Since Super Bowl 50 is today, I started thinking about where people with disabilities were 50 years ago. This is a very scary thought to me. The ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) is only 25, which is relatively new when you think about 50 years. So let’s take a look back at what was going on 50 years ago. The year was 1966 and Lyndon B Johnson was President. Medicare just started on July 1, the average life expectancy was 70.2 years and the price of a stamp was five cents. Now the price of a stamp is 49 cents and the average life expectancy is 76 for men and 81 for women.
Now that we have the statistics let’s look at life for a person who might be disabled. In 1966, the disabled may have been put in an institution if the family could not or would not care for them. This meant a person with disabilities could be in the same facility as a person with a mental illness. Many times they were all treated the same. This could have meant they lived in horrible conditions with people left in soiled diapers for hours, people screaming or throwing things, and really nothing to do.
I am not sure when sheltered workshops first started, but if a disabled person was allowed to stay at home they may have been able to go to one of these workshops. Now I am going to overlap because we still have sheltered workshops and although there is a movement to close all of them, I believe they have a place for severely disabled people. A sheltered workshop offers people with disabilities a chance to feel like they are doing something, no matter how small. Participants also get to socialize, which is probably the best thing for many of these people. In 1966, people with disabilities would not have as many choices of employment as they do today and if they did want to work it was more difficult to become employed. Unfortunately, one problem that people with disabilities have is being mistreated because their voices do not get heard.
Today, people with disabilities have many more choices in employment. They are now educated in the mainstream, whereas in 1966 it was difficult for the disabled to get a mainstream education. Now we have the ADA which I mentioned in the beginning of this article. If you do not know what the ADA is, to give you a very brief description, it is a law that ensures accessibility to disabled and prohibits discrimination of the disabled.
While it sounds like we have come a long way, the ADA does not cover the internet and there are many websites that are not fully accessible to people using screen readers. Sadly, large companies have to be sued to do the right thing. While the rights for the disabled have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. Hopefully the next 50 years will bring about even more equality.
Statistics from: http://www.infoplease.com/year/1966.html