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disability rights movement, marginalization, oppression

The disability rights movement, while by no means a monolith, is one whose slogan may well be that cited by Charlton, “Nothing about us without us,” an expression he traces (1998: 3) to an international disability rights conference. In sum, then, disability rights movements seeks to replace oppression with empowerment, and, marginalization with full inclusion.

As with the development of any social movement, that of the disability rights movement can be said to develop in phases (Fuller & Myers 1942, Blumer 1971, Mauss 1975: 57-70, and Spector & Kitsuse 1977). In particular, the disability rights movement can be said to entail three phases: 1) definition of the problem; 2) solutions; and 3) aftermath. In the first phase, the movement offers a definition of the problem which involves a statement of both what the problem is, and what its sources are. In the second phase, a consensus is established and acted upon that not only is something wrong, but that something ought to be done about it on a collective, not individual, basis. Generally, the second phase can be said to end with the enactment of appropriate law, i.e., law which seeks to redress the grievances identified by the movement and legitimates solutions it supports. Indeed, the “volume and depth” of such appropriate laws may well be, as Mauss (1975:70) suggests, “the most important indicator of the ‘success’ of a social problems-movement.” Nevertheless, the second phase may also spawn solutions involving non-governmental organizations as well.