deaf President Now” protest at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. to appoint the university’s first deaf president.
- LEAP establishes the Attendant Training Program to assist persons with disabilities in becoming personal care attendants.