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  • Can I just say, reading-reading this book,

  • I-I expected to be impressed by it,

  • but I wasn't quite expected

  • -for how much of a badass you would be. -(chuckles)

  • Um, no, because you-you don't just advocate for human rights

  • and-and rights for people with disabilities,

  • but-but you fight for them

  • and you fight for them with a passion.

  • Welcome to the show.

  • Before I get into my first question,

  • I-I guess what really blew my mind about your story

  • is that I, specifically, have taken for granted

  • so many things in life that I feel like were always there--

  • ramps, you know, for getting into stores,

  • uh, you know, ramps that help people

  • get into buses when traveling,

  • all-all measures that we put in place

  • to help everybody be part of society.

  • You lived in a world where that wasn't true,

  • and you fought to make those changes.

  • What was that world like, before the world we live in today?

  • So, I grew up in Brooklyn--

  • all of you from Brooklyn-- and, um...

  • (cheering and applause)

  • At that time-- So, I was born in 1947.

  • I had polio in 1949.

  • There were no laws.

  • There were no federal laws that made it illegal

  • to discriminate against many people.

  • -Mm-hmm. -Obviously, the Civil Rights Act in the U.S.

  • didn't come about till 1964,

  • and the disability community was not included in that.

  • So, my world was A) there were no motorized wheelchairs

  • -at that time, 'cause the technology wasn't there. -Right.

  • And so, um, I lived in a neighborhood

  • where there were small private homes,

  • and I couldn't get across the street by myself,

  • -because there w-- there was a step on either side. -Wow.

  • And, um, still a problem today.

  • Housing is not necessarily accessible,

  • so, you'll see in the book where I talk about going

  • from my parent's house to my neighbor's house,

  • and having to scream into the house

  • to ask my friend to come out and play.

  • But, um, as I got older, it became a bigger problem,

  • because the school in our neighborhood was not accessible.

  • My mother took me to that school, um-- P.S. 198.

  • At that time, it wasn't accessible.

  • After the laws came into being, in 1981, it was renovated.

  • The school became accessible.

  • But the principal denied me entrance into the school

  • because I couldn't walk,

  • and he said I could be a fire hazard.

  • But said not to worry because the Board of Education

  • -would send a teacher to my house. -Mm-hmm.

  • Which they did for a total of two and a half hours a week

  • for the first, second, third and half of the fourth grade.

  • So, I think you can see, um,

  • that the landscape has changed in many ways.

  • Movie theatres weren't accessible.

  • Um, I went to a Chinese restaurant once

  • with a group of friends in wheelchairs,

  • and the manager told us we had to leave.

  • And that's when I get really fired up,

  • so there really is...

  • I-I... It kind of comes out of me.

  • And I thought, "We're not leaving.

  • But I can't just kind of say 'We're not leaving.'"

  • So I said, "Call the police."

  • And the guy was, like...

  • And I said, "We're not leaving. Call the police."

  • And of course, he didn't call the police.

  • -Right. -Then we stayed there.

  • But, um, I think what's really important...

  • -(applause) -Yeah. I...

  • (applause and cheering)

  • It...

  • It-it feels like that-that's been the story

  • of your life, though, is-is defiantly,

  • you know, reminding people, or-or even exposing to people

  • how many obstacles so many people in our society face.

  • You know, as an able-bodied person,

  • I take so many things for granted.

  • We take things for granted where...

  • I call you "non-disabled," actually.

  • You call me "non-disabled"? Oh. I never know which term it is,

  • to be honest, because in the book...

  • I call you "non-disabled" because we also, um...

  • Because the likelihood of you acquiring a disability,

  • uh, temporarily or permanently

  • is statistically very high, so...

  • Did you just threaten me?

  • -(laughter) -Yes. Definitely.

  • (laughing)

  • Um... you-you...

  • We take for granted, though, either way,

  • how... how little it changes our lives

  • if we don't have disabilities, versus how much of an impact

  • it makes positively in other people's lives.

  • Children can go to schools,

  • children can-can meet with friends and associate,

  • people can go to work, people can live independently.

  • You realized that there was a deficiency

  • in America at that time,

  • and there's still a lot of work to be done.

  • The protests that you...

  • that you... that you helped put together, though,

  • were something no one had ever thought of before.

  • We saw a little bit of it in that clip, but...

  • you decided to shut New York down, basically.

  • This is a very funny story.

  • -(laughter) -Um...

  • -I have a lot of funny stories. But anyway... -(laughter)

  • So, um, President Nixon had vetoed the Rehabilitation Act,

  • which has this important set of laws in it under Title V.

  • And we had organized a disa... a demonstration

  • in Manhattan outside a federal building.

  • But because the buses weren't accessible

  • and the trains weren't accessible,

  • we weren't able to get anybody

  • to go out and scope out this building.

  • -Right. -Well, it turns out

  • this building is probably the only building in the city

  • where there's virtually no traffic around it.

  • And we were having a demonstration,

  • and we went and sat in the street,

  • and nobody really cared, 'cause there were hardly any cars.

  • And so-- but the police were there,

  • and they said, "What would you like?"

  • And they wanted us to leave.

  • And I said, "Well, where is Nixon headquarters?"

  • So the officer literally called in and said,

  • "Where is Nixon headquarters?"

  • So we took the 50 of us, and we got over to Nixon headquarters.

  • -It was on Madison Avenue. -(applause, cheering)

  • It was... it was completely unplanned.

  • -And so there we were, 50 of us, -Right.

  • from Brooklyn and Queens and Manhattan and the Bronx,

  • and we decided, okay, we're gonna shut down the streets.

  • And what you didn't show in the clip is Ann Cappolo,

  • who is a little bit more than three feet tall,

  • who's talking about how... there we were, sitting...

  • like, shutting off all of the Madison Avenue area.

  • -Right. -Then we pulled back,

  • because it was a little scary with all these trucks

  • pissed off about how we were shutting down the city.

  • But nonetheless, we were able to do it.

  • But what I think is really important about my story

  • is that my story isn't my story.

  • So, my story is really the story of many other people,

  • -Mm-hmm. -and Kristen Joiner,

  • who helped me write this book,

  • 'cause it wouldn't have come to being without her.

  • Um, friends of mine with disabilities

  • living in different parts of the world,

  • they're also talking about how this is their story.

  • Because the issue of discrimination and oppression

  • and, um, how our lives have been limited,

  • and how people are really gaining back our voices.

  • And I think one of the important parts of the film Crip Camp

  • -that people will see -Mm-hmm.

  • is a camp where disabled kids went together

  • and how, you know, we went to a camp and we had fun,

  • but we also really used it as an opportunity

  • to be together, because in so many ways

  • disabled people are isolated from each other.

  • And so the camp really allowed us to...

  • begin to fantasize what we wanted the world to look like,

  • and then also began to question why things weren't happening.

  • And, I think that really has been the crux

  • of what's gone on in the United States and South Africa

  • -and countries around the world. -Right.

  • Where people have finally said,

  • "We are not gonna tolerate this anymore."