The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, turns 30 this year. It was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This law is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and made changes to how “disability” is defined.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the ADA, here are some books to read about disability justice and disability rights.
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong
You have never read a book like this before. These essays are bold and striking, brilliant and forthright. The contributors in this book – which include Haben Girma and Keah Brown – are diverse in every way. There are blog posts, Congressional testimonies, eulogies, personal essays…but all of them provide insight into what it is like to be disabled. It is a celebration of life, a testimony to disability justice and disability culture, and a much-needed addition to the literary world.
Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann and Kristen Joyner
Judith Heumann was one of the leaders of the Section 504 sit-in, which was the longest takeover of a governmental building in US history. Section 504, which implemented protections for those with disabilities, eventually led to the creation of the ADA. Heumann was a main focus of the documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, which is also excellent. Her memoir follows her from childhood, where she fought to attend public school, to later fighting for her teacher certification, to the present day.
A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen
We learn US History in school, but what we learn is only a fraction of the story. There are so many stories, so many people, and so many points of view from which to learn. This book covers US history from pre-1492 to the present, centering on individuals with disabilities. Nielsen, a historian and disability scholar, is the perfect guide for this well-researched, accessible text that is a must-read.
About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of The New York Times edited by Peter Catapano and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
This is a collection of essays from the “Disability” column in the NYT. These essays cover a range of topics, all situated from the disability viewpoint. First loves, school and work, parenting, career, family, friends, and more. The only downside is the essays can be a little short, leaving you wanting more.
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