The Disability Programs and Resource Center

Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus


1970 - 1979


The Insane Liberation Front is organized in Portland, Oregon.

The Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendments are passed. They contain the first legal definition of developmental disabilities and authorize grants for services and facilities for the rehabilitation of people with developmental disabilities and state "DD Councils."

Nursing home resident Max Starkloff founds Paraquad in St Louis.

Disabled in Action is founded in New York City by Judith Heumann, after her successful employment discrimination suit against the city's public school system. With chapters in several other cities, it organizes demonstrations and files litigation on behalf of disability rights.

The Physically Disabled Students Program (PDSP) is founded by Ed Roberts, John Hessler, Hale Zukas, and others at the University of California at Berkeley. With its provisions for community living, political advocacy, and personal assistance services, it becomes the nucleus for the first Center for Independent Living, founded two years later.

Congress passes the Urban Mass Transportation Assistance Act, declaring it a "national policy that elderly and handicapped persons have the same right as other persons to utilize mass transportation facilities and services." Passage of the act has little impact, however, as the law contains no provision for enforcement.


The Mental Patients' Liberation Front is founded in Boston, and the Mental Patients' Liberation Project is founded in New York City.

The National Center for Law and the Handicapped is founded at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, becoming the first legal advocacy center for people with disabilities in the United States.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama hands down its first decision in Wyatt v. Stickney, ruling that people in residential state schools and institutions have a constitutional right "to receive such individual treatment as (would) give them a realistic opportunity to be cured or to improve his or her mental condition." Disabled people can no longer simply be locked away in "custodial institutions" without treatment or education. This decision is a crucial victory in the struggle for deinstitutionalization.

The Caption Center is founded at WGBH Public Television in Boston, and it begins providing captioned programming for deaf viewers.

The Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 is amended to bring people with disabilities other than blindness into the sheltered workshop system. This measure leads to the establishment, in coming years, of an enormous sheltered workshop system for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities.


The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in Mills v. Board of Education, rules that the District of Columbia cannot exclude disabled children from the public schools. Similarly, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in PARC v. Pennsylvania, strikes down various state laws used to exclude disabled children from the public schools. These decisions will be cited by advocates during the public hearings leading to passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. PARC in particular sparks numerous other right-to-education lawsuits and inspires advocates to look to the courts for the expansion of disability rights.

The Center for Independent Living (CIL) is founded in Berkeley, California. Generally recognized as the world's first independent living center, the CIL sparks the worldwide independent living movement.

Passage of the Social Security Amendments of 1972 creates the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The law relieves families of the financial responsibility of caring for their adult disabled children. It consolidates existing federal programs for people who are disabled but not eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.

The Houston Cooperative Living Residential Project is established in Houston, Texas, becoming a model, along with the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, for subsequent independent living programs.

The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is founded in Washington, D.C, to provide legal representation and to advocate for the rights of people with mental illness.

The Legal Action Center, with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, is founded to advocate for the interests of people who are alcohol or drug dependent. Today, it also works on behalf of people with HIV/AIDS.

Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Paraplegia Foundation, and Richard Heddinger file suit to force the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to incorporate access into their design for a new, multibillion-dollar subway system in Washington, D.C. Their eventual victory becomes a landmark in the struggle for accessible public mass transit.

Wolf Wolfensberger et al. publish The Principle of Normalization in Human Services, expanding the theory of normalization and bringing it to a wider American audience.

The Network Against Psychiatric Assault is organized in San Francisco. The parents of residents at the Willow Brook State School in Staten Island, New York file suit (New York ARC v. Rockefeller) to end the appalling conditions at that institution. A television broadcast from the facility outrages the general public, which sees the inhumane treatment endured by people with developmental disabilities. This press exposure, together with the lawsuit and other advocacy, eventually moves thousands of people from the institution into community-based living arrangements.

Demonstrations are held by disabled activists in Washington, D.C., to protest the veto of what will become the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by President Richard M. Nixon. Among those organizing demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere are Disabled in Action, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Paraplegia Foundation, and other groups.

Madness Network News begins publication in San Francisco.


The first handicap parking stickers are introduced in Washington, D.C.

The first Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression is held at the University of Detroit.

Passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act authorizes federal funds to provide for construction of curb cuts.

Passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 marks the greatest achievement of the disability rights movement. The act -- particularly Title V and, especially, Section 504 for the first time, confronts discrimination against people with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits programs receiving federal funds from discriminating against "otherwise qualified handicapped" individuals and sparks the formation of "504 workshops" and numerous grassroots organizations. Disability rights activism seizes on the act as a powerful tool and make the signing of regulations to implement Section 504 a top priority. Litigation arising out of Section 504 will generate such central disability rights concepts as "reasonable modification," "reasonable accommodation," and "undue burden," which will form the framework for subsequent federal law, especially the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board is established under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to enforce the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is organized to advocate for passage of what will become the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.


The first U.S. National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament is held, as well as the first National Wheelchair Marathon.

The Boston Center for Independent Living is founded.

Halderman v. Pennhurst is filed in Pennsylvania on behalf of the residents of the Pennhurst State School & Hospital. The case, highlighting the horrific conditions at state "schools" for people with mental retardation, becomes an important precedent in the battle for deinstitutinalization, establishing a right to community services for people with developmental disabilities.

The first convention of People First is held in Salem, Oregon. People First become the largest U.S. organization composed of and led by people with cognitive disabilities.

The first Client Assistant Project (CAPs) is established to act as advocates for clients of state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

North Carolina passes a statewide building code with stringent access requirement drafted by access advocate Ronald Mace. This code becomes a model for effective architectural access legislation on other states. Mace founds Barrier Free Environments to advocate for accessibility in buildings and products.


