- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Disabled people are more than their disabilities, say two sisters who have chronicled the history of the movement to fight discrimination against disabled Americans — all 54 million of them.
"Non-disabled people think disabled people dont do much but be disabled," says Doris Zames Fleischer. "But disabled people have lives, families, jobs, and they run into a lot of discrimination."
"Many people think disability is only a health issue, not a civil rights issue," says Frieda Zames, who was disabled by polio when she was 2 1/2. She says discrimination against the disabled is still a problem.
The two sisters have published "The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation," which features interviews with nearly 100 disabled people and covers everything from blindness, deafness and cancer to quadriplegia, heart disease and AIDS.
The book cites polio-stricken President Franklin D. Roosevelts victory for acceptance from the American public and the 1988 student uprising over prohibited sign language at Gallaudet University in the District — the nations only university for deaf people. The book also discusses changes sparked by the homecoming of war veterans with disabilities from combat injuries.
It has been said that the only thing that lies between a healthy person and a disabled one is a banana peel, and the authors say anyone can become disabled at any time. Most Americans exposure to disabilities is limited to sidewalk ramps and handicapped parking spaces.
Miss Zames, professor emeritus of mathematics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has been a disability rights activist for decades. Her fight began by tackling two icy steps with crutches for four years at Brooklyn College in the early 1950s.
"I want people with disabilities to know their history and take pride in their movement," she says. "I want non-disabled people to recognize there is a movement of people with disabilities — that we want to be productive, integrated people in society."
Mrs. Fleischer, who has earned English degrees from New York University, Columbia University and Brooklyn College, began her own activism by championing her sisters right to existence — a right challenged by the philosophy of Princeton University professor Peter Singer.
In his book "Practical Ethics," required reading for all his courses, Mr. Singer writes that "when the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide