Your Rich VR Heritage Brief #11: The Quest of Individuals With Disabilities-- Gains made but Goals Not Yet Achieved
Happy Friday!—where’d the week go?!?
This week’s brief will tie in the history of the national disability rights efforts with some highlights of the efforts that NC DVRS (and NCRA) have made toward addressing architectural and employment barriers. I simply am not doing this topic justice within this brief, so a more exhaustive review of the NC efforts will most likely surface in future briefs.
I want to thank several of those who share an appreciation of our history for sending an incredible link that presents history of the ADA and disability rights movement. If you were not fortunate enough to have been notified of this, I saved it here to share with you. It was featured from this Google Search launch site:
An interesting note is that it begins with featuring highlights of the life of yet another heroic individual, Ed Roberts, who was a polio survivor and heroic like others featured in these briefs. Against all odds, he survived, became educated following advocating for improved disability services at UC Berkley and formed a historic and nationally impactful Center for Independent Living.
I believe our former director Linda Harrington had spent an early period of her career at the same center. I do wish to point out that even in the presentation near the end, there is a NC DVRS and NCATP connection. There is a photo of one of the individuals that our agency has assisted and has been featured in NCATP’s award-winning video called “An Accessible Life—A Short Film.” The film was featured at the GREAT conference in Greenville a few years ago.
She and her parents are very active in the community and were also recently assisting with this past year’s Santa’s Hackers event. She has taken an interest in advocacy and participated in a Washington, DC internship with some of the disability advocacy legends. This apparently is a photograph that captured that moment. Maybe she will boldly carry on “the quest!”
Returning to NCDVR’s heritage and longstanding tradition of advocating for physical access and equal access to employment opportunities, I have discovered the following notable items featured next. I learned that NCRA had a committee to address architectural barriers, when very few property owners even thought their properties might happen to exclude some important members of society. NCRA currently has a commission to address client’s rights and access. Many of the projects have been financial support for increasing access to recreational opportunities or improving other resources used heavily by individuals with disabilities. May the past work of Grady and others inspire us as we move forward over the course of “the quest.”
From a 1972 NC DVRS REACH issue:
Also from a Nov-Dec 1972 REACH issue--there is additional documentation of NC DVRS’ advocacy work for improved building codes and architectural barrier removal. For additional documentation of the respectful work of our predecessors, please review the tribute to John Dalrymple: Independent Living Crusader in Brief #8. Individuals who physically could not access government and community resources, their homes or communities at large could not begin to consider accessing employment opportunities. DVRS counselors and staff did whatever it took to be the “voice of the voiceless” of that era.
From the Nov-Dec 1972 REACH issue:
Also the Ed Roberts-ADA presentation highlights the accessibility of the campus of UC-Berkley during that era. Notably, North Carolina and NC DVRS were also on that cutting edge with their approach to improving campuses and campus facilities for those with the most significant physical disabilities. Many of our counselors from Laurinburg office (Denise Mckoy, Bill Gurkin) and Lumberton UM (Sandra Britt) (and I who served the students there technologically) can attest to the wonderful opportunities that these students had to participate in a university education at St. Andrews College. It had a national draw for such students at its peak period. Here is a historical snippet featuring the initial excitement of this offering:
The wonderful change in this educational setting accessibility improvement we recognize as greatly improved is partially the result of the Americans with Disabilities Act Title II which helped reinforce the legal requirements that schools, universities were to be architecturally and programmatically accessible. Disability services departments are currently common and well developed on campuses, which has made our work in that area less challenging. This part of “the quest” has made considerable strides. As a gage--remember our gentleman “The Judge” from Brief #9 who had to overturn the UNC-CH decision denying him admission to their undergraduate academic program due to his blindness?
What appears to be that difficult, slippery part of the hill climb to achieve the zenith of “the quest” is the EMPLOYMENT COMPONENT. Again, representatives and former directors (Claude Myer) is shown beside NC Governor Scott of the era promoting the employment of individuals with disabilities. This was the pre-ADA era—NC DVRS again being the “voice of the voiceless” of the era.
Further, even when the ADA was passed in 1990, DVRS counselors (and engineers) became knowledgeable and advocated for the newly granted employment rights of their consumers and also served as a valuable resource and educator to businesses and employers both from an employment rights standpoint and an architectural barrier removal standpoint. We are to be commended for rising to meet the needs and represent those who may be disadvantaged through the lack of understanding of disability in general, capabilities of individuals with disabilities, and how their employment positively impacts the workforce and economy. Since largely, but not completely, “the quest” to increase access to employment has been successful, OUR CHARGE TODAY (reinforced by the WIOA) IS TO CONTINUE TO ADDRESS EDUCATING EMPLOYERS AND ADVOCATING FOR QUALITY EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN COMPETITIVE INTEGRATED ENVIRONMENTS!
It is our hope that this week’s edition has again provided a helpful perspective of where we are in “the quest” and what our important role is in addressing what appears to be one of the remaining barriers individuals with disabilities face—EMPLOYMENT. Thank you for choosing to serve with us as we address this challenge together!