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Lives Worth Living (2011)Lives Worth Living (2011)

This one-hour PBS movie is a little dated, but it's still a powerful and reliable history of the American disability rights movement. Until the late 1950s, it was a common practice to warehouse disabled people in dreadful institutions, which Robert Kennedy famously called "snake pits." They faced horrible myths, stereotypes, discrimination, and exclusion at nearly every level of ordinary life: education, employment, housing, transportation, telecommunications and government services. Things began to change when disabled soldiers came home from World War 2 as heroes and demanded help to meet their needs. Another key element in the struggle was to recast the narrative about disabled people from their medical limitations into a movement that emphasized equal civil and human rights, just as had been done by and for black Americans and feminists in the 1960s. The movie intersperses interviews with key leaders of the movement (eg, Fred Fay, Ed Young, and Judy Heumann) and moving archival footage of demonstrations, marches, protests, and civil disobedience. On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed into law the Americans With Disabilities Act ("Let this shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."). For more on this subject see my review of the movie "Summer in the Forest" (2018) about Jean Vanier and his movement for the disabled called L'Arche, and my Conversation Interview "Remembering Jean Vanier" in 2019. 

Daniel B. Clendenin:

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