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The long & sorry history of discrimination against people with disabilities in the United States -- and its likely causes

Sept./Oct. 2000         

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Shelby County, Alabama "is not equipped to accommodate jurors who have severe disabilities, and . . . Shelby County courts routinely excuse such persons from jury service, as do all of the State's courts." Hill v. Shelby County, 1984
States deny persons with disabilities equal access to the courts

Impairment of the senses, particularly the senses of sight and hearing, vitiates a person's ability to serve effectively as a juror. Arkansas federal judge, ruling in Eckstein v. Kirby, 1978

We doubt that deaf persons have a community of attitudes or ideas. Missouri Supreme Court, ruling in the 1985 case State v. Spivey that the categorical exclusion of "deaf, mute, deaf-mute, and blind persons from inclusion in the jury pool" is constitutional.

The District of Columbia Superior Court continued to exclude all blind persons from jury service until the 1993 court ruling in Galloway v. Superior Court.

"I went to the courtroom one day and . . . I could not get into the building because there were . . . . steps to get in there. Then I called for the security guard to help me, who . . . told me there was an entrance at the back door for the handicapped people. . . . I went to the back door and there were three more stairs for me to get over to be able to ring a bell to announce my arrival so that somebody would come and open the door and maybe let me in. I was not able to do that. . . . This is the court system that is supposed to give me a fair hearing. It took me 2 hours to get in. . . .The employees of the courtroom came back to me and told me, 'You are not the norm. You are not the normal person we see every day.' " Emeka Nwojke, testimony before Congress. The Director of Alabama's Disabled Persons Protection Commission told Congress that everyday at her job, she "ha[d] to drive home to use the bathroom or call my husband to drive in and help me" because the newly renovated State House lacked accessible restrooms.
              From the Historians' brief to the Supreme Court


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The light-colored type running down the edge is a listing of the hundreds of state statutes, session laws, and constitutional provisions that illustrate pervasive state-sponsored discrimination against persons with disabilities, dating from the late nineteenth century through the time of the ADA's enactment and (in some cases) to the present. To read this list, click here.

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