Equal Treatment, Equal Access: Raising Awareness about People with Disabilities and Their Struggle for Equal Rights

Ability, Disability & Ableism
Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Social Justice
Shadow of Disability
World Health Organization
Grade Level:
Elementary School,
Middle School,
High School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language Arts
Ability, Disability & Ableism
Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Social Justice

For centuries people with disabilities were thought to be helpless, indigent citizens, and were forced into institutions and asylums without equal opportunity or equal protection under the law. The disability rights movement of the 1960s marked a critical turning point with the rise of a grassroots effort that eventually led to the legislative victories of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 (renamed IDEA in 1990) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.

According to the U.S. Census, about 56.7 million people, or 19% of the population, had a disability in 2010, based on a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe.  Less than one half of individuals (41.1%) aged 21 to 64 with a disability were employed compared to 79.1% of people in this age group without disabilities. Even in the digital age, access to the internet is unequally distributed. Findings of a Pew Internet survey reflect lower rates of internet use by individuals who have a disability compared to those without a disability (54% vs. 81).

Despite the fact that people with disabilities represent the largest demographic group in the nation, the disability community remains largely invisible and continues to face architectural barriers, discriminatory policies and negative attitudes on a daily basis.

The multi-grade lessons included in this curriculum unit seek to challenge myths and stereotypes about people with disabilities and to promote awareness of various forms of disability.

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