Major Disability Non-Violent Direct Actions 1935 – 2017

By Mark Romoser
1935 – League of the Physically Handicapped, NYC, sit-in at office of Emergency Relief Bureau.
The League also tried to educate unions and other progressive groups about disability issues, and were branded as “Reds” (communists) for their troubles.

1964 – White Cane Day, blind people demonstrating on behalf of pedestrian safety for people using travel canes. The blind community has long been in the forefront of the disability rights movement; all states had guide dog laws decades before the ADA.

1977 – 504 sit-ins in San Francisco.  Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act, a precursor of the ADA, required the federal government and any entity receiving federal funds to end discrimination on the basis of disability. President Carter’s secretary of health and human services, Joseph Califano, dragged his feet on drafting the regulations that would implement Section 504. Activists occupied the federal building in SF for nearly a month. When the government cut off phone service to the building (years before cell phones), Deaf people in the building got messages in and out by signing back and forth to allies outside.

1983 – ADAPT.  Originally Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit, ADAPT frequently protested the American Public Transit Association demanding lift-equipped buses. After the ADA mandated such buses, ADAPT’s focus shifted to the one-quarter of U.S. nursing home residents who are under age 65 and have disabilities, under the slogan “FREE OUR PEOPLE!” In the early days, ADAPTers blocked buses at the main transfer point in downtown Denver to get their point across.

1990 – Capitol Crawl.  Wheelchair users crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol to demand passage of the ADA. Some of them were children.

2010 – Arnieville.  Disability and homeless activists occupy a traffic island in Berkeley for one month to protest Gov. Schwarzenegger’s draconian budget cuts. When the activists brought the papier-mache statue of Schwarzenegger to Sacramento and blocked off a street in front of the Capitol, it took Sacramento police 45 minutes to clear the street and take them to jail, because they had no accessible vehicle to get them there.

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Disabled Artists in South Africa, Trump on Disability

Friday, March 31, 2017, 2:30 pm PDT, KPFA

Josh Elwood talks with Mitch Jeserich about President Trump’s attitude toward disability.  Then, we seek out disabled and deaf artists in South Africa with Leroy F. Moore Jr. and Simon Manda.

Leroy F. Moore Jr is the founder of Krip Hop Nation.  He recently visited seven South African cities with Simon Manda, the cofounder of THISABILITY, a South African newspaper covering the disabled community.

Mitch Jeserich is host of KPFA’s Letters and Politics.

We also discuss HB 610 a bill that funds a huge attack on public education in the form of voucher programs by directly de-funding education for children with disabilities.   Here’s the details of that.   Tell your congress people to vote “NO”.   The congressional switchboard is: 202-224-3121.

Here’s some of the details:

Republican attack on Kids with Disabilities & Public Schools – HB 610

The school voucher system proposed by Education secretary Betsy DeVos does not mean you can choose any school you want your kid to go to. It means the public education program will be dismantled.

If your child has an IEP (individual education plan for students with special needs), kiss it goodbye.

If you have a job in special-education, if you’re a special education teacher, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech pathologist, a para, a teacher’s aid, or an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, you’ll go first.

House Bill 610 makes some large changes. Inform yourselves. This bill will effectively start the school voucher system to be used by children ages 5-17 and starts the defunding process of public schools.

The bill will eliminate the Elementary and Education Act of 1965, which is the nation’s educational law that provides equal opportunity in education. ESSA is a big comprehensive program that covers programs for struggling learners, advanced and gifted kids in AP classes, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance, and Federal Accountability Programs.

The Bill also abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch.

The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting Special Needs kids, no mention of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education).

Here are some things ESSA does for Children with Disabilities.  These things would be repealed and de-funded:

-Ensures access to the general education curriculum.

-Ensures access to accommodations on assessments.

-Ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning.

-Includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups.

-Requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).

Organize in your school and community to resist this disastrous proposal.  Say NO to HB 610.

Produced and hosted by Adrienne Lauby.

Original air date: 3-21-17

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Autism and Trans Identity

Friday, March 17, 2:30 PST on KPFA

There is a growing nexus between the autism spectrum and trans identity, which we explore as we take an in-depth look at the lives of Autistic people in the Bay Area.  Host Mark Romoser and guest Tracy Garza are both Autistic. Tracy  outlines an initiative to make San Francisco, with its large trans population, into an Autistic-friendly city.

Tracy also gives us a glimpse into a new coping technique for Autistic people.  With a discussion of the lives of Autistic people taken by caregivers, police and others.

Tracy Garza is a founding member of the local Transgender Law Center, a current member of the LGBT advisory committee of the Human Rights Commission of San Francisco and was the emcee of the recent Day of Mourning sponsored by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.

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Eli Clare – Grappling with Cure

Listen (58 min)

White, disabled, and genderqueer, Eli Clare’s new book, Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure, questions the typical hostility of the disability movement toward the mythology of The Cure. He explores his rage at the many ways the ‘search for the cure’ has ostracized and limited people with disabilities. But, then he dives deeper.

Based in his own experiences with severe mental disability, numerous conversations, research and his chosen surgery to support a gender change, Clare asks questions that have been taboo within our movement for much too long.

Clare is a nationally-known writer, speaker and teacher who is celebrated for his ability to talk about difficult topics with bruising and unblinking honesty.

Join us to consider your own relationship with “The Cure.”

Produced by Adrienne Lauby, co-hosted by Shelley Berman, Sheela Gunn-Cushman, and Josh Elwood.


