No. We were all adults, and what was important was to make sure we could get people in and out who could help people. I don’t want to be a rider – there were people who couldn’t stay all the time.
We care about each other; we have come together for the same purpose. People recognized that the cause we were fighting for meant something to us individually as well as to a larger group.
How did you rally people with different experiences with disabilities?
In the basic groups and [the Center for Independent Living] we had to recognize that discrimination against one was discrimination against all – that we had to consider putting aside, I’m blind, I’m deaf, I had polio, whatever it was, and focus on fundamental changes; which ultimately brought us together and keeps us together.
And life before the A.D.
If you couldn’t walk, how would you get on a bus? You could not.
When we were in elementary school, we all went home and did things together, but once people started going to high school, things changed because we were unable to do the things that did our peers. The teenagers took a bus to go see a friend or go to the movies. I went to high school in a completely different school, because none of the high schools my friends went to was accessible. This is why the camp also played a very important role.
Looking back, from Camp Jened, what is encouraging?
In the 1950s and 1960s, when there were no laws, there were at least a million disabled children out of school – this is no longer true. [The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed in 1975.] Buses and trains were not accessible, housing did not have accessibility standards, and there was a very small emerging movement for the rights of persons with disabilities, and internationally it was similar .
What has happened is the formation of groups like the International Disability Alliance; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty modeled on the A.D.A. (although we could not get the US Senate to recommend ratification). We are seeing the emergence of a stronger movement for the rights of people with disabilities in the United States. Organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network led by autistic people and organizations working with cross disabilities. Parents in the United States have also made their voices heard.