April 5, 1977 Sit-ins for Inclusion of Differently-Abled Folks in the Civil Rights Act

On April 5th 1977, the longest sit-in of a federal office in history began. Protesters occupied what is now known as Health and Human services buildings around the country urging the secretary of the department to sign regulations that would protect the civil rights of people with various disabilities. Four years earlier, a senator had written a bill including differently-abled people as protected by civil rights legislation. However Nixon and the senate let this bill die. This indifference explains why advocates used direct action with this occupation tactic to be seen and have their voices heard.



At most offices folks went home at the end of the work day. But in Washington DC and San Francisco occupiers stayed the night, and the next day, and the next. While negotiations continued with the Carter administration, Judith Heumann and one-hundred-fifty SF occupiers held their ground until the secretary signed the regulations into law over twenty days later. Before becoming a vocal advocate, Judith Heumann was denied a teaching license because she used a wheelchair. After a court battle Judith became the first person in the history of New York City to teach while using a wheelchair.



Film on the Disability Rights Movement: Lives Worth Living

More on: Judith Heumann


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