Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Civil Rights anniversaries: MLK assassination; disabilities accommodations

    This month, several Civil Rights anniversaries are remembered including the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968.  Dr. King, known for his nonviolent approach to social change and the famous, "I have a dream" speech, helped paved the way for equality among all Americans, and his work provided a model for the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation affecting people with disabilities.
Forty years ago, April 5th, 1977, a series demonstrations to demand the implementation of Section 504 passed by Congress four years earlier proved to be a watershed for the civil rights of people with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 adapted the concept of reasonable accommodation that was originally applied to religious practices to people with disabilities.

Section 504, a precursor to the ADA, established and still provides for accommodations in all programs receiving federal funds (education, transportation, arts programs, health care, etc.). This landmark legislation was passed in 1973 but was not being enforced because the implementing regulations were held up in Heath, Education, and Welfare. The disability community became increasingly frustrated on April 5, 1977, they took action-staging protests across the country.

In San Francisco, roughly 600 people assembled at the regional office of United Stated Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The protest in San Francisco became the longest occupation of a Federal Building in U.S. history. After 28 days, Section 504 was finally signed into law.

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Cyn Ukoko
Senior Coordinator of Academic Accommodations
The University of Kansas Medical Center
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