The first convention of American Association of the Deaf-Blind is held in Cleveland.

Congress enacts the Community Services Act, creating the Head Start program, with the stipulation that at least 10 percent of program openings are served for disabled children.

Congress passes the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, providing federal funds to programs serving people with developmental disabilities and outlining a series of rights for those who are institutionalized. The lack of an enforcement mechanism within the bill and subsequent court decisions, will, however, render this portion of the act virtually useless to disability rights advocates.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Pub. Law 94-142) is passed, establishing the right of children with disabilities to a public school education in an integrated environment. The act is a cornerstone of federal disability rights legislation. In the next two decades, millions of disabled children will be educated under its provisions, radically changing the lives of people in the disability community.

The American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities is founded. It becomes the preeminent national cross-disability rights organization of the 1970s, pulling together disability rights groups representing blind, deaf, physically disabled, and developmentally disabled people. It hires Frank Bowe as its first executive director, begins a major study of the current status of Americans with disabilities.

The Association of Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH) is founded by special education professionals responding to PARC v. Pennsylvania (1972) and subsequent right-to-education cases. The organization will eventually call for the end of aversive behavior modification and the closing of all residential institution for people with disabilities.

The Atlantis Community is founded in Denver as a group-housing program for severely disabled adults who, until that time, had been forced to live in nursing homes.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in O'Connor v. Donaldson, rules that people cannot be institutionalized against their will in a psychiatric hospital unless they are determined to be a threat to themselves or to others.

Mainstream: Magazine of the Able-Disabled beings publication in San Diego.

The first Parent and Training Information Centers are founded to help parents of disabled children to exercise their rights under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

Edward Robertson becomes the Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation. He moves to establish nine independent living centers across that state, based on the model of the original Center for Independent Living in Berkeley. The success of these centers demonstrates that independent living can be replicated and eventually results in the founding of hundreds of independent living centers all over the world.

The Western Center on Law and the Handicapped is founded in Los Angeles.


Passage of an amendment to Higher Education Act of 1972 provides services to physically disabled students entering college.

The Transbus group, made up of Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, the American Coalition of Cerebral Palsy Associations, and others, and represented by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, files suit (Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, Inc. v. Coleman) to require that all buses purchased by public transit authorities receiving federal funds meet Transbus specifications, making them wheelchair accessible.

Disabled in Action pickets the United Cerebral Palsy telethon in New York City, calling telethons "demeaning and paternalistic shows which celebrate and encourage pity."

The Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped is founded in Winnipeg, Canada, later becoming the Council in Canadians with Disabilities.

The Disability Rights Center is founded in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Ralph Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law, it specializes in consumer protection for people with disabilities, joining the Justice department in anti-trust action against the Everest & Jennings Company.

The Westside Center for Independents Living founded in Los Angeles as one of the first nine independent living centers established by Ed Roberts and the California Department of Rehabilitation.


President Jimmy Carter appoints Max Cleland to head the U.S Veterans Administration, making Cleland the first severely disabled (as well as the youngest) person to fill that position.

Disability rights activists in ten cities stage demonstrations and occupations of the offices of the federal department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) to force the Carter Administration to issue regulations implementation Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The demonstrations galvanize the disability community nationwide, particularly the San Francisco action, which lasts nearly a month. One 28 April, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano signs the regulations.

The White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals brings together 3,000 disabled people to discuss federal policy toward people with disabilities. This first ever gathering of its kind results in numerous recommendations and acts as a catalyst for grassroots disability rights organizing.

Passage of the Legal Services Corporation Act Amendments adds financially needy people with disabilities to the list of those eligible for publicly funded legal services.

The U.S. Court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Lloyd V. Regional Transportation authority, rules that individuals have a right to sue under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and that public transit authorities must provide accessible service. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in Snowden v. Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority, undermines this decision by ruling that authorities need provide access only to "handicapped persons other than those confined to wheelchairs."


Fiesta Educativa, Inc., is founded in Los Angeles by Hispanic parents of children with disabilities.

Adaptive Environments Center is founded in Boston.

Disability rights activism in Denver stage a sit-in demonstration, blocking several Denver Regional Transit Authority buses, to protest the complete inaccessibility of that city's mass transit system. The demonstration is organized by the Atlantis Community and is the first action in what will be a yearlong civil disobedience campaign to force the Denver Transit Authority to purchase wheelchair lift-equipped buses.

Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1978 establishes the first federal funding for independent living and creates the National Council of the Handicapped under the U.S. Department of Education.

On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System is published. Written by Judi Chamberlin, it becomes a standard text of the psychiatric survivor movement.

The National Center for Law and the Deaf is founded in Washington, D.C.

Handicapping America, by Frank Bowe, is published. The book is a comprehensive review of the policies and attitudes denying equal citizenship to people with disabilities, and it becomes a standard text of the general disability rights movement.


The U.S Olympic Committee organizes its Handicapped in Sports Committee.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Southeastern Community College v. Davis, rules that, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, programs receiving federal funds must make "reasonable modifications" to enable the participation of otherwise qualified disabled individuals. This decision is the Court's first ruling on Section 504, and it establishes reasonable modification as an important principle in disability rights law.

Marilyn Hamilton, Jim Okamoto, and Don Helman produce their "Quickie" lightweight-folding wheelchair revolutionizing manual wheelchair design.

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) is founded in Berkeley, California, becoming the nation's preeminent disability rights legal advocacy center and participating in much of the landmark litigation and lobbying of the 1980s and 1990s.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is founded in Madison, Wisconsin, by parents of persons with mental illness.

Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc., is founded in Bethesda, Maryland, by Howard "Rocky" Stone.


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