Activism, disabilities, and summer camp may not seem like they would all belong together. However, they all intersected in the 1970’s for campers at Camp Jened. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution outlines the lives of campers, their experiences with disabilities, and becoming activists for themselves and others like them.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
This documentary draws watchers into a history lesson on a camp for disabled youth and the revolution that followed. The campers’ disabilities ranged from spina bifida to cerebral palsy and more. The camp’s goal was to be inclusive to all with disabilities.
This camp was set up to be like most other summer camps and provided the campers with the ability to explore, play, and learn more than they ever thought possible. The documentary focuses on the summer of 1971 and the campers that finally felt like their disabilities would no longer hold them back. It follows some of the campers through the years and the changes they helped make for others with disabilities that came along after them.
These teenagers joined the camp in hopes of enjoying summer, exploring, and participating in sports. What they did not expect was everything else they got. They began to feel less isolated. The campers experimented with smoking, making out, and finally feeling included. They participated in more than they had before and saw others with similar disabilities coming together.
The campers also discussed the discrimination they faced and how many other disabled teenagers had been institutionalized. Camp Jened provided the backdrop for many to feel empowered and they want to change the future for themselves as well as others.
This camp is where these campers came together. Camp Jened is in the Catskills in New York. The camp is a real place that brought many teenagers together throughout the years. It was opened in 1951 and ran for many years. In 1977, the owners had to close down due to financial reasons. The camp reopened in 1980 for another 29 years. It closed down in 2009 and has remained closed since then.
The Build to a Revolution
As the campers discussed politics and what they faced with their disabilities, their passions grew. This led many of the campers and counselors to become activists for themselves and those with disabilities. None of the campers dreamed that their learning and fun would lead to something bigger.
Judy Huemann, a Camp Jened counselor, is featured in this documentary. She spearheaded many protests and played a major role in fighting for the American Disabilities Act. In 1977, among the 300 disabled protestors, Huemann and others from the camp planned a protest against the regulations being placed on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The protestors went to the Housing, Education, and Welfare office in San Francisco. The plan was not for a sit-in to take place, but that is what they did. Eleven days passed with them in the building to show their support for those with disabilities and improving their political standing. Eventually, ABC News played footage of the protest and secretary of health, education, and welfare Joseph Califano dismissing the protestors. The protestors won when Califano banned discriminatory regulations by signing the legislation.
The Effect of Crip Camp
Not many have heard of this civil rights movement and Crip Camp brings it to light. Not only did Camp Jened empower the campers, but it also led to political wins for those with disabilities.
This documentary shows the real lives of those with disabilities in the 1970s to today. Not only do viewers get to see their adventures at camp, but they are also exposed to the victories for those with disabilities.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is available now on Netflix. If you are looking for an uplifting, powerful movie- Crip Camp will provide that and so much more.