THE QUIET REVOLUTION OF THE 1960’S
March 26, 2014

Inez Rose, Independent Living Specialist
 
            The decade of 1960-1970 was a time of great change in our country. The Civil Rights movement was occurring, President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” had begun, and people began lobbying for better quality of services in state institutions. President Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary, had a developmental disability and lived in an institution after she was in her twenties. This was something that was never openly discussed and generally viewed with shame. By 1962, the parents’ movement had brought mental and other disabilities to our attention. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s article in the Saturday Evening Post was read by millions of people and convinced people that having a family member with a disability was nothing to feel shameful or guilty about. President John F. Kennedy said “We as a nation have long neglected the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. This neglect must end…”
 
            The Johnson administration’s Civil Rights agenda and the War on Poverty launched programs such as Head Start and VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). These programs also assisted people with disabilities as well as their families. In 1967, the Youth-NARC (National Association for Retarded Citizens) was created. Their purpose was to help persons with mental retardation to live in, work in, and attempt to better their world. In part, their orientation handbook suggested that the worker “help him be part of the bigger world…encourage him to do everything he can for himself”. The Youth-NARC’s main focus was training volunteers who could work with persons with disabilities and it had a strong influence on the development of the self-advocacy movement.
 
            One of the most important influences in the disabilities movement was the concept of normalization. This term came from Denmark in 1959 when a group of parents organized to petition the government for better treatment of their children with mental retardation. Normalization did not mean to make people “normal” or make them behave a certain way but rather to live according to a normal pattern, making available to people the patterns and conditions of everyday life as close as possible to the norms and patterns of mainstream society. It was opposed to life as lived in institutions.  Dr. Nirie of the Swedish Parents Association described the Normalization Principle as:  A normal rhythm of the day (eating, sleeping, normal routine (living, work, school), normal rhythm of the year (holidays), normal developmental experiences, the chance to make choices, the right to live unsegregated where both men and women may be living, a normal economic standard, and the right to live, work, and play in normal communities.
 
            The normalization concept changed how we view institutions and gained acceptance that persons with disabilities can and should live in the community as independent adults. Niels Erik Bank-Mikkellsen in Denmark looked at institutions and found that there would be little children, older children, and adults with mental retardation; yet, dinner for everyone was served at 3:00 in the afternoon so the staff could wash dishes before they left. He found open toilets without stalls and dormitories where people lived in conditions that were not found anyplace else. He believed that these individuals had a right to live under “normal” circumstances, and that we should change things so that they could live like other people do.
 
Society has sometimes categorized persons with disabilities into various stereotypes such as:  
  •   Society has sometimes categorized persons with disabilities into various stereotypes such as: 
  • “Persons with disabilities are sick” and need to be cured of a dread disease or are in need of professional care in a hospital. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are a menace to society” and somehow evil and represent a danger to themselves and to society. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are objects of pity” and are seen as suffering from a condition beyond their control; therefore, low growth expectations are typical. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are burdens of charity” and entitled to food and shelter and not much else; the disability is punishment for a sin. Help that is given is viewed as a drain on public resources, and the person is expected to show proper appreciation. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are holy innocents” and are special children of God with a special purpose. They are seen as incapable of committing evil and viewed as living saints or eternal children who will never grow up.Thankfully, today’s views have changed. We now accept that persons with disabilities can and should live in the community of their choice, with their own families and as independent adults. 
 
In 1980, Charlotte Des Jardins wrote a manual for the growing parents’ movement, How to Organize an Effective Parent/Advocacy Group and Move Bureaucracies. A few major points were that the person must stop feeling guilty and insignificant; must stop apologizing for asking a bureaucrat to do a job that you’re paying him to do; must stop begging for what you’re entitled to by Law; don’t be afraid to complain; and use mass action. Originally directed at parents, these words are relevant today for all disability advocates.
 
References:
 
Parallels in Time: A History of Developmental Disabilities.  V. The Reawakening 1950-1980; C. The Quiet Revolution.http://mn.gov/mnddc/parallels/index.html. Retrieved February 25, 2014.


