The History of Poliomyelitis

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Public awareness of and concern for persons with disabilities was virtually non-existent until the poliomyelitis epidemic during the mid-twentieth century focused attention on the plight of disabled Americans. As the epidemiology of the disease evolved, poliomyelitis, polio for short, evolved from a disease of poor immigrants, living in crowded, filthy conditions to an affliction that struck across the social strata affecting the middle and upper classes. Pervasive fear of polio and its consequences coupled with the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s, public struggle with the disease and its complications propelled the fight against polio and its associated disabilities to the national forefront. Through efforts for and by FDR, public awareness and financial support fueled the development of therapies to assist polio survivors. Handicapped polio victims facing discrimination because of their impairments drove the disabilities rights movement. They found little or no infrastructure that would allow them to successfully integrate as equal and productive members of society. Prior to the polio epidemic, the disability rights movement existed, but was disorganized and stagnant. Through the efforts of polio survivors, the Universal Design Movement, Independent Living Movement, The Fair Housing Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were created to prohibit discrimination based on disability. Thus, the grassroots efforts to find a solution for polio epidemic was the catalyst for the disability rights movement yielding landmark legislation that protects the rights of the disabled.

Poliomyelitis, once the most feared disease of the twentieth century, is a disease caused by the ...

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...ies, not only those surviving polio.
Polio and the overwhelming fear of the catastrophic, resultant paralysis left in its wake, spurred an outpouring of public awareness and financial support during the twentieth century. Despite attempting to hide his disability, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the public face of the polio, demonstrated by example, the ability to overcome limitations. The disability rights movement was borne out of the polio era when many polio survivors became activists to guarantee civil rights for equal access.

(REF) (
Scotch, Richard K. "Section 504." In Burch, Susan, ed. Encyclopedia of American Disability History. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
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