The Disability Programs and Resource Center

Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus


1950 - 1959


The Social Security Amendments of 1950 establish a federal-state program to aid the permanently and totally disabled (APTD). This is a limited prototype for later federal disability assistance programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance.

The Association for Retarded Children of the United States (later renamed the Association for Retarded Citizens and then The Arc) is founded in Minneapolis by representatives of various state association of parents of mentally retarded children.

Mary Switzer is appointed Director of the federal Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.


Howard Rusk opens the Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center. Staff at the Institute, including people with disabilities, begins work on such innovations as electric typewriters, mouth sticks, and improved prosthetics, as adaptive aids for people with severe disabilities.


The President's Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week becomes the Presidents' Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped, a permanent organization reporting to the President and Congress.

Henry Vicardi takes out a personal loan to found Abilities, Inc., a jobs training and placement placement program for people with disabilities.


The U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, rules that separate schools for black and white children are inherently unequal and unconstitutional. This pivotal decision becomes a catalyst for the African-American civil rights movement, which in turn becomes a major inspiration to the disability rights movement.

Congress passes the Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments, authorizing federal grants to expand programs available to people with physical disabilities.

Mary Switzer, Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, uses this authority to fund more than 100 university based rehabilitation related programs.

The Social Security Act of 1935 is amended by Pub. Law 83-761, which includes a "freeze" provision for workers who are forced by disability to leave the work force. This protects their benefits when they retire by not counting the years between the time they cease working and their retirement, thus freezing their retirement benefits at their pre-disability level.


Harold Wilke becomes the founder and first executive director of the Commission on Religion and Health within the United Church of Christ General Synod in New York. In this capacity he works to open religious life and the ministry to women and people with disabilities.


Congress passes the Social Security Amendments of 1956, which creates a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program for disabled workers aged 50 to 64.

Accent on Living begins publication.


The first National Wheelchair Games in the United States are held at Adelphi College in Garden City, New York.

Little People of American is founded in Reno, Nevada, to advocate on behalf of dwarfs or little people. Gunnar Dybwad is named executive of the Association for Retarded Children.


Congress passes the Social Security Amendments of 1958, extending Social Security Disability Insurance benefits to the dependents of disabled workers.

Gini Laurie becomes editor of the Toomeyville Gazette at the Toomey Pavilion Polio Rehabilitation Center. Eventually renamed the Rehabilitation Gazette, this grassroots publications becomes an early voice for disability rights, independent living and cross-disability organizing, and it features articles by disabled writers on all aspects of the disability experience.

The American Federation of the Physically Handicapped is dissolved at a convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Participants organize the National Association of the Physically Handicapped, Inc. to take its place.


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