National Cerebral Palsy Day 2019

Today is National Cerebral Palsy Day in the United States, as part of March being National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. (World Cerebral Palsy Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in October each year). I’ve gone over the basics of CP a fair amount so far in previous talks and our 2018 Community P4A video covers a lot of it too, but here’s some quick facts you might not be aware of:

Over 90% of people diagnosed with CP have an average or above average level of intelligence. If they do have learning difficulties or a below average level of intelligence, it is due to a comorbid disorder and is not because of CP alone. (And yes, that includes those in wheelchairs, those who don’t speak vocally or have speech difficulties, those who have vision issues, etc.)

Approximately two-thirds of people with CP can walk. Some walk unaided. Some walk with braces, or canes, or crutches. Some are ambulatory wheelchair users. Some are nearly full-time wheelchair users. Some use a combination of mobility aids or use different mobility aids at different points in their lives or depending on their pain levels.

CP is not degenerative. It’s a type of brain damage that occurs before, during, or just after birth (most commonly before birth), so it won’t get worse. However, as people with CP’s bodies age, their symptoms may become more prevalent/difficult to deal with, but that’s just how being a human works. You get older, so your body breaks down whether you have CP or not.

In honor of CP Day, here’s some AMAZING people with CP that prove you can still do cool stuff even if you’re disabled.

Jessy Yates ( MY ACTUAL QUEEN. She’s a white actor, model, burlesque dancer, and ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF). She’s currently the *FIRST PERSON EVER* with a physical disability to be enrolled at the Yale School of Drama. She makes a brief guest appearance in *Speechless* if you plan to watch that with me, and last year on her Instagram she documented every time the (very few) elevators on the NYC subway were closed without warning. (Spoiler alert: it was almost every day.)

Zach Anner ( He’s a white comedian, Youtuber, guest star and writer on *Speechless*, member of Nerdfighteria. He wrote a book, did a workout series on his YouTube that is 10/10 hilarious, is an ambassador for the CPF, and went viral with a video of him pointing out inaccessibility in NYC while just trying to get a rainbow bagel.

Maysoon Zayid: ( Self-described “triple threat of minorities – female, disabled, Muslim”. She’s a dancer, a proud Palestinian-American who spent her summers in Palestine, a CPF ambassador, co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, was listed in Time as “a top comic that’s changing what’s funny.” She also did an AMAZING and seriously hilarious TED talk about growing up disabled with fierce parents and not accepting no for an answer: <>

Jerron Marcel ( He’s a Black dancer, the principal dancer and Developmental Director at Hiedi Latski dance, and is currently on the board of Trustees at Dance/USA, a consultant for the CPF, and one of the trainers on CPF’s adaptive fitness app Evolve21.

Sarah Kim ( She’s an Asian-American writer and journalist, a recent graduate from Columbia Graduate School, and proud intersectional feminist. Her works have been featured in big-name publications like Huff Post, Teen Vogue, and The Daily Beast. Her most recent gig is freelancing for the inclusion and diversity section at Forbes.

Micah Fowler ( The star of ABC’s *Speechless,* CPF Ambassador, movie enthusiast, and lover of all things Marvel/DC and Star Wars. His character JJ may not speak, but Micah does, and he’s an excellent example of a person with CP who has speech difficulties with absolutely zero effect on his intelligence.

Jason Benetti ( He’s an American sportscaster and the play-by-play announcer for the Chicago White Sox since 2016. He’s also acted as a broadcaster on ESPN, Fox Sports, Westwood One, and Time Warner covering football, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, and basketball.

These and several more of my favorites are listed here:
TW: mentions Jessy Yates’ burlesque name which includes a slang name for a vulva, she is listed #1 on the list; list includes Eva, a sex educator with a focus on queer and disabled sex and a consultant for Speechless. The photo attached for her is of a cartoon (that doesn’t show anything but implies) related to that, and her Instagram contains content related to her profession. She is #19 on the list if you want to avoid that.

Disability Media: YouTubers, Speechless, and Viral Hashtags

If you consider yourself liberal, feminist, intersectional, mindful of diversity, or any combination of the above, that consideration of diversity needs to include disabled people, and it needs to include a spectrum of disabled people.