THE QUIET REVOLUTION OF THE 1960’S
March 26, 2014

Inez Rose, Independent Living Specialist
 
            The decade of 1960-1970 was a time of great change in our country. The Civil Rights movement was occurring, President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” had begun, and people began lobbying for better quality of services in state institutions. President Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary, had a developmental disability and lived in an institution after she was in her twenties. This was something that was never openly discussed and generally viewed with shame. By 1962, the parents’ movement had brought mental and other disabilities to our attention. Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s article in the Saturday Evening Post was read by millions of people and convinced people that having a family member with a disability was nothing to feel shameful or guilty about. President John F. Kennedy said “We as a nation have long neglected the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. This neglect must end…”
 
            The Johnson administration’s Civil Rights agenda and the War on Poverty launched programs such as Head Start and VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). These programs also assisted people with disabilities as well as their families. In 1967, the Youth-NARC (National Association for Retarded Citizens) was created. Their purpose was to help persons with mental retardation to live in, work in, and attempt to better their world. In part, their orientation handbook suggested that the worker “help him be part of the bigger world…encourage him to do everything he can for himself”. The Youth-NARC’s main focus was training volunteers who could work with persons with disabilities and it had a strong influence on the development of the self-advocacy movement.
 
            One of the most important influences in the disabilities movement was the concept of normalization. This term came from Denmark in 1959 when a group of parents organized to petition the government for better treatment of their children with mental retardation. Normalization did not mean to make people “normal” or make them behave a certain way but rather to live according to a normal pattern, making available to people the patterns and conditions of everyday life as close as possible to the norms and patterns of mainstream society. It was opposed to life as lived in institutions.  Dr. Nirie of the Swedish Parents Association described the Normalization Principle as:  A normal rhythm of the day (eating, sleeping, normal routine (living, work, school), normal rhythm of the year (holidays), normal developmental experiences, the chance to make choices, the right to live unsegregated where both men and women may be living, a normal economic standard, and the right to live, work, and play in normal communities.
 
            The normalization concept changed how we view institutions and gained acceptance that persons with disabilities can and should live in the community as independent adults. Niels Erik Bank-Mikkellsen in Denmark looked at institutions and found that there would be little children, older children, and adults with mental retardation; yet, dinner for everyone was served at 3:00 in the afternoon so the staff could wash dishes before they left. He found open toilets without stalls and dormitories where people lived in conditions that were not found anyplace else. He believed that these individuals had a right to live under “normal” circumstances, and that we should change things so that they could live like other people do.
 
Society has sometimes categorized persons with disabilities into various stereotypes such as:  
  •   Society has sometimes categorized persons with disabilities into various stereotypes such as: 
  • “Persons with disabilities are sick” and need to be cured of a dread disease or are in need of professional care in a hospital. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are a menace to society” and somehow evil and represent a danger to themselves and to society. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are objects of pity” and are seen as suffering from a condition beyond their control; therefore, low growth expectations are typical. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are burdens of charity” and entitled to food and shelter and not much else; the disability is punishment for a sin. Help that is given is viewed as a drain on public resources, and the person is expected to show proper appreciation. 
  • “Persons with disabilities are holy innocents” and are special children of God with a special purpose. They are seen as incapable of committing evil and viewed as living saints or eternal children who will never grow up.Thankfully, today’s views have changed. We now accept that persons with disabilities can and should live in the community of their choice, with their own families and as independent adults. 
 
In 1980, Charlotte Des Jardins wrote a manual for the growing parents’ movement, How to Organize an Effective Parent/Advocacy Group and Move Bureaucracies. A few major points were that the person must stop feeling guilty and insignificant; must stop apologizing for asking a bureaucrat to do a job that you’re paying him to do; must stop begging for what you’re entitled to by Law; don’t be afraid to complain; and use mass action. Originally directed at parents, these words are relevant today for all disability advocates.
 
References:
 
Parallels in Time: A History of Developmental Disabilities.  V. The Reawakening 1950-1980; C. The Quiet Revolution.http://mn.gov/mnddc/parallels/index.html. Retrieved February 25, 2014.




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