In2020, Netflix released a documentary directed, written and co-produced by Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht about a summer camp for people with disabilities in the Catskills of New York State. Participants at this camp played a leading role in the disability rights movement and, ultimately, in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This award-winning documentary delivers a universal message: young people are capable of leading radical movements that change the world.
Camp Jened was founded in 1951 for children, teens and adults with disabilities to provide an enriching community for people with various disabilities. In the 1960s and 1970s, the camp was heavily influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s and hippie values. The camp allowed its participants and facilitators to imagine a world where people with disabilities would not be excluded. Non-disabled staff were able to understand the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, which led the "Jenedians" to become activists. For example, some campers have joined the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, California. The centre worked for the independence, dignity and self-determination of persons with disabilities and, as a result, the concept of independent living became the cornerstone of the disability rights movement. Despite its success, the camp closed in 1977 due to financial difficulties. It reopened in 1980 in Rock Hill, New York, before closing permanently in 2009.
On the occasion of the ADA's 33rd anniversary, it is important to recognize the power of youth movements. Youth movements have become an important feature of modern society and thanks to technology, they can make their voices heard, especially in the digital space. Several disability activists have successfully started conversations about disability, disability and accessibility in the digital space: Nicole Parish (@SoundOfTheForest), an insect enthusiast who shares her journey as an adult with autism spectrum disorder; Imani Barbarin (@Crutches_And_Spice), an activist and communication specialist who speaks about racism and affirmative action in digital spaces; and Haben Girma (@HabenGirma), a human rights lawyer who is deafblind and speaks out about her fight for inclusion and accessibility.
It is necessary to engage now in the fight for the rights of persons with disabilities, because at one time or another in their lives, everyone will experience a temporary or permanent disability. Ensuring accessibility beyond physical facilities must be a top priority, as this will benefit everyone, regardless of their current disability status. It should also be remembered that if you live, work or visit the District, disability is a protected characteristic in the following four areas: education, employment, housing, and government and public accommodation services. If you or someone you know feels you have been discriminated against, please visit our website, ohr.dc.gov, to find out how to file a complaint.