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Disability Protests: Contentious Politics, 1970-1999

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1. This concept is similar to other concepts that have linked beliefs to contentious action, including “political culture,” used by political scientists, and “mentalities,” used by historians (Tarrow, 1992).

2. New social movements are not really new, either empirically or conceptually. The revitalization movements that Wallace (1956) discussed more than forty years ago resemble new social movements, although they did not grow out of a postmodern context. In addition, new social movement issues surfaced in the American countercultural movements of the 1960s (Turner, 1968; Westhaus, 1972).

3. For example, articles by Hacker (1951) and Streib (1963) aided in extensions of the frame of civil rights to women and to the elderly, respectively.

4. Although sociologists disagree about the defining aspects of a minority group, they tend to agree that it applies to people who differ physically or culturally from the dominant group in a society; who experience economic, political discrimination, and powerlessness; for whom membership in the group is ascribed rather than achieved; and for whom intramarriage is common (Stroman, 1982).

5. Cost is one area in which the types of accessibilities differ. Most of the costs of achieving accessibility in the built or natural environment involve one‑time costs, either for removing barriers or for adding accessibility features. Usually these are accommodations that, once made, will not require additional expenditures, except for maintenance or replacement of equipment. Some aspects of communications accessibility can be achieved for free or for minimal cost. Chairs can be rearranged into a circle in classrooms; professors can learn not to speak while they are writing on the blackboard; walls can be repainted. But communications accessibility more often involves both one-time and ongoing costs. One-time costs can include the installation of visual fire alarm systems, loop or infrared listening systems, electronic signs or platform safety lights, telephone amplification devices, or built-in TDDs. They could also include purchasing equipment such as TDDs, FM systems, or hearing aids. Ongoing expenditures in addition to maintenance can include costs for closed or real time (live) captioning, note-takers, or sign language or oral interpreters (Barnartt, Seelman, and Gracer, 1990).

6. This is not an issue for all people with impairments. People with some types of impairments may have no more health concerns than an average person (Pfeiffer, 1997). But for people with types of impairments that do require extensive or specialized medical care, health insurance that covers their needs is a very large worry. This demand, which does not fall under the frame of civil rights, asks that support payments that are given to people with impairments under some circumstances, through Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), be restructured so that they do not include work disincentives. That is, they demand that these programs be structured so people do not automatically lose medical assistance through Medicaid, an important benefit carried by these programs, in addition to losing the support payments, when they earn above the minimum amount. If people also lose their medical insurance when they start to earn money, they may be much less inclined to try to look for work because the fear of losing health insurance coverage is greater than the desire to work, especially if it is likely that the job would not carry health benefits.

7. Burgdorf (1984) argues that the goal for racial and ethnic groups (as well as for women) was to make the laws as neutral as possible—to force the laws to disregard race (or sex) as a relevant classification. For people with impairments, however, neutrality may not be the most appropriate legal goal: The goal may be to remove barriers rather than simply ignoring them.

8. Other words are used in other countries. In Australia, for example, the word used is integrated and its opposite is segregated (Byrnes, 1998). In Zimbabwe the word mainstreaming is sometimes mixed up with the word streaming, or tracking (Barnartt and Kabzems, 1992).

9. See, for example, John Hockenberry's (1995) description of life in a rehabilitation facility.

10. It may also be setting up terms that are different from those used in other countries. For example, some of the radical writings about disability from England, such as Oliver (1990), do not use the concept at all.

11. Some deaf parents surprise their doctors by being pleased with a diagnosis of deafness in their babies (White, 1998).

12. As Wrigley (1996: 8) notes, however, some Deaf activists “are willing to accept the label’s inherent limitations in exchange for shorter-term payoffs in social welfare privileges,” such as support by SSI, vocational rehabilitation, or coverage under the ADA.

13. An example of this was observed by the first author relating to the use of the word waiver in the context of the juvenile justice system. In that context, if a person is waived from the juvenile system, they are in effect “bumped up” to the adult system. Thus, the word waiver in this situation should be signed “promoted.” If the word is signed, as it frequently is, using the sign for “excused,” students are likely to misunderstand the concept.

14. The issue is also becoming one that links the psychiatric treatment system and the criminal justice system with arguments about whether defendants can be forced to take medicine that may make them lucid enough to stand trial and, in some cases, to face the death penalty (e.g., Miller, 2001).

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