Media that (ACCURATELY!!!) concerns disability can be extremely difficult to find, especially since mainstream media largely ignores it and/or promotes media with inaccurate and even unhealthy depictions of disability.

So here’s some media you should definitely check out. They will have descriptions so you can try to find stuff you think you’ll be interested in. It’s 2019, so most of these people have allllll da social medias, but if they have a YouTube, I’ll be linking that first and foremost because it’s a simple one-stop shop. There is tons of disability media out there, so I’ll just be linking some of my current favorites. The first four are YouTubers, then there’s a tv show and a few hashtags.


Jessica Kellgren-Fozard: Deaf, chronically ill, queer ambulatory wheelchair user living in England with her POC wife Claudia and her two adorable little dogs. She makes videos about disability, being queer, traveling, fashion (especially gorgeous vintage fashion!), and sometimes movies. Her YouTube can be found at:

Oliver Lam-Watson: Wheelchair fencer for Great Britain, disabled Youtuber and photographer, POC, in a long-distance relationship, and actual cutie. He makes videos disability, fitness, being productive, and the occasional adorable video involving his girlfriend, Carola. His YouTube can be found at:

Annie Elainey: Chronically ill/disabled, queer, gender non-conforming, POC/latinx American (pronouns she/they). She makes videos almost exclusively about disability and being queer, including the video I linked earlier about ambulatory wheelchair users. Her YouTube can be found at:

Annika Victoria: Disabled, chronically ill student and YouTuber from Australia. She makes videos primarily about disability and sewing projects, including her popular series Make Thrift Buy. She also has merch on DFTBA lol. Her YouTube can be found at:

Speechless is an American sitcom (that recently started airing in the UK too) that follows a family through both serious and hilarious situations as they navigate life with a disabled person in the family. The family is made up of JJ, the oldest child who has Cerebral Palsy (my disability!) (played by Micah Fowler, who actually has Cerebral Palsy in real life) who is unable to speak and uses headgear and a word board read out by other people to communicate, and is a filmmaker, middle child Ray (Mason Cook), a complete and total nerd who is always being pranked by his sister, and youngest child Dylan (Kyla Kenedy), an athlete, the only daughter, and a total prankster. Their parents are Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver), a British mother who is willing to do whatever it takes for JJ, and Jimmy DiMeo, Sr. (John Ross Bowie) who is easily persuaded to go along with whatever the rest of the family wants.

In addition to Micah actually having CP, the show’s creator, Scott Silveri, chose to write the show based on his own experience growing up in a family with disability, as his brother has CP. From the beginning of the show he also kept in contact with information sources like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Zach Anner (YouTuber with Cerebral Palsy, wrote a memoir called *If At Birth You Don’t Succeed*, etc.) to ensure he was portraying things accurately and appropriately. Zach Anner now also occasionally guest stars on the show and is a full-time writer on the show. This award-winning and accurate, beautiful, relatable, hilarious show may not get another season unless it gets new viewers and more buzz on social media. I don’t know what countries it’s offered in, but the entire show thus far is on Hulu and I’d 100% be willing to rabbit it for people if people were interested in watching it. So, let me know if you are and we can set up a doodle and stuff.

Tangentially related to social media buzz, two disability-based hashtags have gone viral in the last week: has disabled people talking about the weird shit able-bodied people (ableds) think it’s okay to ask disabled people. It’s an excellent read and an easy way to learn what dumb shit you shouldn’t ask strangers just because they’re disabled. / A week ago today, actual idiot and piece of garbage Dr. Phil had inter-abled couples (couples where one person is disabled and one is not) on his show. During this show, he commented “You’re a young, single, attractive female. Out of all the people that you can choose, why choose someone in a wheelchair?” He then later went on to say that she could be “his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both… It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work.” A) that’s bullshit. B) it’s none of Dr. Phil’s business how anyone else’s relationship operates. C) I sure as fuck hope his vows with his wife never involved the words “in sickness and in health” because yikes at him.

Because the whole “100 out of 100 relationships that involve caregiving fail” thing is absolute bullshit, disabled people in inter-abled relationships have taken to social media to point out just how bullshit it is. The Instagram tag is personally my favorite because so many cute inter-abled couples. And just on the very unlikely off chance you weren’t aware: hello, it is I, a literal disabled person in a successful relationship with an able-bodied person.

