In the early days of the disability movement, we talked a lot about the lack of disability awareness. Back then there really was a lack of awareness. In the 1960s and ’70s — and for decades before that — people with disabilities were actively discouraged from participating fully in mainstream culture. In the eyes of the general public, we were oddities — scarcely seen, rarely heard, often stared at. At that time lack of familiarity could be cited as justification for lack of awareness. Ironically, to us the absence of it was as palpable as a flight of concrete steps.
The missing awareness took on a name: attitudinal barriers. Today, 50 years later, 25 years post-ADA, those barriers still exist. Not in everyone, and not everywhere, but they are still here. In the beginning, lack of awareness was the cause of attitudinal barriers, but today it is the opposite: Attitudinal barriers now perpetuate lack of awareness.
Let’s face it. Certain people simply refuse to acknowledge our abilities, our needs, our existence. They seem to be in a perpetual state of