Disability Advocacy in the US and Texas
The Texas Society for Crippled Children (TSCC) was a non-profit organization created in 1929 in Austin, Texas to advocate for the rights of children with physical disabilities. By raising funds and increasing awareness about federal legislation, the society endeavored to bring “the greatest good to the greatest number of crippled children.” Among other initiatives, the TSCC pushed for the passage of the Pepper-Boland Bill, which would distribute funds for the implementation of special education programs for children with disabilities. In the accompanying excerpt from ‘The Voices of Texas Crippled Children,' the TSCC describes how Waco, Texas used its per-capita scholastic apportionment to fund a special education program, where children with disabilities received an hour of daily adapted instruction. The excerpt also includes photographs of children participating in various activities at a rehabilitation hospital.
As a branch of the National Society for Crippled Children, founded by Edgar Allen in 1919, the Texas Society for Crippled Children was one of the first organizations of its kind. This type of advocacy, which focused on equalizing opportunities for children with disabilities, would continue throughout the twentieth century.
Another early disability advocacy group was the American Federation of the Physically Handicapped (AFPH). The AFPH, established in 1940, became the first political organization to advocate for people of all ages with disabilities, and like the TSCC, educated the public about federal legislation that would impact those with disabilities.
By 1954, the AFPH made plans to develop a ‘home-bound’ training program for people with disabilities. This program would assist people with disabilities in receiving vocational training at home. In 1954, the AFPH was able to work with the American Federation of Labor on a bill to expand the federal-state vocational rehabilitation program. The resolution ultimately passed, establishing the Federal Agency for the Handicapped and providing tax exemptions for Americans with disabilities.
Later Advocacy in Texas
Disability advocacy continued in Texas, especially in the late 1980s, when the Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced in Congress. During the 1970s, the nation witnessed a surge of disability advocacy groups formed in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement and the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973, which required school districts to provide free and appropriate education to children of all abilities. The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) was founded in 1978, aiming to form a statewide organization for disability advocacy. Unlike previous advocacy groups, the CTD was organized by individuals with disabilities who experienced barriers to accessibility and discrimination first-hand.
In addition to working with state and federal legislatures to eliminate architectural barriers and discrimination, the CTD published a regular newsletter, keeping members up to date on legislation, resources, protests, and updates on other advocacy groups. The newsletter above kept readers updated on the progress of the ADA, a 504 celebration in Dallas, upcoming conferences, and more. The CTD also hosted yearly delegate assemblies and published programs to keep members informed. On the right is the cover of the 20th delegate assembly held in Houston in 1998.