Foreword to Independent Living: The People Behind the Movement
In 2010, Liberty Resources and the Americans with Disabilities Act celebrated their 30th and 20th anniversaries, respectively. In light of these milestones, a wealth of emotions rise to the surface for those involved in and impacted by the Independent Living Movement.
We can scarcely avoid nostalgia as we recall our struggles for equality and the strides made in covering the tremendous span between then and now; between “how things were” and “how things are.”
Likewise, as we naturally gaze out across the vast expanse ahead of us, the scope and gravity of what remains for us to accomplish can seem overwhelming. However, we have repeatedly proven our resiliency and strength as a people, and our voice becomes louder and more resonant as the years pass. As the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group, the power of our movement contiues to grow exponentially as we organize and build upon our successes.
In the years since LRI’s founding, the ensuing struggle to pass the ADA, and its subsequent signing into law in 1990 by President Bush, with the legendary “Father of the ADA” Justin Dart at his side, our nation has made great strides toward accessibility for people with disabilities. Though we have come a long way, the quest for access, freedom, and equality—civil rights that all citizens hold sacred—remains in its relative infancy. As our longtime friend and supporter, Attorney Steve Gold said in a recent address, “thanks to the ADA, the glass is still half full, but we’re looking at a much bigger glass.”
The beautiful, evocative photographs contained in this gallery were taken by acclaimed photographer Harvey Finkle, whose dedication to documenting the Independent Living Movement reaches back to the beginning of Liberty Resources. These photos capture the essence of many advocacy efforts, tell the stories of many people with disabilities who have fought for and won their independence, and preserve some key moments in our CIL’s history. Our gratitude to Harvey, like the breadth of his contribution to our cause, cannot be measured.
Thomas H. Earle
CEO, Liberty Resources, Inc.
Independence for Everyone: The Legacy of Liberty Resources
On the cusp of the 1970s, as the shadows lengthened and the sun set on the “Summer of Love,” Ed Roberts, the first “significantly disabled” student to gain admission to UC Berkeley, had already challenged entrenched stereotypes about people with disabilities and made the first overtures in the pre-dawn of the next civil rights crusade: the Disability Rights Movement.
By 1972, the efforts of Roberts and his fellow pioneers had gained serious momentum, and these forefathers and foremothers of the movement opened the doors of the nation’s first Center for Independent Living (CIL), with Roberts serving as Executive Director.
By the end of the 1970s, the Disability Rights Movement had taken on a life of its own, and people with disabilities could firmly unite behind a common cause, guided by a shared philosophy of independent living. Collectively, people with disabilities rejected the generally unquestioned, medicalized notions of disability—notions tacitly adhered to and culturally cemented over centuries with input from everyone but the disabled community. The right to make our own decisions and to assume the responsibility and dignity of risk comprised the backbone of the mindset.
Founded the year after the Berkeley CIL, Disabled In Action of Pennsylvania (DIA) took up the independent living mantle in the City of Brotherly Love. Small but growing, the members fiercely proud of their identity and shared culture and eager to make their voices heard, DIA stood on the verge of a momentous step as the decade drew to a close. In October of 1980, twelve members of DIA followed in the footsteps of Ed Roberts and opened Resources for Living Independently—the CIL that would become Liberty Resources—in a small storefront in West Philadelphia.
Since that historic day thirty years ago, the CIL has grown from a staff of twelve serving two hundred Consumers that first year from a cramped, remote, rental space, to a bustling hub of the area’s disabled community. In 2006, LRI moved to the Sovereign Building on Market Street in Center City Philadelphia, adjacent to the historic and business districts, and purchased the building in 2008. Now the largest of over 400 CILs nationwide, LRI served over 8,000 Consumers last year.
In the course of our history, LRI has borne proud witness to scores of thrilling victories, brooked countless crushing setbacks, weathered several vastly different political climates, and persevered in the face of myriad injustices, ever conscious of our important role in amplifying the collective voice of people with disabilities. Our efforts, in concert with those of our brothers and sisters across the country, have helped make possible many milestones, including the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The fight to enforce the ADA and to ensure our civil rights will continue undiminished as we march forward to the next thirty years and beyond.Tags: Activism, Disability Rights