The Disability Programs and Resource Center

Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus


1980 - 1989


Congress passes the Social Security Amendments, with Section 1619 designed to address work disincentives within the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. Other provisions mandate a review of Social Security recipients, leading to the termination of benefits of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.

Congress passes the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, authorizing the U.S. Justice Department to file civil suits on behalf of residents of institutions whose rights are being violated.

The first issue of the Disability Rag & Resource is published in Louisville, Kentucky.

Disabled Peoples' International is founded in Singapore, with the participation of advocates from Canada and the United States.

The Womyn's Braille Press is founded in Minneapolis to make women's and feminist literature available in braille and on tape.


The International Year of Disabled Persons begins with speeches before the United Nations General Assembly. During the year, governments are encouraged to sponsor programs bringing people with disabilities into the mainstream of their societies.

In an editorial in the New York Timer, Evan Kemp Jr. attacks the Jerry Lewis National Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, writing that "the very human desire for cures can never justify a television show that reinforces a stigma against disabled people."

Publication of Images of Ourselves: Women with Disabilities Talking by Jo Campling and Ad Things Are Possible by Yvonne Duffy highlights the concerns of women with disabilities.


The newly elected Reagan Administration threatens to amend or revoke regulations implementing Section 504 1983 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Disability rights advocates, led by Patrisha Wright at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and Evan Kemp, Jr. at the Disability Rights Center, respond with an intensive lobbying effort and a grassroots campaign that generates more than 40,000 cards and letters. After three years, the Reagan Administration abandons its attempts to revoke or amend the regulations.


The Reagan Administration terminates the Social Security benefits of hundreds of thousands of disabled recipients. Advocates charge that these terminations are an effort to reduce the federal budget and often do not reflect any improvement in the condition of those being terminated. A variety of groups, including the Alliance of Social Security Disability Recipients and the Ad Hoc Committee on Social Security Disability, spring up to fight these terminations. Several disabled people, in despair over the loss of their benefits, commit suicide.

National Black Deaf Advocates is founded.

The parents of "Baby Doe" in Bloomington, Indiana, are advised by their doctors to deny a surgical procedure to unblock their newborn's esophagus, because the baby has Down Syndrome. Although disability rights activists try to intervene, Baby Doe starves to death before legal action can be taken. The case prompts the Reagan Administration to issue regulations calling for the creation of "Baby Doe squads" to safeguard the civil rights of disabled newborns.

The Telecommunications for the Disabled Act mandates telephone access for deaf and hard-of-hearing people at important public places, such as hospitals and police stations, and that all coin-operated phones be hearing aid-compatible by January 1985. It also calls for state subsidies for production and distribution of TDDs (telecommunications devices for the deaf), more commonly referred to as TTYs.

The National Council on Independent Living is formed to advocate on behalf of independent living centers and the independent living movement.


The Disabled Children's Computer Group (DCCG) is founded in Berkeley, California.

Ed Roberts, Judy Heumann, and Joan Leon found the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, California.

American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) is organized at the Atlantis Community Headquarters in Denver, Colorado. For the next seven years ADAPT conducts a civil disobedience campaign against the American Public Transit Association (APTA) and various local public transit authorities to protest the lack of accessible public transportation.

The National Council on the Handicapped issues a call for Congress to "act forthwith to include persons with disabilities in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other civil and voting rights legislation and regulations."

The United Nations expands the International Year of Disabled Persons into the International Decade of Disabled Persons, to last from 1983 to 1992.

Sharon Kowalski is disabled by a drunk driver near Onamia, Minnesota. Her parents, discovering that she is a lesbian, refuse to allow her to return home to her lover Karen Thompson, instead keeping her in a nursing home. Thompson's eight-year struggle to free Kowalski becomes a focus of disability rights advocates and leads to links between the lesbian and disability rights communities.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is founded by the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped to provide information to businesses with disabled employees.


The Baby Jane Doe case, like the 1982 Bloomington Baby Doe case, involves an infant being denied needed medical care because of her disability. The case results in litigation argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Bowen v. American Hospital Association, and in passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1984.

George Murray becomes the first wheelchair athlete to be featured on the Wheaties cereal box.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules, in Irving Independent School District v. Tatro, that school districts are required under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 to provide intermittent catheterization, performed by the school nurse or a nurse's aide, as a "related service" to a disabled student. School districts can no longer refuse to educate a disabled child because they might need such a service.

The National Council of the Handicapped becomes an independent federal agency.