Capitol Crawl, Marriage Equality, and Current News

Today marks the 29th anniversary of the Capitol Crawl, one of the biggest catalysts to finally passing the ADA. The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It offers similar basic protections as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — yep, we covered race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it took almost 30 years to remember that disabled people exist and are members of society who also deserve basic rights. Politicians were dragging their feet on passing the ADA because they didn’t think it was worth it, even with pressure from the council created on the Road to Freedom tour.
[Justin Dart (red square, known as the “Godfather of the ADA”) and his wife Yoshiko went on a “Road to Freedom” tour all over the US (they hit every single state, all on their own dime) to hold rallies. Throughout the states they began forming a council that traveled with them, all of whom had disabilities. With this council and input from others they met on the road, they drafted the declaration that would eventually be turned into the ADA. This photo is from one of their protests during the tour.]

So, on March 12, 1990, disability rights activists from all over the US went to the capitol to demand the passage of the ADA. After some speeches and a rally, a bunch of activists abandoned their mobility devices (wheelchairs, walkers, and canes alike) to crawl up the 83 stone steps of the U.S. Capitol Building while chanting things like “What do we want?” “ADA!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!”

Here are two photos from the event:

Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) said of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: “What we did for civil rights in the ‘60s, we forgot to do for people with disabilities.”
Activist Paulette Patterson, while inching her way up the stairs, was quoted as saying, “I want to be treated like a human being.”
An eight-year-old named Jennifer Keelan, who has Cerebral Palsy (the same disorder I have), was famously filmed as she crawled up the stairs. She became somewhat famous for firmly stating “I’ll take all night if I have to.” while crawling.
Michael Winters, a leader in the Independent Living Movement, later wrote about event and the reaction people had to the crawl. “Some people may have thought that it was undignified for people in wheelchairs to crawl in that manner, but I felt that it was necessary to show the country what kinds of things people with disabilities have to face on a day-to-day basis,” Winters recalled. “We had to be willing to fight for what we believed in.”

The biggest “reason” why the Capitol Crawl had such an impact on the senators and convinced them to pass it is because they felt “inconvenienced” by the “stunt” because they couldn’t use the stairs as easily during the protest… which if that doesn’t explain America’s attitude towards people with disabilities, I dunno what will.

Here’s an LA times article about it overall, but one of the last paragraphs is the “ugh” I have towards conservative administrations as a whole:

“Meantime, Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh notified key members of the House that the Administration would seek a change in the Senate-passed bill to make clear that disabled persons who are willfully discriminated against would not be entitled to monetary damages.”

On the 20th anniversary, one of the biggest campaigners for it in the senate, Senator Tom Harkin, penned a letter for HuffPost, and this is my favorite quote:

“I will always remember a young Iowan named Danette Crawford. In 1990, she was just 14. She used a wheelchair, and lived with great pain. But she campaigned hard for the ADA. When I told her that the ADA would mean better educational opportunities, and prevent workplace discrimination, Danette said: ‘Those things are very important. But, you know, what I really want to do is just be able to go out and buy a pair of shoes like anybody else.'”

the whole letter:

Despite the fact that the Capitol Crawl was 29 years ago and the 29th anniversary of the ADA is coming up in a few months, disabled people *still* don’t have marriage equality.

The issue of marriage equality for the disability community is not a new one. It is heavily intertwined with the movement towards eugenics, where people with disabilities were not only sterilized against their will, but also prohibited from marrying. In Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, Minnesota, and Michigan, people with intellectual disabilities, mental disabilities, and epilepsy were prevented from marrying due to a series of laws that were passed in the early 20th century. Other states used legislation prohibiting anyone they considered to have a “genetic defect” from marrying. To this day, while in some instances the law is unenforced, most of these laws have never been repealed.

Removing the laws from the books has been argued against, because some members of the government seem to believe that it is protecting people with disabilities who they deem as, “unable to make their own decisions.” The people affected usually have intellectual disabilities, severe physical disabilities, or they lack the ability to communicate in a ‘typical’ way such as through vocalization. However, these laws are just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the government’s interference in deciding whether people with disabilities are able to marry or not.

