*Photograph by Anthony Tusler
‘Patient No More!’: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights explores the nearly month-long occupation of San Francisco’s Health, Education and Welfare Building in April 1977 by a diverse group of people with disabilities demanding and ultimately getting civil rights. Some came on crutches or with canes, others in wheelchairs, some communicated using American Sign Language, others used augmented communication devices, still others said everything simply by showing up and saying nothing at all. Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was to grant equal civil rights to people with disabilities but the regulations awaited a final signature, and officials had gotten cold feet. Protesters occupied buildings across the country, and thanks to help from an improbable coalition - from Safeway to Black Panthers, the gay men’s Butterfly Brigade to labor unions - those in San Francisco stayed far longer. The 504 regulations would serve as the basis of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) thirteen years later, and the occupation that led to their approval would be a watershed personal and political moment, one that solidified the Bay Area’s key role in the struggle for disability rights.
Focusing on the Bay Area’s unique contributions, ‘Patient No More!’ will coincide with nationwide events commemorating the 25th anniversary of the ADA’s signing in July 1990. Enhanced by an accessible, interactive website and a traveling exhibit, the main installation will be at the recently-opened Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, the architecturally-inclusive home of many disability services and organizations. The website will provide historical context and expanded personal interviews, while social media will foster open conversations to engage visitors and students alike. A companion traveling exhibit will make ‘Patient No More!’ accessible to communities unable to visit in person.
Multiple forms of accessibility will be built into all aspects of ‘Patient No More!’ to showcase the benefits of approaching information in a variety of creative ways. The exhibit will generate content to help K-12 teachers fulfill California’s 2011 FAIR Education Act that mandates introducing disability history, and at the same time will generate thoughtful questions for everyone. How did it come to pass that over one hundred people with disabilities – many who didn’t know each other and had never been political before – engaged in the longest occupation of a federal building in US history? And who did this victory actually benefit within and beyond people with disabilities?
Find Out More:
- Download our brochure to learn more about the project and consider becoming a sponsor today!
- Have a story to tell or memorobilia to share? We'd love to hear about it! Click here to learn more.
- Learn more our project team - Journalism Professor Sachi Cunningham, Professors of Design Silvan Linn and Pino Trogu, and exhibit curator Fran Osborne.