15th CenturyThe court fool was a part of the medieval and renaissance court society. Some jesters were disabled either physically or mentally.
Malleus Maleficarum, or translated "The Hammer of the Witches" 1494
1494 - Malleus Maleficarum, or translated "The Hammer of the Witches," is a witch hunting manual which discusses seizures as a characteristic of witches. The manual was written by two Dominican Friars with the authority of the Pope. Society and the Church had placed those with a disability into the realm of the supernatural and as individuals against God.
Elizabethan Poor Laws were passed 1601
1601 - Elizabethan Poor Laws were passed from 1583 to 1601 in order to aid the deserving poor, orphaned and crippled. The 1601 law was a consolidation of prior legislation and laid some of the burden on society by charging a "poor rate" on owners of property. Queen Elizabeth's government divided the poor into three groups. The disabled poor were placed in the group labeled "helpless poor."
The Salem Witch Trials 1692
1692 - The Salem Witch Trials resulted in the hanging of 19 witches, both male and female. It has been purported that some of the 19 were either feebleminded, of little or no education, or insane. Fear of what was different played into this community's persecution of so-called witches.
P.T. Barnum purchased the American Museum 1840
1840 - P.T. Barnum purchased the American Museum and began to exhibit "freaks" as a form of entertainment. The freak show was now a popular form of entertainment and the society in which it was created paid to see humans, some of which were disabled, on display.
During this one-hundred year span, the freak show was a prominent form of entertainment 1840
1840-1940 - During this one-hundred year span, the freak show was a prominent form of entertainment. Dime museums, the circus and other traveling amusements prominently featured disabled individuals as freak show performers. As society's views of disabled individuals changed to a medical view the popular form of entertainment fell out of favor.
First asylum for the mentally ill is built in Trenton, New Jersey 1845
1845 - As a result of the social movement led by Dorothea Dix, the first asylum for the mentally ill is built in Trenton, New Jersey. Dix is able to convince several other states to do the same. Her work with the disabled that she found in jails convinced her that there was a need for separate facilities.
Anne Sullivan was hired to teach Helen Keller 1887
1887 - Anne Sullivan was hired to teach Helen Keller in 1887. It was in this same year that Helen was first able to associate objects with the appropriate letters. The two became popular on the lecture circuit and even at vaudeville theatres.
Clifford Beers publishes his autobiographical "A Mind that Found Itself" 1908
1908 - Clifford Beers publishes his autobiographical "A Mind that Found Itself" which would start the mental health movement in the United States. Beers himself suffered a mental breakdown and was committed to an asylum; his book was a reflection of that time spent in an institution. One year later the National Committee for Mental Hygiene was formed to advocate for change in the asylum system due to the atrocious conditions.
"Idiot's Club" postcards 1909
1909 - "Idiot's Club" postcards as well as others were popular gags in pre-politically correct society. The use of humor dealing with terms used to label disabled individuals was and still is common practice.
The Eugenics Record Office was opened in Cold Spring Harbor, New York 1910
1910 - The Eugenics Record Office was opened in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. The concept of eugenics was first devised by Sir Francis Galton in 1883. Galton believed that there could be an improvement in the "stock" of humanity with proper breeding. In America, the eugenics movement led to forced sterilization, institutionalization, immigration, marriage and procreation laws for the disabled.
The Immigration Restriction Act was considered to be driven by the eugenic agenda 1924
1924 - The Immigration Restriction Act was considered to be driven by the eugenic agenda. Harry Laughlin, superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, testified before Congress supporting a eugenics based immigration law. The law was signed in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge and would not be repealed until 1965. In Coolidge's words, "America must be kept American." There was fear that the mixing of the races, including some Europeans, would lead to the deterioration of American society.
The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 1938
1938 - The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis with the help of President Franklin Roosevelt to help eradicate polio. After polio was no longer a threat in the United States, the March of Dimes has focused on birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Society became more aware of disabilities as a medical condition in need of treatment and funding.
National Employ the Handicapped Week is created and signed by President Harry Truman as Public Law 176 1945
1945 - National Employ the Handicapped Week is created and signed by President Harry Truman as Public Law 176. The week was established to create more awareness of the possibilities available to employ the physically handicapped. In 1962, Employ the Handicapped Week expanded to include all disabilities and was later changed from just one week to a full month in 1988.
The National Association for Retarded Citizens was established 1950
1950 - The National Association for Retarded Citizens was established in 1950. The organization has influenced legislation and public perception regarding retarded individuals.
Angel Unaware, written by Dale Evans Rogers, is published with the royalties going to the National Association for Retarded Citizens or NARC 1952
1952 - Angel Unaware, written by Dale Evans Rogers, is published with the royalties going to the National Association for Retarded Citizens or NARC. Rogers' book was part of a growing trend of "confessional literature" that became popular in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. This trend resulted in the published accounts of parents with disabled children who were not ashamed of that fact or the fact that they placed their children in institutions.
President Kennedy addresses Congress for the reduction of the number of persons confined to residential institutions 1963
1963 - President Kennedy addresses Congress for the reduction of the number of persons confined to residential institutions. He asks that ways be found to reintegrate those released back into the community. This may be considered the start to deinstitutionalization that was popular in the 1970s.
The first International Special Olympics Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago 1968
1968 - The first International Special Olympics Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago. The International Olympic Committee officially recognized the Special Olympics in 1987. The games were founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Society's ideals of what an athlete is may have been changed due to the Special Olympics.
The concept of deinstitutionalization was popular during this decade 1970
1970s - The concept of deinstitutionalization was popular during this decade. A focus on the eventual return to the community of individuals with disabilities was what guided this movement. Deinstitutionalization endorsed the closing of state institutions and promoted the establishment of community living.
Wolf Wolfensberger introduces the idea of "normalization" to a larger American 1972
1972 - Wolf Wolfensberger introduces the idea of "normalization" to a larger American audience in his influential work The Principle of Normalization in Human Services. Within this concept the community would be the central provider of services for the mentally retarded and not the state schools or institutions. Normalization was a part of the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1970s.
Construction of curb cuts for wheelchair users is federally funded 1973
- Construction of curb cuts for wheelchair users is federally funded with the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act.
The passage of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act 1973
1973 - The passage of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act is a large victory for the disability rights movement. The discrimination of the handicapped is addressed for the first time especially in Section 504. Qualified persons seeking employment could not be discriminated against based on their disability. This law would provide the outline for the future Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Willowbrook Consent Decree is signed by New York Governor Hugh Carey 1975
1975 - The Willowbrook Consent Decree is signed by New York Governor Hugh Carey, which commits New York State to improving community placement for members of the Willowbrook class action lawsuit, and later all persons served by the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
An amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1972 requiring the provision of services for physically disabled college students is passed 1976
1976 - An amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1972 requiring the provision of services for physically disabled college students is passed.
The International Year of Disabled Persons 1981
1981 - 1981 was the International Year of Disabled Persons with ceremonies before the United Nations General Assembly. Governments world-wide were asked to promote the acceptance of the disabled into mainstream society. The theme was "full participation and equality" with an emphasis on the rights of the disabled in the larger society. The International Year of Disabled Persons would later be established as the National Decade of Disabled Persons for the years 1983 to 1992 by President Ronald Reagan.
The American with Disabilities Act was a wide-sweeping civil rights legislation 1990
1990 - The American with Disabilities Act was a wide-sweeping civil rights legislation giving protections to individuals with disabilities. Equal opportunity was established for employment, transportation, telecommunications, public accommodations and the state and federal government's services.