No matter what kind of benefits a disabled person receives from the government (whether it’s just state-sponsored insurance or they fully rely on social security for everything), if they receive any they lose some or all of it if they get married because their spouse’s income will be considered their income too, even if the parties keep their finances separate or the able-bodied spouse doesn’t make nearly enough to support the disabled person. It’s not limited to just marriage, either. If a disabled person lives with someone else, their income is counted too. It doesn’t matter how much the able-bodied person makes or if they even contribute to the household *at all.* I personally know someone who had her brother move in after he broke up with his girlfriend and had nowhere else to go. He lived there for three months and didn’t contribute a dime to the household because he was down on his luck financially too. She *still* had her benefits slashed and was never given her money back when she clarified the situation with social security.

Here are several articles that explain nuances and provide various points of view:

In more recent news, there’s currently a bill proposal by U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) and co-sponsored by Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) that would protect disability benefits for disabled people who want to get married, although it currently only addresses developmental and intellectual disabilities. The name of the bill is gross and extremely ableist (“Marriage Access for People with Special Abilities Act”), but the core of the bill is important, and it needs to be passed and expanded to include physical disabilities too. More information can be read about it here:

However, that tiny bit of possible good news also comes with a flip-side of absolutely gross news: the Trump administration is now attempting to use social media to deny disability claims and kick people off of disability.

This post is pretty United States-centric, but I’m unsure of the disability marriage equality situations in other countries, and attempting to research it gave me zero information that wasn’t about LGBTQIA+ marriage equality. So if you’re not from the U.S., feel free to research it and let us know.

Ambulatory Wheelchair Users

Sup nerds aka @Disability History Squad Today we’re gonna talk about ambulatory wheelchair users. TL;dr ableism is a hell of a drug and shitty media tropes don’t help. But first, a sidebar: a doc with all of the previous Disability History talks now exists. This one will be uploaded in a sec.

But back to my point: So what exactly is an “ambulatory wheelchair user”? It’s pretty simple: a person who has the ability to stand and/or walk who also uses a wheelchair. “Why would a person who can stand or walk use a wheelchair?” you might be asking in your head. Well, there’s tons of reasons! Several disabilities and chronic illnesses (including my own) involve symptoms like chronic fatigue, pain, falls/fainting/etc., and these symptoms only increase in regularity when the disabled/chronically ill person is tired or physically exhausted from exerting themselves. Rather than constantly exhausting themselves, regularly taking long (as in like hours/days long) breaks to try to recover, and then spending the next few days in bed because they tried to do too much, ambulatory wheelchair users decide to use a wheelchair instead, so they can do more without pain/tiredness.

An example from my own life: moving around my house, church, and other relatively small areas that I know how to get around well is pretty much no problem (unless I’m having a high-pain/fatigue day with no real cause) and I regularly do it without a wheelchair. On the other hand, going shopping in large stores or going to big cities (such as NYC) that require a ton of walking means that I *need* my wheelchair, or it’s going to be a miserable time for all involved. The first two times I went to NYC, I hadn’t gotten my wheelchair yet, so I just had to suffer through it. The group took frequent breaks for me to catch my breath and I sat down as much as possible, but I still spent the next several days exhausted and in pain, especially once I got home and could fully crash. On the most recent NYC trip I finally was able to bring a wheelchair along. Even though it was still a pain in the ass in its own right (especially for the nerds conned in to pushing me, soz, I appreciate you you’re gr9), as someone had to push me because it was a transfer wheelchair rather than a manual wheelchair, it had to be carried and passed over various inaccessible spots, etc., it was still overall helpful because the group didn’t need to take constant breaks and I didn’t have to ice my feet, take tons of aspirin, and be in pain constantly. :joy:
“But if using a wheelchair ultimately helps ambulatory wheelchair users, why wouldn’t they do it more often?” Short answer: Ableism is a hell of a drug.

Long answer: Disabled people are one of the most abused and murdered minority groups per capita, if not the most. This abuse is targeted towards practically everyone on the disability/chronic illness spectrum, and ambulatory wheelchair users are no exception. Because of incorrect and toxic media tropes involving characters faking the need to use a wheelchair for ~drama~ and then standing up in a *shocking dramatic twist!* to reveal that they never needed the wheelchair in the first place, especially when combined with the incorrect and stereotypical belief that only people with absolutely no use of their legs should use wheelchairs, people believe that people who use wheelchairs *must* have no use of their legs. When confronted with that not always being the case, people become confused, upset, angry, and sometimes even downright abusive.

