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What constitutes a "Civil Right"? Sometimes it depends on who you ask.
Defining and Finding "True" Accessibility

Smithsonian Gallery portrait of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. CLICK THE PICTURE for more information.[4] The Long Road to "Equal Treatment"

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Quote from "Animal Farm", by George Orwell

While most people in the United States of America really do believe in America's traditions of liberty, justice, equality, etc. "for all", there will probably always be a few bigots who feel otherwise.

History is rife with stories of bigots who aspired to political power, sometimes becoming monsters like Adolf Hitler, whose Nazi Party experimented on people with physical or mental disabilities to develop execution techniques used on the Jews; or Pol Pot, who executed (or arrested and starved to death) 21% of his own countrymen for "crimes" such as wearing eyeglasses, knowing a foreign language, or practicing a prohibited religion.

For "local" bigots as we might encounter at work, or in the marketplace, or in our neighborhoods, we usually ignore them, perhaps pity them for their arrogance and stupidity, and basically just try to avoid dealing with such vile and offensive people and their bigotry.

However, problems can arise when bigots become vocal and spread their prejudicial venom among otherwise well-meaning people, which can possibly retard – or even reverse – positive social changes that may have taken decades or centuries to achieve.

But take heart and persevere. Here are a few quick historical examples that illustrate how long it has taken for various so-called "minorities" to achieve a greater measure of equal treatment:

Example #1: The Women's Suffrage Movement

In both Houses of the 112th U.S. Congress, about 17% of our elected Senators and Representatives are female in the year 2012.

Today it's hard for us to imagine a political system that actually excluded more than half of America's population. But it's been less than a century since America's women finally won the right to vote, through passage of the U.S. Constitution's Nineteenth Amendment (1920).

Depending on whom you ask, or which history book you read, the Women's Suffrage Movement began in America in 1848, or 1776, or perhaps it started in 1637. So maybe it only took 72 years, or perhaps even as long as 283 years, for Female Americans (actually not a "minority" at all) to finally gain their voting rights. Below are some interesting suffrage timelines and links:
U.S. Suffrage movement timeline 1792 to the present.
from the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership, University of Rochester.

Another timeline dating from 1776, was compiled by E. Susan Barber, and is at the U.S. Library of Congress: "One Hundred Years toward Suffrage". The Library's special section also includes an interesting collection of photographs depicting the Suffrage Movement from 1850 to 1920.

Additionally, Wikipedia's article on Women's Suffrage in the United States pegs the start of the American Suffrage Movement at 1848. However, the longest timeline we've seen was in a 1998 book by Doris Weatherford, written for the 150th Anniversary of the 1848 meeting that was the world's first organized demand for civil rights for women: "A History of the American Suffragist Movement". That book's timeline begins before the American Revolution, in 1637, when Puritan reform activist Anne Hutchinson was tried and convicted of sedition, and finally banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for her ideas. (Sorry, we no longer have a direct link to Ms. Weatherford's comprehensive Suffrage timeline, but her book is still available, and well worth reading.)
Example #2: The Black Civil Rights Movement

Most people regard America's modern Civil Rights movement for Black Americans as having begun with the 1954 Supreme Court decision in "Brown v. Board of Education" which overturned the 1896 ruling in "Plessy v. Ferguson". However, the civil rights movement began long before 1954, and it's not over yet. Here are some more interesting timelines:

From FactMonster.com, Civil Rights Timeline 1948 to 2009.

Encyclopaedia Britannica's Guide to Black History includes a comprehensive timeline that begins some 1700 years earlier, during the second century after the birth of Christ.

Example #3: The Independent Living Movement

So how long has all this been going on for Disabled Americans? After all, we're America's largest "minority group" (about 23% of the U.S. population in 2012), comprised of people of all races, nationalities, sexes, and ethnic backgrounds. When did our struggle begin?

For most individuals with disabilities, our individual struggle for independence usually begins the moment we become — or realize that we are — "disabled" in some way.

In our Barrier-Free Planet section, accessible from our Main Website's Navigation Page, you will find a wealth of resources that discuss the modern history of the Independent Living Movement. Here are a couple of quick histories of that movement that you might find of interest:
Around 1982, Maggie Shreve, a consultant for independent living centers, wrote A Brief History of the Movement for Independent Living, which discusses the societal role of disabled people down through history among various cultures and nations, going all the way back to Ancient Greece.

In 1988, the Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL), University of Kansas, published Chava Willig Levy's People's History of the Independent Living Movement. Written two years before passage of the ADA, this document traces the modern-day independent living movement back to the 1920's.

"The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract."
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894)

We hope you didn't find reading this page as unpleasant as it was for us to write it. However, to achieve and maintain your own maximum level of independence, it is very important to:
[a] know how bigots and bigotry can negatively affect your efforts to live your own life; and
[b] realize that you can overcome most of that negativity by ignoring and avoiding bigots.

The final page of this Section is a very brief summary of the socio-political aspects of the entire accessibility issue (as well as pretty much any other "civil rights" issue you can think of), as the various "special interest" factions compete for their slice of pie.


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