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A Brief History of Disability and Enhancement

  • 300 BCE

    First Historically Recorded Prothetic Leg

    First Historically Recorded Prothetic Leg
    The earliest artificial limb on record is a leg prothetic made of bronze, iron, and wood that was discovered in Italy, dating back to at least 300 BC.
  • First Military Disability Law

    First Military Disability Law
    John Adams signed a bill for the relief of sick and disabled seamen, in which he took small portions from all salaries of seamen and utilized these funds to provide hospital treatment for their disabled comrades.
  • Invention of Braille

    Invention of Braille
    Louis Braille invented a language of raised dots in order to enable blind persons to read.
  • Opening of the New York State Lunatic Asylum for Insane Convicts

    Opening of the New York State Lunatic Asylum for Insane Convicts
    This was the first facility available for the "criminally insane." Prior to this moment, mentally ill individuals who committed crimes were typically put in jails with terrible conditions rather than given proper treatment for their disorder.
  • End of American Civil War

    End of American Civil War
    The American Civil War resulted in over 30,000 amputees, along with many other disabled men. This brought new awareness to physical disabilities as these soldiers injuries were brought to light.
  • Helen Keller is Born

    Helen Keller is Born
    Helen Keller is well known for being both death and blind, yet persevering despite these debilitating disabilities, and even going on to attend Radcliffe College. Her success under the guidance of a dedicated teacher showed that, given proper education, tools, guidance, and accommodation, people with disabilities can live normal, or even extraordinary, lives.
  • Invention of Electronic Hearing Aid

    Invention of Electronic Hearing Aid
    Miller Reese Hutchison created the first electronic hearing aid, which was far larger and bulkier than hearing aids today.
  • American Breeders Association Founded

    American Breeders Association Founded
    This was the first US group formed with the purpose of spreading eugenics via selective breeding and forced sterilization. While some of this forced sterilization was racial, much of it was also done to people who were seen as either mentally or physically disabled.
  • Law Passed to Fund Rehabilitation of Disabled WWI Vets

    Law Passed to Fund Rehabilitation of Disabled WWI Vets
    This law gave government money to programs dedicated to rehabilitating disabled veterans, along with providing them with vocational training and even job counseling. This allowed disabled veterans to assimilate back into American society, even with their disabilities.
  • Social Security Act

    Social Security Act
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, which would provide disabled individuals with government benefits. FDR himself became disabled, loosing use of his legs once disease left him paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Nazi Programs Targeted the Disabled

    Nazi Programs Targeted the Disabled
    Throughout the World War II Era and in Nazi Germany, Hitler ordered hundreds of thousands of disabled individuals to be killed or sent to death/concentration camps, along with various other groups such as ethnic minorities and Jewish individuals.
  • Founding of Paralympics

    Founding of Paralympics
    Sir Ludwig Guttman founded the Paralympics, inspired by his medical background and his experience fleeing Nazi Germany. He started with first organizing a wheelchair race competition in conjunction with the Olympic Games in London in 1948, and throughout the years this expanded to a variety of events and competitions for disabled athletes.
  • Medicaid

    Medicaid as a program to help disabled individuals by paying for their medical care was added to the Social Security Act and signed into action by President Lyndon B Johnson.
  • Founding of Special Olympics

    Founding of Special Olympics
    Eunice Kennedy founds the Special Olympics in honor of her sister Rosemary, who was suffered from a mild mental disability yet became completed incapacitated after a failed lobotomy. These Special Olympics allow children and adults with intellectual disabilities to train and compete in the games, which occur throughout the year.
  • Repealing of Final "Ugly" Laws

    Repealing of Final "Ugly" Laws
    Prior to this point, police officers in many states could take someone into custody solely because of their appearance due to a disfigurement or disability. These laws unfairly targeted individuals with visible disabilities and resulted in unjust arrests, and thusly were repealed, with the last one being repealed in Chicago in 1974.
  • Protest by Disability Activists

    Protest by Disability Activists
    Disabled activists and their allies occupied the Health, Education, and Welfare Office in San Fransisco, demanding California's officials to comply with legislation that made it illegal for universities and similar institutions to discriminate based on disabilities.
  • The Fair Housing Amendments Act

    The Fair Housing Amendments Act
    This Act mandated that federal housing projects would be built to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act

    Americans with Disabilities Act
    The ADA specifies how employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities in the workplace. In addition, its passage meant that buildings and public spaces now had to be built to be accessible for people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities. Overall, the ADA was a landmark bill in that it legislates measures to provide equality in society for those with disabilities.
  • First Disabled Pride Parade

    First Disabled Pride Parade
    Much like Gay Pride or Black Pride, Disabled Pride began a movement of hosting parades. These parades, which began in Chicago, quickly expanded to become a national pride movement in the disabled community
  • "Siri" Voice Assistant Added to Apple Iphones

    "Siri" Voice Assistant Added to Apple Iphones
    Voice controls were added to smart phones in order to make them more accessible to those who were visually impaired or who lacked the hand coordination / typing ability to use their phone otherwise.
  • First "Cyborg Olympics"

    First "Cyborg Olympics"
    In Sweden, the first "Cyborg Olympics" (or "Cybathlon") were hosted, with teams of people with disabilities utilizing cyborg enhancement technology in order to participate in various athletic events.