Although many people do not know that the disability community holds the record for the longest occupation of a federal building, today marks the 31st anniversary of the 504 sit-ins.
I love celebrating 504 because it is a reminder of what can be done when people with all sorts of disabilities come together. Interdependence is the truest form of freedom and we must always make time to celebrate the times we come together and are victorious.
(photo from DREDF. Many people with wheelchairs are present and a sign language interpreter is on the right. These activists are sitting outside of the HEW building)
An excerpt from the victory speech given by Ed Roberts:
We have to begin to think very clearly, that what we need to do is help raise the consciousness of our fellow Americans with disabilities, to help them come out from behind, from the back wards, from the institutions, from the places, the garbage heaps, of our society. We have to stop the warehousing, the segregation, of our brothers and sisters. We have a long way to go. But we have one giant step ahead.
Together we have achieved something that relatively few people achieve in their lives. We have learned more than anything else, about each other, about how much we love each other, and that commitment, that dedication to each other, will carry through the rest of our lives.
We have begun to ensure a future for ourselves, and a future for the millions of young people with disabilities, who I think will find a new world as they begin to grow up. Who may not have to suffer the kinds of discrimination that we have suffered in our own lives. But that if they do suffer it, they’ll be strong and they’ll fight back.
And that’s the greatest example, that we, who are considered the weakest, the most helpless people in our society, are the strongest, and will not tolerate segregation, will not tolerate a society which sees us as less than whole people. But that we will together, with our friends, will reshape the image that this society has of us.
To find out more about the 504 sit-ins, check out NPR’s article. They also have many videos and pictures.