Throughout our state’s history, Texans with disabilities have played an outsized role in making Texas the greatest state in our nation to live, work and raise a family. Demonstrating the remarkable qualities of the Texas spirit – courage, independence and ingenuity – Texans have filled some of our highest offices, fought in historic battles and contributed to the art and culture of our state.
Each October is designated Persons with Disabilities History and Awareness Month in Texas. The state’s observance was enacted by the 82nd Texas Legislature with the passage of HB 3616. This law encourages public schools and state agencies to celebrate the accomplishments of people with disabilities. The intent is to increase public awareness of the many achievements of people with disabilities, to encourage public understanding of the disability rights movement, and to reaffirm the local, state, and federal commitment to providing equality and inclusion for people with disabilities.
In Governor Abbott’s 2016 Proclamation, he encourages all Texans to learn more about the achievements of Texans with disabilities who have contributed so much to our society and about the disability rights movement as it takes its rightful place as part of the story of Texas. There is no better place to learn about the story of Texas and Texans with disabilities role in our state’s rich history than the University of Texas at Arlington.
The Story of Texas Told Through the Lives of Texans with Disabilities
By Dr. Sarah F. Rose, Director, and Trevor Engel, Disability Studies Minor, University of Texas at Arlington
People with disabilities make up about twenty percent of the population of the United States and worldwide: one of the largest minorities. Yet their history—and their fight for full civil rights and equal opportunity—is just beginning to be told.
As is often the case, Texans have played a prominent role, especially in the disability rights movement that led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. “Godfather of the ADA” Justin Dart, Jr. crisscrossed the country during the 1980s, talking with ordinary Americans with disabilities about the barriers they faced. As executive director of the National Council on Disability, “Architect of the ADA” Lex Frieden guided the drafting of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Bob Kafka of ADAPT of Texas, in turn, organized grassroots protests crucial to raising legislators’ awareness about longstanding, systemic barriers.
For those seeking to learn—or teach—more, one could hardly do better than explore the thousands of virtual artifacts and teaching tools available at the online Disability History Museum.
Closer to home, University of Texas at Arlington’s new Texas Disability History Collection showcases Texas’s central role in the disability rights movement, especially adapted sports and access to higher education, among many other topics. Students in UT Arlington’s Disability Studies Minor — the first such program in the South—can also study the history of disability. Established in 2013 and sponsored by UTA’s Department of History, the Minor explores the experiences of people with disabilities, as well as how conceptions and representations of disability have shaped human experience.
Editor’s note: During National Disability Employment Awareness Month the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities invited partner agencies and organizations to contribute to our state’s conversation on disability history and employment of people with disabilities. Our leading partner for Texas Disability History Awareness is the University of Texas at Arlington.
The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (Committee) provides GovDelivery updates for informational purposes on a variety of disability related issues for a diverse audience. Updates may include information provided by external sources. The inclusion of this external information does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the Committee or the Office of the Governor of any information, policy, product, or service offered by an external source.