This 4 minute video by Annie Elainey also talks about being an ambulatory wheelchair user (she pronounces “ambulatory” weirdly and it bothers me but that’s a sidebar :joy:)

Disability Day of Mourning (DDoM)

(TW: mention of murder)

Today, March 1st, is Disability Day of Mourning (DDoM). DDoM is a day to recognize people with various disabilities around the world who have died by filicide – when a parent/caregiver murders their child/client, especially when the murder is due to the child/client having a disability.

According to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), in the past five years, over 650 people with disabilities, from infants to elderly relatives, have been killed by family members or caregivers. After a study from 2011 to 2015, the Ruderman Family Foundation reported that one person with disabilities was killed by a parent or caregiver each week.

These victims are often not given justice, as the parents/caregivers are pitied for how “difficult” it is having a child with disabilities and how it’s better for the child to “no longer be suffering.” And for the longest time, filicide wasn’t considered a hate crime.

Disabled people weren’t protected under the Federal Hate Crimes Act until 2009—40 years after the original act was signed into law. In 2009, President Obama expanded on the 1969 hate crime law by signing the Matthew Shepard and James Beard Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, which added disability to the list of reasons for why an assault may be classified as a hate crime. However, the hate crime law’s expansion has not been implemented to actually help victims get justice. The way the crime of filicide is discussed, reported, and (by default) excused centers around how burdensome we disabled people are—which is the nicest way the world can say that our lives don’t matter.

Because this topic can be quite heavy, I’m simply going to post my favorite source article, which sums up some more stats, has some click-through links to other important/related disability discussions, and also includes a click-through link to a website that lists all of the confirmed cases of filicide. The original article does mention one case of filicide but doesn’t go in depth. The click-through website that has the list of confirmed cases includes details for some cases, so TW for violence on that.

Today, being March 1st, is also the beginning of Cerebral Palsy Awareness month, so expect more on that later.

The 504 Sit In

I’ve talked a tiny bit about this subject before in the server, but never that in-depth, so here goes: The 504 Sit In. Since it’s also Black History month in the US, I’m gonna talk about it mostly in the context of the Black Panthers’ involvement, but that means this is gonna be HELLA long so STRAP IN.

If you know me at all, you know one of my biggest soapboxes aside from disability-related stuff is about intersectionality both in general and specifically in the context of feminism. The 504 Sit-In is a perfect example of why intersectionality matters.

So for some background: On April 5, 1977, thousands of disabled people gathered in various cities in protest to push for disability rights and demand the passing of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Prior to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act was the closest thing to disability rights legislation in the United States, but lawmakers were dragging their feet on passing Section 504, which simply offers civil rights to disabled people.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 included the little-noticed Section 504, which was based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and mandated integration of people with disabilities into mainstream institutions. But the language was broad, only noting that “no qualified individual with a disability should, only by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Here’s a photo from one of the protests:

A crowd in wheelchairs with protest signs in front of the capital building

Pickets happened at the regional offices of the federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, New York, and Seattle, as well as the HEW headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Most of the protests ended that day as planned. The San Francisco protest did not. After marching past the security guards at the local HEW office without resistance, over 100 protesters unpacked their knapsacks and began what became known as the 504 Sit-In. The landmark takeover remains the longest non-violent occupation of a U.S. federal building in history. Though there is some disagreement about the exact length of the protest, it is often cited as 26 days. (Some protesters stayed in the building a few days after the larger group dispersed.)

Here’s a flyer advertising one of the protests:

Flyer with the heading Demonstration to demand signing of 504 regulations

Here’s a photo from inside the entrance way of the building they occupied:

Several people in wheelchairs inside a large glass door, with security next to the door

Protesting is hard for able-bodied people, but for disabled people, it’s even more difficult. Several protestors needed aids and helpers of various kinds, but that didn’t stop them.

Over the course of so many weeks with rudimentary accommodations inside an office building, protesters compromised their health to achieve their goals, explains Dr. Catherine Kudlick, professor of history and director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. “Some lived with toll of that for years,” she says.

