Disability Rights: Part of a Broader Civil Rights Struggle

In this blog we often look at specific physical or mental conditions that can make someone eligible for Social Security disability (SSD) insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Last week, for example, we wrote about Down syndrome.

From time to time, however, we also develop broader themes that relate to SSD in Michigan. One of those themes is the significant expansion of the definition of disability that Congress has adopted in recent years.

In this post, let’s look broadly at disability rights on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. That gathering in 1963, at which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, was not only one of the high points of the civil rights movement. It was arguably one of the high points in America’s unfolding history.

And so this week, President Obama and thousands of others gathered in Washington to mark the occasion. And certainly Obama’s presence, as the nation’s first black president, added an inspiring dimension to an event that called attention the ongoing struggles of African-Americans for civil rights.

Interestingly, though, organizers of the event also gave a prominent place to another aspect of the civil rights movement: that of people with disabilities. Along with President Obama, another featured speaker at the Lincoln Memorial was the chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities, Fred Maahs. 

Maahs spoke of the need for the United States to ratify a U.N. treaty on the treatment of people with disabilities. The formal name of this treaty is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is intended to promote greater access for people the full range of opportunities available in American life.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Disability, Civil Rights Converge At Historic Gathering,” Michelle Diament, August 27, 2013