Congress passes the Social Security Disability Reform Act in response to the complaints of hundreds of thousands of people whose Social Security disability benefits have been terminated. The law requires that payment of benefits and health insurance coverage continue for terminated recipients until they have exhausted their appeals and that decisions by the Social Security Administration to terminate benefits are made only on the basis of "the weight of the evidence" in a particular recipient's case.

The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act mandates that polling places be accessible or that ways be found to enable elderly and disabled people to exercise their right to vote. Advocates find that the act is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.


Wry Crips, a radical disability theatre group, is founded in and, California.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules, in Burlington School Committee v. Department of Education, that schools must pay the expenses of disabled children enrolled in private programs during litigation under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, if the courts rule such placement is needed to provide the child with an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules, City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, that localities cannot use zoning laws to prohibit group homes for people with developmental disabilities from opening in a residential area sole because its residents are disabled.

Gini Laurie founds the International Polio Network, based in St. Louis, Missouri, and begins advocating for recognition of post-polio syndrome.

The National Association of Psychiatric Survivors is founded.


The Air Carrier Access Act is passed, prohibiting airlines from refusing to serve people simply because they are disabled, and from charging them more for airfare than non-disabled travelers.

The National Council on the Handicapped issues Toward Independence, a report outlining the legal status of Americans with disabilities, documenting the existence of discriminating and citing the need for federal civil rights legislation (what will eventually be passed as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).

Concrete Change, a grassroots organization advocating for accessible housing, is organized in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act is passed, allowing recipients of Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance to retain benefits, particularly medical coverage, even after they obtain work. The act is intended to remove the disincentives that keep disabled people unemployed.

The Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act is passed, setting up protection and advocacy agencies for people who are in-patients or residents of mental health facilities.

The Society for Disability Studies is founded.

The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986 define supported employment as a "legitimate rehabilitation outcome."


The Alliance for Technology Access is founded in California by the Disabled Children's Computer Group and the Apple Computer Office of Special Education.

Marlee Marlin wins an Oscar for her performance in Children of a Lesser God.

The AXIS Dance Troupe is founded in Oakland, California.

The DisAbled Women's Network (DAWN) is founded in Winnipeg, Canada.

The US. Supreme Court, in School Board of Nassau County, Fla. v. Airline, outlines the rights of people with contagious disease under Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It establishes that people with infectious; diseases cannot be fired from their jobs "because of prejudiced attitude or ignorance of others." This ruling is a landmark precedent for people with tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases or disabilities, and for people, such as individuals with cancer or epilepsy, who are discriminated against because others fear they may be contagious.

The Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) is founded in Chicago.


Students at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., organize a week long shutdown and occupation of their campus to demand selection of a deaf president after the Gallaudet Board of Trustees appoints a non-deaf person as president of the university. On Marck 13, the Gallaudet administration announces that I. King Jordan will be the university's first deaf president.

Deaf Life begins monthly publication in Rochester, New York.

The Technology-Related Assistance Act for Individuals with Disabilities (the "Tech Act" is passed, authorizing federal funding to state projects designed to facilitate access to assistive technology.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act adds people with disabilities to those groups protected by federal fair housing legislation, and it establishes minimum standards of an adaptability for newly constructed multiple-dwelling housing.

The National Council on the Handicapped issues On the Threshold of Independence and a first deaf of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is introduced into Congress by Rep. Tony Coelho and into the Senate by Sen. Lowell Weicker.

The Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities is created by Rep. Major R. Owens and co-chaired by Justine Dart Jr. and Elizabeth Boggs. The task force begins building grassroots; support for passage of the ADA.

Congress overturns President Ronald Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987. The act undoes the Supreme Court decision in Grove City College v. Bell and other decisions limiting the scope of federal civil rights law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Honig v. Doe, affirms the "stay put rule" established under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, under which school authorities cannot expel or suspend or otherwise move disabled children from the setting agreed upon the child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) without a due process hearing.

The National Parent Network on Disabilities is established as an umbrella organization for the Parent Training and Information Centers.


The federal appeals court, in ADAPT v. Skinner, rules that federal regulations requiring that transit authorities spend only 3 percent of their budgets on access are arbitrary and discriminatory.

The original version of the American with Disabilities Act, introduced into Congress the previous year, is redrafted and reintroduced. Disability organizations across the country advocate on its behalf with Patrisha Wright as "general" and Marilyn Golden, Liz Savage, Justin Dart Jr., and Elizabeth Boggs as principal coordinators or this effort.

The Center for Universal Design (originally the Center for Accessible Housing) is founded by Ronald Mace in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Mouth: The Voice of Disability Rights begins publication in Rochester, New York.

The President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped is renamed the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.


Back to the Main Chronology Page

SF State Home