ADA Anniversary

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Throughout the month of July and on the Anniversary of the ADA, the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights celebrates this landmark event as a way of bringing attention to the important work that has been done to promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities and to highlight the work that is yet to be done.

Today we’d like to call your attention to a little-known civil rights movement called the Section 504 sit-in.


San Francisco Sit-In a Defining Moment in Disability Rights History

Twenty-five years ago, a group of persons with disabilities staged a sit-in at a federal office building in San Francisco.  This sit-in was as important a moment as Selma or the Stonewall uprising.


The group was demanding enforcement of the first major law to bar discrimination against persons with disabilities-known as Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The law forced hospitals, universities — any place that received federal funding — to remove obstacles to services and provide access to public places and transportation. The protesters believed the law would bring one of the nation’s most isolated and powerless groups into the mainstream. . .

However, complying with the law was often expensive. For nearly four (4) years, the government failed to enforce it.

As a result, Frustrations mounted, and in April 1977, sit-ins were organized across the country. Demonstrators in New York and Washington, D.C., went home after a few days. However, in San Francisco protestors at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW)  remained. One day turned into two, which then turned into three and then some . More than 100 demonstrators stayed in the building for weeks, refusing to leave until the regulations were enforced.

On April 28, nearly four weeks into the sit-in, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano endorsed Section 504. The protesters had won.

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