Ragged Edge online


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

Sept./Oct. 2000         

man in wheelchair looking up
clear spacer -  hotlink to text of state laws

"It is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education." From the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court deccision, Brown v. Board of Education.
States deny education to children with disabilities

Virtually every state has excluded children with disabilities from public education, even when state constitutions required all children to attend school.
              From the Historians' brief to the Supreme Court

"I was considered too crippled to compete by both the school and my parents. In fact, the [segregated] school never even took the time to teach me to write! . . . The effects of the school's failure to teach me are still evident today." Testimony of Mary Ella Linden before Congress.

  • A student in Vermont was forced to attend classes with students two years behind him because he could not climb staircase to attend classes with his peers
  • A student with spina bifida was barred from the school library for two years "because her braces and crutches made too much noise"
  • A first-grade student "was spanked every day" because her deafness prevented her from following instructions.
    Hearings Before the Subcomm. on the Handicapped, Senate Comm. on Labor & Pub. Welfare.

    A 1989 Commission on Disability report from the California Attorney General noted that "in one town, all disabled children are grouped into a single classroom regardless of individual ability." A bright child with cerebral palsy was assigned to a class with mentally retarded and other developmentally disabled children solely because of her physical disability.

    The school board excluded Ryan White, who had AIDS, not because the board "thought Ryan would infect others" but because "some parents were afraid he would." Congressional Record May 17, 1990.


    Back to "The History of Discrimination" Main Page


    Back to "The History of Discrimination" Main Page


    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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