504 Sit-In participant, author, and disability rights advocate Corbett Joan O’Toole

notes that people with disabilities—as well as people who are also part of other marginalized populations such as the LGBT community—are accustomed to the type of cooperative interdependence that was necessary for 504. The 100-plus occupiers and their attendants made the building their own almost immediately, draping a window air conditioning unit with a plastic tarp to create a makeshift refrigerator for medications and using the pay phones to communicate with loved ones and news media on the outside until the FBI cut the lines. There were daily consensus-driven committee meetings about everything from media strategy to how to respond to a bomb scare false alarm, in the event the FBI employed tactics to evacuate the building. “Disabled people are incredibly resourceful,” O’Toole says. “That is a commonly misunderstood and overlooked part of our history, and it led to the success of 504.”

Yes, you read the above message properly. The FBI cut the phone lines in an attempt to end the protest. That still didn’t put an end to the protest. There were hundreds of disabled protestors who held daily rallies outside of the buildings, so to communicate with family members, news outlets, and the general outside world, d/Deaf protestors who could sign would relay messages back and forth by signing to other d/Deaf people outside. In keeping with the cooperative spirit on the inside, women would take turns washing each other’s hair in the sinks. d/Deaf protesters would help tired aids and helpers care for physically disabled protestors. Food was rationed between people from all walks of life and all different kinds of disabilities.

As the protest went on, it garnered enough media attention that The Salvation Army provided blankets and cot mattresses, and local churches delivered food. Here’s a photo of one of the protestors sleeping on one of the cots:

Two people sleeping on a thin foam mattress at the bottom of a large staircase, next to a wheelchair

The protest would likely have failed without the help of the Black Panthers. Beginning in the first week of the protest and lasting through the end of the protest, Oakland’s Black Panther Party cooked and brought hot meals like meatloaf, fried chicken, rolls, and salad across the bay every single day.

“They [the Black Panther Party] understood what it meant to support a revolutionary movement that wasn’t just on the street with weapons,” O’Toole says, pointing to the Party’s groundbreaking Free Breakfast for Children initiative, which eventually served a reported 20,000 low-income children and influenced federal guidelines for free breakfast and lunch programs still vital in the nation’s public schools.
The support of the Panthers also spoke to the intersectionality of the protest. Bradley Lomax, a Panther with Multiple Sclerosis, joined the 504 Sit-In on day one, along with his attendant Chuck Jackson, who also assisted others throughout the occupation. The late Kitty Cone, one of the sit-in’s co-organizers, once said, “I don’t think we would have had as active participation by the Panthers without Brad.”

This is a photo of Brad and his brother Glenn:

Brad and Glenn Lomax

Out of approximately 120 protestors, 14 with disabilities and 8 attendants “were eventually selected to go to Washington D.C. to attempt to force a meeting. Even that was a unanimous, consensus-driven decision borne out of many days of discussions.” Brad was one of the people selected.

The group’s solidarity wasn’t apparent to the FBI agents guarding the San Francisco building, who mistakenly believed that with 22 gone, they could force the remaining protesters to disperse by generating dissent and instigating false bomb scares. O’Toole says the opposite was true. Once the D.C. contingent had gone, the San Francisco occupiers were wholly focused on one task: holding the building. Without a sustained sit-in drawing daily news reports, they would have little leverage compelling Califano to sign the regulations.

Once in D.C., protesters relied on another coalition partner, a machinists union, which funded a few U-Hauls, the only vehicles with ramps and enough room to park multiple protesters’ wheelchairs. Arriving to meet with Califano, the group sang the protest hymn “We Shall Overcome” and forced a dramatic congressional hearing. One of the occupation co-organizers, Judy Heumann, gave a poignant, emotional address to the assembled representatives and reporters:

“I can tell you that every time you raise issues of ‘separate but equal,’ the outrage of disabled individuals across this country is going to continue. It is going to be ignited. There will be more takeovers of buildings until finally maybe you begin to understand our position. We will no longer allow the government to oppress disabled individuals. We want the law enforced.”

The regulations were finally signed on April 28, 1977.


Stephen Hopkins, Historical Figure

Sup nerds it’s time for the inaugural @Disability History Squad tag.

