Introduction

"IN THE FACE OF GOVERNMENT IGNORANCE, WE PERSISTED AND WON. NO ONE GAVE US ANYTHING." - Organizer Kitty Cone

Protestors demonstrate in favor of 504 outside of the federal building. SF City hall is in the background.

Photographed by Anthony Tusler

Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights

The Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability invites you to discover a remarkable, overlooked moment in U.S. history when people with disabilities occupied a government building to demand their rights. Known as the “Section 504 Sit-In,” the protest profoundly changed the lives of people with and without disabilities, and paved the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.

On April 5, 1977, American people with and without disabilities showed the world the power of grassroots activism. In San Francisco, more than 100 people began a twenty-six day occupation of the Federal Building to insist on getting civil rights. Four years earlier, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 had made it illegal for any federally funded facilities or programs to discriminate against disabled people. One signature from the Head of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) stood in the way of the law taking effect. People waited and waited. At last in 1977 frustration turned into bold action. A diverse coalition launched protests across the country. San Francisco's occupation was the most significant.

On April 30, 1977, San Francisco's Section 504 occupiers emerged victorious from the longest take-over of a federal building in US history. A national disability rights movement was born. “Patient No More” remembers this pivotal moment that led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed twenty-five years ago on July 26, 1990.

Photographs in video courtesy of HolLynn D'Lil

The following video explores the motivations that made the 504 protesters decide they were "Patient No More":

Photographs in video courtesy of HolLynn D'Lil