Ragged Edge magazine 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 -hotlink to text of state laws
clear spacer-hotlink to text of state laws

In Michigan, Ted Aslin and his brother, Fred, were involuntarily sterilized at the age of 18 by the state of Michigan in 1944 because they were "feeble-minded morons." After their release, Fred and Ted went on to raise adopted sons. For more than a decade, Ted has acted as a licensed foster parent to approximately 100 children, as reported on last March 22's broadcast of ABC's 20/20
States interfere with the right of persons with disabilities to travel and to form families:

Alabama law banned the immigration of "persons suffering with contagious and communicable diseases, of cripples without means and unable to perform mental or physical service, of idiots, of lunatics, persons of bad character."

Until a few months ago, Utah authorized its counties to restrict the travel rights "of any . . . idiotic or insane persons not having a lawful settlement in such county," or "of persons afflicted with or who have recently been exposed to any contagious disease."

The states' reasons for legalizing and carrying out sterilizations of persons with disabilities were to eradicate a group of persons who allegedly "burdened" society.

As of 1980, 42 states and the District of Columbia had statutes restricting marriage for persons with disabilities.

Just last year, an Indiana trial judge ordered that a blind father -- a successful CEO of a computer company -- must be accompanied at all times by a "responsible adult" while caring for his daughter, simply because of his disability.
              From the Historians' brief to the Supreme Court


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.

Back to our home page.

This Website produced by Cliffwood Organic Works