black and white photo of many people in wheelchairs protesting at the capitol. Photo from Crip Camp film

Disabled Youth – Our Future


We are just over the halfway point for the BACKBONES Youth Summer Program. We have a great group of participants.  It is very interesting witnessing the enthusiasm of youth combined with questions and apprehension about what the future may bring.  My injury was decades ago and I only wish I had the opportunity to benefit from some of the wonderful and informative guest speakers that have met with the participants each week.   The participants are engaging with people who have expertise and knowledge in such topics as advocacy, self care, technology, recreation and travel. In the coming weeks we will be discussing accessible transportation, relationships and dating, as well as, planning for college and a future in the workplace. 

One of the activities was to watch the Netflix documentary “Crip Camp.” The film is set in the early 70s and revolves around a group of participants in a Camp designed for people with disabilities. Through interviews and activities you get to see all of the joy these campers were able to experience.  I found the next part of the documentary to be even more interesting and enlightening.  In 1973 Congress passed a law, Section 504. This law was designed to prohibit the department of the interior from discriminating against members of the public on the basis of disability. In simpler terms it required all public buildings, hospitals and schools to become accessible for people with disabilities. you would think when something is a law that it has to be enforced. That is definitely not true in this case. It was not until July 26th, 1990 when George Bush Sr signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The documentary followed Camp members as they became advocates for the enforcement of disability rights. Judy Heumann, James Lebrecht, and Denise Sherer lead a group that organized protests and sit-ins. For a long time their efforts did little to affect the enforcement of this law. The determination of these advocates for more than 20 years, made it possible for someone like me to live, work and enjoy life with a disability.

In 2022 more than 61 million adults live with some sort of a disability. The fight for complete inclusion will probably never end.  The internet and the pandemic helped to introduce me to so many more individuals that are continually advocating for disability rights. That brings me back to the group of young people we are working with currently. The purpose of this program is to open each of the participants world’s to all that is possible, as a result of the efforts of individuals they may never meet.  With the hope that some of these young people will turn into the next group of great advocates for disability rights.

In closing I have one more observation. There are so many Memorial representations of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King or the brave men and women who have fought for our freedom. I don’t think I ever noticed any type of recognition that memorializes and represents the fight for the rights of all people with disabilities.  The main players from this documentary would be a great representation of the fight for rights and equality in the disability community.

Learn more about the BACKBONES Youth Program and the participants HERE

Written by Michael Maruzzi, Youth Program Coordinator