Open Accessibility: An Illustrated Story of Disability Advocacy

With the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons in 1975, the international community began adopting a rights-based rather than charitable or medical approach to disability for the first time.

Image has text describing the history of disability rights.  Pictured is a person next to a sign post with 4 arrows pointing in different directions. The four arrows read: housing, transportation, education and employment.

While international disability awareness campaigns ramped up in the 1980s, some early work to facilitate accessibility at McMaster was championed by library services prior to guiding legislation.

Image has text that describes the work of disability advocates in library services working to make materials accessible. One person sits at a desk reading a book and recording themselves.  On the wall behind where they sit are posters and a calendar.

The work of a small cohort of campus disability advocates and staff brought significant change to Mac.
These changes were bolstered by the 1982 adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which affirmed Canada’s commitment to human rights. [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 15: Every individual has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, ethnic or national origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability]

In the centre of the image is an artistic drawing with text that read the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with 3 people sitting under that text. Around this image is text discussing the history of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically section 15 of the charter.

decades: 1980s

Accessibility awareness and priorities have shifted over time. The 1980s were a transitional moment, marking the first time that human rights complaints could be filed. Students with disabilities who attended McMaster were often isolated from one another. Accessibility in this era was defined by curb cuts and freight elevators. Other. Accommodations at this time were mostly informal and DIY.

Timeline events: (1983) MSU Human Rights Code passes; Disability Awareness Days; (1985) Financial Assistance Act; (1985) Canada Student Loans Act; (1985) Canada Human Rights Act

Image of a person using an assistive device sitting at the beginning of a historical timeline.  The timeline describes how accessibility awareness and priorities have shifted over time.

decades: 1990s

With international awareness and individual and collective advocacy efforts growing, the 1990s brought on an era of global partnership and cooperation. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the U.S. became a partner in materials exchange, sharing 8-track tapes and braille textbooks. Universal Design Standards started being put into practice, and retrofit projects emerged to make the physical campus more accessible.

This image has two components. At the top of the image is a person with a service dog walking through a door.  Below this is a person opening a box with accessible educational materials. Below this image is a text description on how universal design and accessible material exchange started in the 1990’s.
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