People with developmental disabilities encounter discrimination in many areas.

People with developmental disabilities may be discriminated against in virtually every area of life. These discriminatory practices often make it difficult for them to:

Does discrimination continue today?
Unfortunately, it does. Whether overt or subtle, discriminatory practices are commonplace.

Throughout history, people with disabilities have been segregated and isolated.

Historically, people with developmental and other disabilities have been segregated in large residential facilities, or institutions, in “special” schools, in the workplace in sheltered workshops and enclaves, even within their residences. Such segregation was ruled illegal after years of court battles, thanks to the efforts of parents, self advocates and dozens of court challenges.

For centuries, people with developmental disabilities were segregated and isolated in large state-run public institutions. In 1962, an estimated 200,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities were living in such facilities, often in deplorable and inhumane conditions. These conditions were brought to the public’s attention in the 1960s and 1970s through court cases and media exposés, such as Burton Blatt’s 1966 photographic essay Christmas in Purgatory, Bill Baldini’s 1968 exposé on the conditions at Pennhurst, and Geraldo Rivera’s 1972 exposé of the horrific conditions at Willowbrook State School, a state institution on New York’s Staten Island. Despite this new awareness, the effort to close these massive institutions didn’t gain real momentum until the 1980s, when nearly 50 institutions were closed. New Hampshire became the first state to close all of its state-run institutions, replacing them with community-based housing and support services. Minnesota closed its last institution in 2000.

Does segregation continue today?
Unfortunately, it does.

Click on the icon to check out Burton Blatt’s groundbreaking photo essay, Christmas in Purgatory.

Watch Bill Baldini’s expose of conditions at Pennhurst State School

Click here to learn more about Geraldo Rivera’s expose of conditions at Willowbrook State School.

Negative stereotypes make it easier to deny or abuse the civil rights of people with disabilities.

In addition to the United States Constitution and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, the rights of people with developmental disabilities are protected by a number of federal laws, including :

However, self advocates, parents and family members, concerned citizens and members of the legal community have had to fight for the rights of people with developmental disabilities throughout history.

Are the civil rights of people with developmental disabilities denied or abused today?

Unfortunately, yes.