Original air date: March 3, 2017

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Disability and Donald Trump – Call In

Friday, February 17, 2:30 pm PST

Almost a month into our long national nightmare, we ask ‘how will the Trump administration affect the lives of people with disabilities?’  Trump’s campaign started with the mocking of a reporter’s disability.  Now we’ve moved on to an education secretary who had to be told what the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is, and an attorney general who thinks that students with disabilities are “disruptive.”  Coming soon: devastating cuts to healthcare.

Are you as concerned about this as we are? If so, Pushing Limits invites you to call in Friday afternoon at 2:30 pm and tell hosts Sheela Gunn-Cushman and Mark Romoser how these drastic changes might impact your life.

Call us to weep, resist, build coalitions and
strengthen your resolve to make social change.
(510) 848-4425

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Interdependence with A.J. Withers

Listen (29 min)

The Independent Living Movement got people out of institutions and inspired many of us to believe we could live without doctors, parents and others defining our lives.  But, no one is completely independent and, while it might feel good to talk about independence, as a final life goal it leaves much to be desired.

Join A.J. Withers of the blog, “If I Can’t Dance, Is It Still My Revolution?” for a discussion of how interdependence is a more accurate description of our lives — and how that works out in the day-to-day.

Produced and hosted by Adrienne Lauby.  Eddie Ytaurte, co-host.

A.J. Withers is a disabled, queer and trans anti-poverty activist living in Toronto.  A proponent of radical disability theory and politics, A.J. is the author of Disability Politics and Theory.

Original air date: 2-3-17


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Summer Camps for People with Disabilities

Listen (29 min)

Suzanne Stoltz, a many-year participant at a MDA camp, charts the political underbelly of the disability summer camp experience.  

Summer camp for kids is usually perceived as a fun time where participants socialize, play, run, and swim. This includes summer camps dedicated to serving kids with the same or similar disabilities, like those sponsored by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).  But, there is more going on than camp songs and meal time hi jinks.  We look at the ways disability camps both support and dis-empower kids with disabilities.

Suzanne Stolz, Ed.D. serves as the Academic Coordinator of the Online M.Ed. and as faculty for the program’s Universal Design for Learning and Inclusive Education specialization, University of San Diego.

Suzanne contributed an article about her experiences in an essay which appeared in Disability Politics in a Global Economy; Essays in Honor of Marta Russell, edited by Ravi Malhotra. Her essay was called “Disability Community, Policy, Care and Empowerment: ‘Growing Up’ at MDA Camp and the Shaky Social Contract.”

Produced and hosted by Eddie Ytuarte.

Original air date: January 20, 2017

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Donna Williams on Autism

Listen (29 min)

In the 1960s ‘autism’ was deemed ‘childhood psychosis’ and the incidence of autism was thought to be around 4 in 10,000 children.   Today, up to 1 in 88 children are presently diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

Polly Samuel, aka Donna Williams, was central to these changes and became a beacon to many in the autism community.  Her brilliant early books, Nobody Nowhere and Somebody Somewhere were among the first to talk about life from the perspective of someone living with autism.  Written in the early 1990s, they became international best sellers.

An accomplished painter, sculptor and musician, Polly Samuel has written 16 books.  She’s spent much of her life consulting, lecturing and helping build the autistic community.  With a diagnosis of terminal metastatic breast cancer, Polly has severely limited her public appearances.  We are proud to announce this rare opportunity to hear from this wise and most articulate disability pioneer.

Produced and hosted by Mark Romoser and Adrienne Lauby.

Original air date: January 6, 2017

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A Look Ahead – 2017

Listen 28 min

The New Year is upon us and 2017 does not look all charming and bright.  Like others
of good will, the disability community is scrambling to adjust to the new president.

We’re applying advice from former Congressional staffers (and that guy we know down the street.)  We’re talking about organizing ourselves more tightly like Alameda’s Senior Services Coalition has done.   We’re looking for better ways to make alliances with other groups.  We’re laughing as much as we possibly can.  We’re overwhelmed, but hopeful.

We talk about all of this and more on today’s program.  Co-Hosts Sheela Gunn-Cushman and Mark Romoser are in conversation with Oakland disability and senior rights advocate Michelle Rousey.

Original air date: December 30, 2016

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Anne Finger: Soviet Eugenics (Marta Russell Part 2)

Listen 29 min

Modern genetics offers parents the dream of choosing the characteristics of their children and aborting those who don’t fit their ideal.  As scientists move in this direction, disabled people are understandably critical.  They cite, for instance, the strong historical link between genetics and eugenics.

In this program, Oakland writer Anne Finger explores these issues with Eddie Ytuarte through the lens of eugenics in the Soviet Union.

Ms. Finger’s tells stories of a variety of unusual characters seeking real or supposed scientific truth amid the maelstrom of gigantic changes occurring in Russia before, during, and following the October 1917 Revolution.  Her essay, “The Left Hand of Stalin: Eugenics in the Soviet Union,” appears in the volume, “Disability Politics in a Global Economy: Essays in Honour of Marta Russell.”

In Nazi Germany the theory of eugenics brought the world the ideal of the perfect Aryan race.  This led to the round up and death of 275 thousand people with disabilities and, eventually, the death chambers of the holocaust.

Eugenic theory took a different tack in the Soviet Union where the goal was, not the perfection of a specific race, but the perfection of humanity as a whole.   There was early USSR resistance to the Darwinian theory of “survival of the fittest,” Finger says, citing early scientists who found that, in the harsh Siberian climate “sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle.”

Join us for an in-depth look at eugenic-genetic questions.

Produced and hosted by Eddie Ytuarte.

Original Air Date: Dec 2, 2016

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