Disability Studies Quarterly
Fall 2000, Volume 20, No. 4
Copyright 2000 by the Society
for Disability Studies

The Art of Political Manipulation: An Addendum

Ed Eames
California State University, Fresno

David Pfeiffer's stimulating article in the Winter DSQ tracing the history of the efforts to pass the ADA should stimulate considerable discussion within the disability community.

Several years ago, I discussed with Kenneth Jernigan, then President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, the issue of why the ADA had been so long in coming in light of civil rights legislation enacted in the 1960s. He indicated NFB had pushed to have disabilities included at that time, but the leadership of the movement, particularly Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem, stated that such inclusion would result in a combined opposition powerful enough to defeat the effort. The result was the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and an intervening period of 26 years before the disability community received its rights.

As Pfeiffer indicates, there was a need for unity within the organized segment of the disability community. NFB used this need to demand a provision within the law permitting disabled people to refuse any accommodation offered. If not for this provision, I might be forced to sit at the front of the bus or stay in an accessible hotel room. Since I am blind and do not need such accommodations, I can, as a result of the NFB's position, refuse inappropriate accommodations with equanimity.

An error in Pfeiffer's article is his reference to the American Federation of the Blind as one of the members of the coalition working for ADA passage. There are two consumer advocacy organizations of blind people in the United States. One is the National Federation of the Blind and the other is the American Council of the Blind.

[Editor's note: I accept Ed's correction hopefully with grace. It was the American Council of the Blind and not the National Federation of the Blind which part of the coalition pushing the ADA. And I thank him for this communication.]

[Editor's note: Phyllis Rubenfeld, an active member of the Society for Disability Studies and a member of the Board of Directors of the Society died at home on June 29, 2000, during the annual meeting of SDS. Sigi Shapiro and Elaine Makas presented remarks remembering Phyllis at the meeting. Here are the remarks made by Elaine.]

In Memory of Phyllis Rubenfeld

Elaine Makas

In addition to her many other important contributions to the disability rights movement and to the growth of disability studies as an academic discipline [as presented by Sigi], Phyllis Rubenfeld played an important and long-term role in the Society for Disability Studies. In fact, she was the Society's third member. I know this because I was SDS's first secretary - at that time, the keeper of the membership rolls. Phyllis, always efficient, sent in her dues as soon as SDS was formed. (I, never quite as efficient as my friend, was member #4.)

Phyllis participated actively in SDS from its inception - presenting papers, offering valuable suggestions, and encouraging others - but she only served one three-year term on the SDS Board, from 1997-2000. Phyllis' term ended on June 29th, the day that she died.

One of Phyllis' greatest dreams was that SDS's combined goal of disability studies and disability activism would continue and would flourish beyond us, the original members of SDS. With this in mind, Phyllis advocated tirelessly for an SDS mentoring program and became the first Chair of the Mentoring Subcommittee.

So now, in memory of our friend and colleague, I ask each and every one of you to keep Phyllis' dream alive. Look around you today, tomorrow, and in years to come, and, regardless of where you are in your own career - a recognized authority in disability studies, an up-and-coming activist/educator, or a brand-new recruit to our academic advocacy community - in Phyllis' honor, find someone a few steps behind you, and commit yourself to becoming that person's mentor.