On Saturday morning, the AAPD internship program arranged a tour of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Memorial on the National Mall. Jim Dickson of AAPD was our guide. Not only did he present a wonderful description of the layout of the memorial site, but he also incorporated some important aspects of disability history.
I learned from Jim that the original planners of the site had no intention of including any references or symbols of FDR’s disability. The planners lack of cooperation with the disability community led to some important actions. Members of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) organized protest actions at a house office building. In the end, the planners of the memorial site acquiesced to the advocates’ demands. However, I found it extremely interesting that the memorial planners still refused to use funds to construct a symbol of the President to be a role model for future generations.
I came away from the experience with two important thoughts. First, while FDR was in office, he felt pressured, for whatever reason, to hide any sign of his disability from the public. Therefore, it is troubling that people would continue to perpetuate the notion that disability is something that should still be unseen. Second, I have tried to educate myself over the years about disability history, but was never aware of this particular action by disability rights advocates. It is wrong that so many of us grow up without ever being exposed to our history. It is important to know what our rights are and why we have them.