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Museum of DisABILITY History

New York State Timeline Exhibit

From Nelson Rockefeller’s term in the 1960s to increased legal protection for individuals with disabilities in the new millennium, the past several decades have brought a lot of good change to New York’s history.

Timeline Index

1960

Rome State Custodial Asylum 1960

Rome State Custodial Asylum
Rome State Custodial Asylum - The de-institutionalization campaign for people with developmental disabilities begins. The goal was to move individuals from large institutions to small group homes with community-based services. Funding was difficult and the plan took years to implement. Many people were moved to another institution or to smaller, on-site facilities.

Overcrowding 1960

Overcrowding
Overcrowding - Overcrowding in state institutions leads to the expansion of other state facilities. New York State took over 5 floors of Gouverneurs Hospital in New York City. Sampson Air Force Base on Seneca Lake received transfers from various state schools. Mount McGregor Veterans Rest Home in Saratoga County receive patients from Rome State School. J.N. Adam, formerly a tuberculosis hospital on the grounds of the Gowanda State Hospital, was converted to a state school.

New York DisAbility History Timeline 1960

New York DisAbility History Timeline
1960s New York DisAbility History Timeline

Nelson A. Rockefeller begins first of four terms as governor of the State of New York. Overcrowding in New York State schools and waiting lists for disability services became the central focus of the 1960s. Construction plans proved to be inadequate and under- budgeted and staffing shortages were also causing delays in building new facilities. The 1960s saw a shift in the structure of institutions from a “flat pyramid model” in which a few administrators and physicians oversaw thousands of employees who serve in a custodial capacity, to a more complex model, employing individuals with skills specific to improving overall care. New York saw an increase in State colleges, universities and other public programs. The overwhelming need for reform and increased pressure from Association for Retarded Children parents’ groups regarding funding, slow construction of new facilities and facilities not being built near the residents’ home communities culminated in a lawsuit brought against New York State (ARC v. Rockefeller).

Social Security Amendments of 1960 1960

Social Security Amendments of 1960

Social Security Amendments of 1960

U.S. Congress removes the provision limiting Social Security Disability Insurance benefits to workers over age 50, making SSDI available to younger workers with disabilities.

The de-institutionalization campaign for people with developmental disabilities begins 1960

The de-institutionalization campaign for people with developmental disabilities begins
1960s - The de-institutionalization campaign for people with developmental disabilities begins. The goal was to move individuals from large institutions to small group homes with community-based services. Funding was difficult and the plan took years to implement. Many people were moved to another institution or to smaller, on-site facilities.
1961

John Fitzgerald Kennedy becomes President of the United States 1961

John Fitzgerald Kennedy becomes President of the United States
1961 - John Fitzgerald Kennedy becomes President of the United States (1961-1963).

American Council of the Blind established in Washington DC 1961

American Council of the Blind established in Washington DC
1961 - American Council of the Blind established in Washington DC to provide proper support, care and services to all people blind and/or visually impaired.

West Seneca State School: Department of Mental Hygiene announces opening of new administration building 1961

West Seneca State School: Department of Mental Hygiene announces opening of new administration building

1961 -19, but the facility wouldn’t receive patients until 1963.

American National Standard Institute, Inc. (ANSI) publishes "American Standard Specifications for Making Buildings Accessible" 1961

American National Standard Institute, Inc. (ANSI) publishes

1961 - American National Standard Institute, Inc. (ANSI) publishes "American Standard Specifications for Making Buildings Accessible to and Usable by the Physically Handicapped" (A117.1). Re-published in 2003, it was the foundational document for all future architectural access codes.

President Kennedy establishes the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation 1961

President Kennedy establishes the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation

1961 - President Kennedy establishes the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. By evaluating the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and developing strategies for public policy reform, the panel expanded the role of the federal government regarding mental retardation issues. It developed an initiative, “The Proposed Program for National Action to Combat Mental Retardation,” which served as a model for New York State advocates who objected to previous state policies.
1963

President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas 1963

President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas

1963 - November 22: President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Lyndon Baines Johnson becomes president 1963

Lyndon Baines Johnson becomes president

1963 - Lyndon Baines Johnson becomes president (1963-1969).

Outbreak of hepatitis among children at Willowbrook State School 1963

Outbreak of hepatitis among children at Willowbrook State School

1963-1966 - Outbreak of hepatitis among children at Willowbrook State School, leads to medical testing performed on healthy children. These children were injected with the hepatitis virus to gauge the effects of “gamma globulin,” as a method to fight the disease.

Outbreak of hepatitis among children at Willowbrook State School, leads to medical testing performed on healthy children 1963

Outbreak of hepatitis among children at Willowbrook State School, leads to medical testing performed on healthy children

1963-1966 - Outbreak of hepatitis among children at Willowbrook State School, leads to medical testing performed on healthy children. These children were injected with the hepatitis virus to gauge the effects of “gamma globulin,” as a method to fight the disease.

