Disability Rights and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought to change rights for the 54 million Americans who have one or more disabilities. In his 39 years of life he accomplished more than most of us will ever achieve breaking down barriers between races and stereotypes. Upon winning the Noble Prize, among many other victories, he became a very memorable leader in American history.

Dr. King helped promote civil right issues for Americans with disabilities and gained national attention towards the subject. He managed to proceed and progress in the matter, unfortunately there is still some stereotyping against people with disabilities. He impressed the mentality upon society that separate is not equal.

At one point in time people with apparent disabilities were prohibited to be seen in public in order to prevent sensitivities of people without disabilities. In 1970, Americans with disabilities were sterilized against their will. Today, most would cringe at the thought of treating people with disabilities in such a way.

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Resulting from Dr. King’s extraordinary efforts in the civil rights movement, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed on July 26, 1990. According to Arlene Mayerson, the act “adopted many of the strategies of the civil rights movement before it. Like the African Americans who sat in at segregated lunch counters and refused to move to the back of the bus, people with disabilities sat in federal buildings, obstructed the movement of inaccessible buses, and marched through the streets to protest injustice. And like the civil rights movements before it, the disability rights movement sought justice in the courts and in the halls of Congress.”

Equal opportunities should be available to all shapes, sizes, ethnicity, disabled or able-bodied. The disability rights movement to this day can still be promoted and fought for by people with and without disabilities. Dr. King did his part by spreading awareness of the status and treatment of people with disabilities. Now we must foresee that his hard work is not forgotten. Human equality should not be neglected.