• Alison Whiting

Crip Camp: A Pivotal Documentary on Disability Rights

Updated: May 19, 2021

Crip Camp is a poignant and powerful documentary that follows the disability rights movement in the US from its grassroots beginnings in the 1960s to the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

This is the cover image for the Oscar nominated documentary Crip Camp.

Crip Camp was nominated for an Oscar this year, a much-deserved recognition for the compelling storytelling and cinematography that intertwines historical black-and-white TV footage with present day interviews.

What is so wonderful about this documentary is it is not just a re-telling of the historical events that pushed the disability rights movement forward - like the signing of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the 1977 504 sit-in, or the signing of the ADA in 1990 - but that it also tells the lived experience stories of the people involved in that movement.

The disability rights movement of the 1970s and 80s wasn’t just about implementing policy changes that would address the built environment barriers to access like lack of ramps or accessible bathrooms, it was also about dismantling the systemic and societal prejudices individuals with disabilities faced when accessing things like education and medical care. Denise Shere Jacobson shared a story from her own life in which she had a healthy appendix removed because a surgeon didn’t consider that her symptoms could point to a sexually transmitted disease. One of the key issues that the movement was fighting for at the 504 sit-in, was opposition of a “separate but equal” solution to accessibility that lawmakers were offering. Continued segregation of individuals with disabilities, regardless of what equitable services they are offered under segregation, does nothing to break down the invisible systemic barriers that exist within society.

This documentary does a great job of highlighting how people’s lived experiences are truly the catalyst for revolutionary change and demonstrates the importance in access for all.

Crip Camp is currently streaming on Netflix and is available in full on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFS8SpwioZ4

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