Today I’m gonna teach you smol a thing about Cerebral Palsy and Stephen Hopkins.
So, some Cerebral Palsy background: if you participated in the community Project for Awesome video we created, you might have some knowledge, but in case you don’t: It’s a disorder that occurs as a result of some form of brain damage before, during, or soon after birth. It affects everyone who has it differently and to varying degrees, but essentially, your muscles that are affected don’t want to do the muscle thing. It’s estimated that a person with CP has to exert 3-5 times the same amount of effort of an able-bodied person to get their affected muscles to do whatever they’re trying to do. It’s also the most common disability diagnosed in childhood, and I’m not the only person in Tuataria who has it.

CP is also not a new thing in any capacity. It was officially named and defined in the 1800s, but was diagnosed (under other terms) and referred to long before then. Historical figures with CP were often described as having “palsy of the [insert limb/part of body that can be affected by CP here].” One of those historical figures is Stephen Hopkins.

“Who the heck is Stephen Hopkins?!” You might be asking. He was an astronomer who went on to become a Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island, a Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. When he signed the Declaration, he had to sign it by guiding his right hand with his left in order to complete his signature, and he was quoted as saying, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

President John Adams adored Hopkins, and described him as:

“… Governor Hopkins of Rhode Island, above seventy Years of Age kept us all alive. Upon Business his Experience and judgment were very Useful. But when the Business of the Evening was over, he kept Us in Conversation till Eleven and sometimes twelve O Clock. His Custom was to drink nothing all day nor till Eight O Clock, in the Evening, and then his Beveredge was Jamaica Spirit and Water. It gave him Wit, Humour, Anecdotes, Science and Learning. He had read Greek, Roman and British History: and was familiar with English Poetry particularly Pope, Tompson and Milton. And the flow of his Soul made all his reading our own, and seemed to bring to recollection in all of Us all We had ever read. I could neither eat nor drink in those days. The other Gentlemen were very temperate. Hopkins never drank to excess, but all he drank was immediately not only converted into Wit, Sense, Knowledge and good humour, but inspired Us all with similar qualities.”

He, like all founding fathers, was highkey kinda shitty overall, but he was one of very few with liberal (for that time period, ofc) views on slavery. He was a slave owner, but he treated his slaves well and even introduced an anti-slavery bill in 1774.

Stephen Hopkins was a slave owner, like several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and he mentioned five in his 1760 will consisting of a negro man, woman, and three boys. These were bequeathed to close members of his family with instructions for their care that were highly unusual for any slave owner. The woman was named Fibbo (or Phibo, Phebe) was to go to his wife Anne and be treated “so that Servitude may not be a Burthen to her”; the man was named Saint Jago and was to go to his oldest son Rufus and be treated “so that his Life may be rendered easy and comfortable.” The will was never proved because Hopkins lived another 25 years, and circumstances changed its provisions.

On October 28, 1772, Hopkins manumitted Saint Jago, and wrote the following in the manumission document:

“But, principally, and most of all finding that the merciful and beneficent goodness of Almighty God; by the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord: hath by the blessed Spirit taught all, who honestly obey its Divine Dictates, that, the keeping any of his rational Creatures in Bondage, who are capable of taking care of, and providing for themselves in a State of Freedom: is, altogather [sic] inconsistent with his Holy and Righteous Will.”

Hopkins felt that the bondage of self-sufficient “rational creatures” was against God’s will; he also thought that unconditional freedom for some slaves would be irresponsible on his part. To this end, he refused to manumit his slave woman, even though it cost him his membership in the Quaker meeting. His rationale was that “she had Children that needed the Immediate Care of a Mother.” It appears that Hopkins’ remaining slaves were not freed until after his death, but at least two of them (Primus and Bonner Jr.) had been living semi-independently for several years before his death.

In short, disabled people have been active, involved, productive, and positive members of society for as long as we’ve been allowed to be [gestures broadly to the area of disability history where not much happened because everyone was killed off or committed to abusive asylums and group homes].

And with that, feel free to ask me any questions you may have about Stephen Hopkins, Cerebral Palsy, disability in general, etc. :sparkles:

(Sidebar that I am but one disabled person and do not speak for the Literal Millions of Disabled People Out There™ because we are not a monolith of singular opinions lol).