The Disability Programs and Resource Center

Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus


1940 - 1949


The National Federation of the Blind is formed in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, by Jacobus Broek and other blind advocates. It advocates for "white cane laws" and input by blind people into programs for blind clients, among other reforms.

The American Federation of the Physically Handicapped is founded by Paul Strachan as the nation's first cross-disability, national political organization. It pushes for an end to job discrimination and lobbies for passage of legislation calling for a National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, among other initiatives.


Henry Viscardi begins his work as an American Red Cross volunteer, training 1944 disabled soldiers to use their prosthetic limbs. His work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., draws the attention of Howard Rusk and Eleanor Roosevelt, who protest when Viscardi's program is terminated by the Red Cross and the military.


Congress passes the Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments, known as the LaFollette-Barden Act, adding physical rehabilitation to the goals of federally funded vocational rehabilitation programs and providing funding for certain health care services.


Howard Rusk is assigned to the U.S. Army Air Force Convalescent Center in Pawling, New York, where he begins a rehabilitation program for disabled airmen. First dubbed "Rusks folly" by the medical establishment rehabilitation medicine becomes a new medical specialty.


The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) is formed in Avon, Connecticut.

President Harry Truman signs Public Law 176, a joint congressional resolution calling for the creation of an annual National Employ the Handicapped Week.

Boyce R. Williams is hired by the federal Office of Vocational Rehabilitation as Consultant for the Deaf, the Hard of Hearing, and the Speech Impaired. He begins close to four decades of work at OVR, designing and implementing educational and vocational programs for deaf Americans.


Congress enacts the Hospital Survey and Construction Act, also known as the Hill-Burton Act, authorizing federal grants to the states for the construction of hospitals, public health centers, and health facilities for rehabilitation of people with disabilities.

The Cerebral Palsy Society of New York City is established by parents of children with cerebral palsy. This is the first chapter of what will become the United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc.

The National Mental Health Foundation is founded by conscientious objectors who served as attendants at state mental institutions during World War II. It works to expose the abusive conditions at these facilities and becomes an early impetus in the push for deinstitutionalization.


Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is founded at the Birmingham Hospital in Van Nuys, California, by Fred Smead, Randall Updykes, and other delegates from Veterans Administration hospitals across the country.

The first meeting of the Presidents Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week is held in Washington, D.C. Its publicity campaigns, coordinated by state and local committees, emphasize the competence of people with disabilities and use movie trailers, billboards, and radio and television ads to convince the public that its "good business to hire the handicapped."

Harold Russell wins two Academy Awards for his role in The Best Year of Our Lives.


The National Paraplegia Foundation is founded by members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, as the civilian arm of their growing movement. Foundation chapters in many cities and states take a leading role in advocating for disability rights.

The disabled students' program at the University of Illinois at Galesburg is officially established. Founded and directed by Timothy Nugent, the program moves to the campus at Urbana-Champaign, where it becomes a prototype for disabled student programs and then independent living centers across the country.

We Are Not Alone (WANA), a mental patients' self-help group, is organized at the Rockland State Hospital in New York City.


The first Annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament is held in Galesburg, Illinois. Wheelchair basketball, and other sports, becomes an important part of disability lifestyle and culture over the next several decades.

Timothy Nugent founds the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

The National Foundation for Cerebral Palsy is chartered by representatives of various groups of parents of children with cerebral palsy. Renamed the United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc., in 1950, it becomes, together with the Association for Retarded Children, a major force in the parents' movement of the 1950s and thereafter.


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