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Advocacy & Awareness
Disability advocates concerned with disability rights were relieved to see the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law in July 1990.  At the signing when President Bush said, ‘Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down’ many Americans were still ignorant about disability awareness and had no idea the impact the law would have.  Of course, professionals like those working in mental health advocacy, or teachers involved in special education advocacy knew the importance of the new disability law.  They also knew the walls of exclusion would not “come tumbling down” with the stroke of a pen.

Disabilities advocacy groups realized the law would be a powerful tool for inclusion but to achieve its full effect everyone had to understand the human side of the law and advocacy education through disabilities awareness would be necessary.  Common respect, courtesy and eliminating the awkwardness people experienced interacting with a person who has a disability would be the goal.  Although the law did not mandate disability sensitivity training, people with a disability knew the importance of disability etiquette.  They understood that the need was great and that teaching disability awareness was not going to be an easy task.  Hence, awareness training became the mission for the next two decades for many professionals and advocates alike.

Soon there were disability awareness resources being offered by disability advocacy groups from coast to coast.  Initially there were disability awareness videos that were more general relating to both disability advocate teaching and disability sensitivity training.  Soon after, specialty subjects such as developmental disability awareness, disability awareness for children, learning disability awareness, deafness awareness, and special needs awareness became more focused within these programs.

Twenty years after the signing, advocacy for people with disabilities has not only the Americans with Disabilities Act as its foundation, but a tremendous arsenal of other tools as well.  These include videos, pamphlets, seminars, books, and web sites that facilitate disability advocacy training and beyond.  The law and all of the subsequent training materials teach two of the basic needs of each of us: courtesy and respect.

Academy Award winning portrait of poet and journalist Mark O'Brien, who contracted polio in childhood and spent much of his life in an iron lung.

A world champion kite flyer shares his passion for flight with a man blind from birth in this tale of friendship that challenges our notions of disability.  

A comprehensive resource intended to aid stroke survivors and their caregivers during the ongoing recovery process.

Powerful documentary about people with disabilities who struggle to be recognized as sexual beings, free to explore their sexuality and to lead sexually fulfilling lives.

Shares the everyday lives of families living with neuromuscular disorders with caseworks and clinicians, and the parents of children who have been recently diagnosed.

Profiles two families exhausted by the struggle to provide all day, every day care for their developmentally disabled adult children at home, while simultaneously battling for the help and resources they need. How long can they do it alone?

Warming to the cold embrace of an autism diagnosis is often very challenging for families. In AUTISM. WARMING TO ITS COLD EMBRACE, filmmaker and parent Robert Parish speaks with many of the passionate autism advocates he has met along his personal ASD journey.

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