Disability Rights

Obama Signs Landmark Legislation

October 28, 2009

President Obama signed legislation designating a California civil liberties site part of the National Park Service. He also expanded hate crimes coverage to more minority groups.
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Disability Rights Pioneer Dies

August 9, 2010

Paul Longmore, a professor of history at San Francisco State University, died on August 8, 2010 of natural causes. He was 64.

Longmore, a scholar of the American Revolution, was a leading figure in the developing academic field of disability studies. In 1996, he helped found San Francisco State's Institute on Disabilities, and he served as its director until his death.

Longmore not only documented, analyzed, and interpreted the disability rights movement, he was one of its leading activists.

He contracted polio at age 7 and required a ventilator and attendants, paid by state and federal assistance programs, to help him with basic life activities like eating, showering and dressing.

It took the determined scholar more than 12 year to complete his Ph.D. because he could not obtain sufficient funding to finish the degree in a timely manner. Administrators at his graduate school denied him a fellowship because they believed he would never find a teaching job. The state Department of Rehabilitation initially refused to pay for his doctoral studies but eventually provided minimal support.

In 1988, Longmore staged a public demonstration and burned a copy of his first book, The Invention of George Washington, in front of the federal building in downtown Los Angeles. He did this to protest a Social Security Administration  regulation which discouraged people with disabilities from working by denying them government assistance if they earned more than a minimal amount, including book royalties. 

In a policy change known as the Longmore Amendment, the Social Security Administration allowed people with disabilities to earn book royalties and still receive benefits.

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Paul Longmore, disability rights advocate, scholar, and professor of history at San Francisco State University, died on August 9, 2010 at age 64.

City Lights Reading

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Date: 
November 11, 2009

Listen to a podcast from historic City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, where Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi read from Wherever There's a Fight.

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Disability Advocates and Caltrans Reach Unprecedented Settlement

December 22, 2009

Caltrans has agreed to invest $1.1 billion over 30 years to repair and improve sidewalks, crosswalks, and park-and-ride facilities throughout California so they are accessible for people with disabilities.

The state department of transportation agreed to the infrastructure investment in a court settlement ending two class action lawsuits brought by people with disabilities and two disability rights advocacy groups. The areas covered by the settlement include cross-walks, pedestrian overcrossings, pedestrian undercrossings and other walkways designated for pedestrian use that are owned or maintained by Caltrans. These sidewalks are usually located along state highways that become “streets” as they pass through cities and towns. If these sidewalks are missing or lack warnings, such as bumps the blind people can feel underfoot, people with disabilities may be forced into streets where they can be hit by vehicles. 

"This settlement is a win-win," commented Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "It would be inexcusable to continue to delay these modifications. Instead of debating this through the legal process for the next decade, costing millions of taxpayer dollars, we are taking action to get this work completed."

The agreement is the single largest settlement reached on the issue of architectural access for persons with disabilities nationwide.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, students with disabilities at the University of California successfully convinced the city of Berkeley to install curb cuts at street corners to accomodate wheelchair users. Their advocacy inspired other Americans with disabilties to lobby for accessible streets and public buildings, and to frame discrimination against people with disabilities as a civil rights issue.

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Caltrans agrees to invest $1.1 billion over three decades to improve safety and accessibility for people with disabilties. 

Tenth Anniversary Edition of "Wherever There's a Fight" to be Released

September 24, 2019

Heyday is proud to announce the publication of the Tenth Anniversary edition of Wherever There’s A Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

According to Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman, "Ten years ago, Heyday published Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi's stirring compendium of California heroes, both sung and unsung, who down the decades demonstrated exemplary courage fighting the good fight to ensure civil liberties for all Californians and in so doing helped put the golden state at the forefront of a better, more just America. The stories they tell so well are needed now more than ever and this tenth anniversary edition is designed to reach readers everywhere, young and old alike, to inspire and provide hope for new generations of citizens who continue to fulfill the promise of the California--nay, American, dream."

November 5 release date set for special anniversary edition of award-winning book whose stories of civil liberties struggles are all the more relevant now.

KQED Forum: California, 'Wherever There's a Fight'

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Date: 
July 28, 2010

Host Michael Krasny talks with Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi about the many unsung heroes of California's past profiled in their book.

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Majority of Californians View State's Diversity as Asset and Challenge

January 28, 2010

The findings of a new field poll show that 58 percent of California voters consider the diversity of the state's population both an advantage but also a source of problems. More respondents (24%) said they considered California's diversity only an asset, while fewer (14%) believe it is only a challenge.

Since statehood, California has been a place of incredible diversity, as people, albeit mostly men, from all over the globe came to the state because of the gold rush. In recent years, the state's diversity has been the focus of initiative battles that have targeted the civil liberties of minority groups. In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187 which was meant to deny state services to undocumented immigrants. The law never went into effect because Governer Gray Davis did not pursue the state's defense of the propostion after state and federal judges barred implementation of the law. In 1996, Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in state programs, passed by 54%. And in 2008, voters altered the state constitution to deny gay men and lesbians the right to marry.

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Field Poll director calls findings hopeful as California voters are more positive than negative about the state's diverse demographics.

Bakersfield Students Organize for the Integration of Their Friend with Disabilities

After Bakersfield school administrators assigned Louise Fuller to a segregated high school program for students with disabilities, her friends organized and advocated for the integration of their friend with cerebral palsy into their neighborhood school.

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[Chapter 10] Breaking Down Barriers: The Rights of People with Disabilities

In 1962 Ed Roberts was the first student with significant disabilities to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Other students with disabilities soon followed. Many of them developed programs that became national models and sparked a civil rights movement for people with disabilities.

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State Honors Disability Rights Advocate Ed Roberts

July 22, 2010

January 23 is officially "Ed Roberts Day" in the state of California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill designating the late disability rights leader's birthday as a time for students and the public to focus on Roberts's contributions to greater equality for people with disabilities.

In 1953, Roberts, then 14, contracted polio, which left him almost completely paralyzed. He was the first student with significant disabilities to attend UC Berkeley. He went on to help found Berkeley's Center for Independent Living, which became a national model, and the World Institute on Disability. Governor Jerry Brown appointed Roberts as Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation, which years earlier had denied him funding for his education. Roberts, pictured above on the right, passed away in 1995. 

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Governor approves a bill recognizing the late disability rights leader and encouraging students and the public to learn about his contributions to the civil rights history of people with disabilities.
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