Disability Movement

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The disability movement is a social movement of people with disabilities who want to look after their own interests. In doing so, they also want to sensitize society to the needs of people with disabilities, strengthen the self-image of people with disabilities and thus prevent the exclusion of people with disabilities in society in the long term. Whether full integration should be a goal of the disability movement is controversial within the groups. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the disability movement developed for a long time in a way that distinguished itself from the large welfare associations and the established disability organizations. Some were considered handicapped because they also have diverse special facilities such as B. run homes that others were considered too adapted. One of the leading representatives of the disability movement was Gusti Steiner , who organized campaigns against disability as early as the 1970s .

Historical context

In Western cultures, people with perceptible disabilities have always been marginalized and discriminated against . In the Middle Ages , a congenital disability was considered the work of the devil, and certain superstitious beliefs persisted until the 20th century . The physiognomy, which originated from Greek philosophers , established a connection between disability and character traits, which later reappeared under the influence of racial theory . Eugenically motivated sterilizations Women with disabilities have taken place again and again in recent times.

In contrast to the past, people with disabilities now actively intervene in the debate, organize themselves and represent their concerns themselves, provided they are able to do so. They also see themselves as representatives of those who cannot stand up for their own interests, e.g. B. of unborn babies who tested positive in the course of a prenatal diagnosis . At the beginning of the 21st century , the debate about the relationship between society and disability is more topical than ever because of the possibilities of prenatal diagnosis.

Central themes

Central topics include self-determination and independence of people with disabilities, access to education, vocational training and the professional world, accessibility to buildings, living pensions, reducing legal disadvantage and discrimination of all kinds, active promotion of inclusion and low-barrier construction.

Development in the German-speaking countries

Since the 1960s, people with disabilities have organized themselves in associations, foundations, lobbies, self-help organizations and working groups. In addition to political work, there are many self-help campaigns (e.g. handicapped driving services ). Specific organizations for people with special disabilities ( blind , deaf , handicapped , mentally handicapped , etc. people) emerged.

The actual disability movement began in the early 1970s in the Frankfurt adult education center course "Managing the Environment" offered by Ernst Klee and Gusti Steiner . “We had given structural barriers and structural handicaps in direct confrontation with the predicate 'hostile to the disabled', and two war victims' associations, the social welfare office, the general local health insurance and the health department of the city of Frankfurt targeted us. The next day we held a wheelchair training session in the center of Frankfurt, during which we blocked a tram. A wheelchair user tried to get on the tram. Steps and a central pole blocked his entry. Meanwhile I rolled onto the rails, stood in front of the tram and explained over a megaphone that buses, trams and subways were not designed for the disabled. "

Important milestones were the actions against the "UN Year of the Disabled" in 1981, the cripple tribunal against human rights violations in the welfare state in 1981, the engagement against the appearances of the "euthanasia" philosopher Peter Singer in Germany in 1989 and the campaign for the introduction of the anti-discrimination law in articles 3 paragraph of the Basic Law ( Grundgesetz ), as well as the fight for anti-discrimination laws.

The various organizations can be found in Germany in the German Disability Council and the Federal Self-Help Working Group , in Switzerland in Pro Infirmis and Pro Mente Sana .

Development in the USA

In the United States , the disability rights movement became a major force in the 1970s ; it was encouraged by the examples of the African American civil rights movement and by the second wave of the women's movement that began in the late 1960s . One of the most important developments was the Independent Living movement that arose in California . Another turning point was the nationwide sit-in of government buildings suggested by Frank Bowe . It was organized by the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in 1977 , took place in the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) buildings in San Francisco and Washington, DC , and resulted in amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 . Prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 , it was the primary law regarding disabilities.


  1. Gusti Steiner, Assistant yesterday: How it all began - Consequences of political self-help for the handicapped Archive link ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / forsea.de
  2. ^ Roberta Ann Johnson, "Mobilizing the Disabled," p. 83-88



  • Franz Christoph: Suppression through normality. In: Gerber, Ernst P .; Piaggio, Lorenzo (Ed.): Emancipation for the disabled. Handicapped people on the offensive. Z-Verlag: Basel, 1984, pp. 69-77 (reprint of the "Disabled Viewpoint" from 1980)
  • Ernst Klee: Disabled: about the expropriation of body and consciousness; a critical manual. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, paperback 1987


  • Roberta Ann Johnson: Mobilizing the Disabled. In: Social Movements of the Sixties and Seventies , edited by Jo Freeman , Longman, 1983, pp. 82-100; reprinted in Waves of Protest: Social Movements Since the Sixties Eds. by Jo Freeman and Victoria Johnson, Rowman and Littlefield, 1999, pp. 25-45.
  • Paul K. Longmore and Laurie Umansky (Eds.): The New Disability History: American Perspectives New York Univ. Press, 2001.
  • Fred Pelka: The ABC Clio Companion to the Disability Rights Movement. ABC-Clio, 1997.
  • Joseph P. Shapiro: No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement. Times Books, 1993, ISBN 0-8129-2412-6

See also

Web links