JUSTICE FOR ALL
An introspective look from Ability Connection Colorado
For nearly 75 years, Ability Connection Colorado (ACCO) has been advocating for the rights and advancement of people with disabilities. In fact, our very existence was derived from a small group of mothers who sought greater opportunities, meaningful education and a more equal playing field for their children with disabilities. Even more important, they wanted people to know that their children, despite the severity of their disability, were loved and loving and exceedingly more capable than others might ever have considered. Theirs were among the earliest voices of what became known as the disability civil rights movement.
Just over 30 years ago, in March of 1990, a group of more than 1,000 disability activists descended on our nation’s capital to protest the failure of legislators to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passage of the act would outlaw the discrimination of people based on their physical or mental disability and ensured equal access to public buildings, transportation, employment and other inclusionary opportunities. The rally was filled with speeches aimed at getting politicians to vote in favor of the landmark legislation.
8-year-old Jennifer Keelan crawls up the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 12, 1990
The most notable part of the protest occurred when over 60 activists abandoned their wheelchairs, crutches or other mobility-assistive devices and began to crawl the 83 stone steps to the top of the U.S. Capital Building. Among those who began crawling was eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan from Denver. “I’ll take all night if I have to,” Keelan was quoted saying as she forcefully willed her body ever upward. Bystanders watched as chants began to ring out— “What do we want?” “ADA!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!”
The stunning imagery of that demonstration, what became known as the “Capitol Crawl”, is widely believed to have been the catalyst that led to the signing of the ADA just a few short months later. And, while the ADA, may have been culminated in the acts of a few on that momentous day, their actions were the reverberation of the many thousands of people that came before them, forging victories big and small, not in the name of special rights, but equal rights and an equal opportunity to fully participate in the same world as their non-disabled counterparts.
Fast forward to today as we watch people of every stripe, creed and color take to the streets of American towns and cities. Their collective voices, strong and resolute, call for an end to institutional racial injustice and the social and economic disparities experienced by people in communities of color. Amid a global pandemic that has most people self-quarantining, others flood the streets at great personal risk, all in the name of equality under the law.
For an organization whose vision it is to live in a community that includes, accepts, and celebrates the abilities and contributions of all individuals, Ability Connection Colorado stands in solidarity with people that have been marginalized and discriminated against. Unsurprisingly, the growing movement we see today is not dissimilar to that of the civil rights efforts fought for by people with disabilities. Challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes, rallying for political and institutional change, and lobbying for the self-determination of a minority community are the very constructs that have advanced the rights of people with disabilities throughout the last century. Indeed, the immoral and profound injustices of slavery were not only the impetus to the civil rights movement, but by extension, have also helped launch other movements including women’s suffrage, disability rights and gay rights.
The Civil Rights Movement has been the impetus of change for other movements, including disability rights.
The history-making events we are witnessing today must become the salient call for all people of conscience to rise up and stand firmly on the side of equal justice and systemic, fundamental change. As an organization that serves people in disadvantaged communities, Ability Connection Colorado reaffirms our commitment to inclusion and the fair and equitable treatment of all people. We expect and hold to account our leaders and policymakers to be intentional in their actions by helping close the inequality gaps in education, healthcare and economic opportunity, which are disproportionately experienced in communities of color. And lastly, with one voice, we call on people everywhere to reject all forms of racial discrimination and structural bias.
At Ability Connection Colorado, we believe we are all connected by our common humanity and united by our shared sense of what is fair and just. Through our diversity and shared experiences, we are infinitely wiser. With our collective voice, we can change the world we live in and attain the equality that all human beings strive for.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and Team at Ability Connection Colorado.
Ability Connection Colorado is Committed To…
- Partnering with our community to intentionally pursue real changes.
- Reflecting on our commitment and vigilantly examining our efforts.
- Committing to not stopping until justice and equality are our norms in our community.