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Saturday, July 1, 2023

Section 504 Trainings

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities

Who made disability civil rights law? And how did disability civil rights law, in turn, shape its subjects? This article is about what followed from the enactment of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 3 which disability rights advocates understood as their inaugural civil rights law and which became a template for the better-known Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) ("ADA"). 4 Specifically, this article recounts the history of the "Section 504 trainings," a series of government-funded convenings held all over the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Berkeley-based Center for Independent Living ("CIL") ran many of them, through a legal arm that eventually became the Disability Rights Education and Law Center ("DREDF"). In doing so, the organization taught thousands of disabled people to think about Section 504 in a capacious, affirmative way. CIL trainers also used these convenings to try to affect participants' understanding of disability and its role in their lives.
One consequence, according to some people involved with the trainings, was the creation of a nationwide, grassroots network for DLRC, which during this period became the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and formally separated from CIL. Over the next decade, DREDF would famously combat executive branch efforts to defang Section 504 and also help spur the enactment of the ADA.