Mental Hygiene Facilities Improvement Fund (MHFIF) bill submitted by Rockefeller and passed by the legislature 1963

Mental Hygiene Facilities Improvement Fund (MHFIF) bill submitted by Rockefeller and passed by the legislature

1963 - Mental Hygiene Facilities Improvement Fund (MHFIF) bill submitted by Rockefeller and passed by the legislature to fund the construction of facilities through the sale of government “moral obligation” bonds. Re-payment of these bonds was relegated to the families of institutional residents. The ARC rejected this plan, but failed in their attempts to change the legislation.

De-institutionalization and community services for people with mental disabilities moves another step forward 1963

De-institutionalization and community services for people with mental disabilities moves another step forward
1963 - De-institutionalization and community services for people with mental disabilities moves another step forward when President Kennedy calls on Congress for legislation to reduce the number of individuals under custodial care in institutions.

The “MillsRibicoff” Bill amends the Social Security Act 1963

The “MillsRibicoff” Bill amends the Social Security Act
1963 - The “MillsRibicoff” Bill amends the Social Security Act to assist states and communities in preventing and combating mental retardation by providing pre-natal care and services for infants born with disabilities.

The Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Health Centers Construction Act was signed by President Kennedy 1963

The Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Health Centers Construction Act was signed by President Kennedy
1963 - October 31: The Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Health Centers Construction Act was signed by President Kennedy, providing federal grants for building public and private non-profit community mental health centers.
1965

New York State Senator Robert Kennedy and a television crew visit Willowbrook State School 1965

New York State Senator Robert Kennedy and a television crew visit Willowbrook State School

1965 - New York State Senator Robert Kennedy and a television crew visit Willowbrook State School in Staten Island NY.

He likens the conditions at Willowbrook to that of a “snake pit,” and states that the residents of these institutions were “denied access to education and are deprived of their civil liberties.” Later that same year, he addressed a joint session of the NYS Legislature on the “dehumanizing conditions” of the State’s institutions.

Christmas in Purgatory: A Photographic Essay on Mental Retardation by Burton Blatt and Fred Kaplan 1965



1965 - Christmas in Purgatory: A Photographic Essay on Mental Retardation by Burton Blatt and Fred Kaplan documents and illustrates the deplorable conditions at eastern state institutions.

Medicare and Medicaid programs are established by the Social Security Amendments of 1965 1965

Medicare and Medicaid programs are established by the Social Security Amendments of 1965

1965 - Medicare and Medicaid programs are established by the Social Security Amendments of 1965. The amendments create federally funded health insurance for retirees and recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (Medicare) and Americans who are poor and/or disabled (Medicaid).

Immigration restrictions on the “feeble-minded” 1965

Immigration restrictions on the “feeble-minded”

1965 - Immigration restrictions on the “feeble-minded”: U.S. Congress reverses the 1924 immigration policies which restricted admission of families with a “feeble-minded” member.

Vocational Rehabilitation Amendment of 1965 expanded services to reach a broader population 1965

Vocational Rehabilitation Amendment of 1965 expanded services to reach a broader population

1965 - Vocational Rehabilitation Amendment of 1965 expanded services to reach a broader population by authorizing the federal government to build rehabilitation centers while expanding existing vocational rehabilitation programs. It also created the National Commission on Architectural Barriers to Rehabilitation of the Handicapped.
1966

NYS Legislation amends Section 4707 of the Education Law 1966

NYS Legislation amends Section 4707 of the Education Law

1966 - NYS Legislation amends Section 4707 of the Education Law allowing the State to subsidize private schools within and outside NYS when no suitable public school facilities are available for NY children with disabilities.

Organization for Accessible Buildings founded in Rochester, NY 1966

Organization for Accessible Buildings founded in Rochester, NY

1966 - Organization for Accessible Buildings founded in Rochester, NY by a group of young, disabled high school students who discovered NYS college and university campuses were ill-equipped for students with disabilities. The organization was later renamed “Handicapped Independence HERE Inc” and reorganized as the Regional Center for Independent Living in 1979.

President’s Committee on Mental Retardation established by President Johnson 1966

President’s Committee on Mental Retardation established by President Johnson

1966 - President’s Committee on Mental Retardation established by President Johnson. The central tenet of the Committee is prevention which includes promoting healthy pregnancies, timely immunizations, child safety and early intervention for infants and toddlers.

NY State Hostel Program initiated 1966

NY State Hostel Program initiated

1966 - NY State Hostel Program initiated. Hostels were homes in the community with “house parents” who lived with the residents. This type of living arrangement had been promoted by the ARC for many years but it wasn’t until 1966 when legislation provided funds for construction that the program began to take shape. The first hostel, a Manhattan townhouse, opened in 1968.
1967

The Tragedy and Hope of Retarded Children, by Dr.Burton Blatt with Charles Mangel, featured in the October issue of LOOK magazine 1967

The Tragedy and Hope of Retarded Children, by Dr.Burton Blatt with Charles Mangel, featured in the October issue of LOOK magazine

1967 - The Tragedy and Hope of Retarded Children, by Dr.Burton Blatt with Charles Mangel, featured in the October issue of LOOK magazine. The article was an excerpt from “Christmas in Purgatory” published in 1965, it exposes the conditions of eastern state institutions for the mentally retarded and offers particular alternatives and solutions to overcrowding and inadequate services by examining the services for people with disabilities at a private facility called Seaside Regional Center in Waterford, Connecticut.
1968

The NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) established 1968

The NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) established
1968 - The NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) established by the NYS Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. IBR conducts research into the causes, treatment and prevention of mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. They also provide a variety of services to individuals with devolpmental disabilities and their families and serve to educate health care professionals and the general public regarding the diagnosis, care and treatment of people with developmental disabilities.

Architectural Barriers Act adopted by U.S. Congress 1968

Architectural Barriers Act adopted by U.S. Congress
1968 - Architectural Barriers Act adopted by U.S. Congress. The act required most buildings and facilities designed, built, altered or leased with federal funds be accessible to people with disabilities. This act will be considered the first federal law mandating disability rights. In 1976 the revised Act will require that construction plans include access features.
1969

Richard M. Nixon becomes President (1969-1974) 1969

Richard M. Nixon becomes President (1969-1974)

1969 - Richard M. Nixon becomes President (1969-1974).

Normalization means…A normal rhythm of the day 1969

Normalization means…A normal rhythm of the day
Normalization Bengt Nirje: - Normalization means…A normal rhythm of the day. You get out of bed in the morning, even if you are profoundly retarded and physically handicapped; You get dressed, And leave the house for school or work, You don’t stay home; In the morning you anticipate events, In the evening you think back on what you have accomplished; The day is not a monotonous 24 hours with every minute endless. You eat at normal times of the day and in a normal fashion; Not just with a spoon, unless you are an infant; Not in bed, but at a table; Not early in the afternoon for the convenience of the staff. Normalization means…A normal rhythm of the week…

Dr. Bengt Nirje publishes the concept of "normalization" in the 1969 President's Report on Mental Retardation 1969

Dr. Bengt Nirje publishes the concept of
1969 - Dr. Bengt Nirje publishes the concept of "normalization" in the 1969 President's Report on Mental Retardation. This concept was borrowed from parents of children with developmental disabilities and leaders in the field of mental retardation in Sweden. Normalization would be further developed to re-define perceptions of individuals with disabilities.
1970

Rockefeller campaigns for re-election 1970

Rockefeller campaigns for re-election
1970s - Rockefeller campaigns for re-election. He promised improvements in the field of mental health with new programs for care and treatment close to home or near family. He vowed to increase State aid for mental health treatment centers and double the staff in schools for the mentally retarded.

Rockefeller campaigns for re-election 1970

Rockefeller campaigns for re-election

1970s - Rockefeller campaigns for re-election. He promised improvements in the field of mental health with new programs for care and treatment close to home or near family. He vowed to increase State aid for mental health treatment centers and double the staff in schools for the mentally retarded.

Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendments adopted by U.S. Congress 1970

Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendments adopted by U.S. Congress

1970 - Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendments adopted by U.S. Congress. The first legal definition of developmental disabilities is established. The amendments allowed for services and facilities to rehabilitate people with developmental disabilities. They also established state "Developmental Disabilities Councils."

The term "developmental disability" means: A severe, chronic disability of an individual that: is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments; is manifested before the individual attains age 22; is likely to continue indefinitely; results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following area of major life activity: self care receptive and expressive language learning mobility self-direction capacity for independent living economic self-sufficiency.

Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) formed 1970

Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) formed
1970 - Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) formed to "plan, monitor, evaluate and advocate on behalf of developmentally disabled people, in conjunction with the State agency." The Council is comprised of concerned citizens, non-governmental and public agencies advocating for services on behalf of people with disabilities.

Judy Heumann founds "Disabled in Action" (DIA) in New York City 1970

Judy Heumann founds
1970 - Judy Heumann founds "Disabled in Action" (DIA) in New York City as a "civil rights" organization for people with disabilities. DIA is a democratic, not-for-profit, tax-exempt, membership organization consisting mainly of individuals with disabilities. Their motto is: "Nothing about us without us!" The same year, Judy sued the New York City Public School system for refusing her a teaching license because of a fear that her use of a wheelchair may endanger children during an emergency. She won the lawsuit and received her teaching license.

Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University founded by Burton Blatt and Wolf Wolfensberger 1970

Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University founded by Burton Blatt and Wolf Wolfensberger
1970 - Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University founded by Burton Blatt and Wolf Wolfensberger. The center was designed to promote a more open and accepting society for people with disabilities.

Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University founded by Burton Blatt and Wolf Wolfensberger 1970

Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University founded by Burton Blatt and Wolf Wolfensberger
1970 - Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University founded by Burton Blatt and Wolf Wolfensberger. The center was designed to promote a more open and accepting society for people with disabilities.

Urban Mass Transportation Act established by U.S. Congress providing adequate and equal access to mass public transportation for elderly and handicapped Americans 1970

Urban Mass Transportation Act established by U.S. Congress providing adequate and equal access to mass public transportation for elderly and handicapped Americans
1970 - Urban Mass Transportation Act established by U.S. Congress providing adequate and equal access to mass public transportation for elderly and handicapped Americans. It required all vehicles of mass transit to be designed, constructed and operated in a way that serves their needs.

The 1970s were marked by continued pressure from advocacy groups upon New York State government to de-institutionalize 1970

The 1970s were marked by continued pressure from advocacy groups upon New York State government to de-institutionalize

1970s New York - The 1970s were marked by continued pressure from advocacy groups upon New York State government to de-institutionalize. Many New York State advocacy groups were campaigning for inclusion and integration. New laws were passed and pressure from outside forces gained momentum. National media coverage brought American society face to face with the deplorable conditions and treatment of the developmentally disabled living in institutions. The first community-based residence for individuals with developmental disabilities opens in New York State.

Nelson Rockefeller campaigns for re-election 1970

Nelson Rockefeller campaigns for re-election
1970s - Nelson Rockefeller campaigns for re-election. He promised improvements in the field of mental health with new programs for care and treatment close to home or near family. He vowed to increase State aid for mental health treatment centers and double the staff in schools for the mentally retarded.
1971

PARC v. State of Pennsylvania: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declares unconstitutional various state laws barring children with disabilities from public schools 1971

PARC v. State of Pennsylvania: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declares unconstitutional various state laws barring children with disabilities from public schools
1971 - Pennsylvania Association of Retarded Children (PARC) v. State of Pennsylvania: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declares unconstitutional various state laws barring children with disabilities from public schools. This case prompted further "right to education" lawsuits across the U.S.

National Center for Law and the Handicapped established at the University of Notre Dame 1971

National Center for Law and the Handicapped established at the University of Notre Dame
1971 - National Center for Law and the Handicapped established at the University of Notre Dame. The center was the first organization to provide legal services to the disabled.

United Nations Declaration on the "Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons" adopted 1971

United Nations Declaration on the
1971 - United Nations Declaration on the "Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons" adopted. Providing the same rights given to other human beings:

•the right to proper medical careeducation
•economic security by way of a meaningful occupation
•the right to live with family or in other homes if possible with financial assistance. If living in a facility, it must provide a healthy environment
•the right to a proper guardian
•the right to protection from exploitation, abuse or neglect.
•In the event that the individual is unable to exercise their rights, the proper legal safeguards must be imposed.

One of the first community residences in NYS is established in the City of Buffalo 1971

One of the first community residences in NYS is established in the City of Buffalo
1971 - One of the first community residences in NYS is established in the City of Buffalo by the group Service to the Mentally Retarded in Erie County (SMREC). This organization later became People Inc. Ten People shared this home, accompanied by a supervising staff.

Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 Amended to expand the criteria for attending sheltered workshops beyond blindness 1971

Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 Amended to expand the criteria for attending sheltered workshops beyond blindness
1971 - Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 Amended to expand the criteria for attending sheltered workshops beyond blindness, to other disabilities.

Mental Patients Liberation Project founded in New York City 1971

Mental Patients Liberation Project founded in New York City
1971 - Mental Patients Liberation Project founded in New York City. This organization was formed based on the view that current or former mental patients should represent themselves regarding reform and advocacy.
1972

Wyatt v. Stickney, a suit brought against Alabama’s Commissioner of Mental Health 1972

Wyatt v. Stickney, a suit brought against Alabama’s Commissioner of Mental Health
1972 - Wyatt v. Stickney, a suit brought against Alabama’s Commissioner of Mental Health, was a class action complaint initiated by the threat of mass layoffs at the Bryce State Hospital for the mentally ill. The court provided a right to treatment for individuals living in state institutions based on constitutional standards, adequate funding to implement the standards, sufficient staffing and qualified administrative oversight. The success of this suit became the model for future lawsuits brought against institutions across the country.